John B. Anderson, who has spent months looking for someone -- anyone -- to join him in his lonely bid for the presidency, finally found some help today.
After a 90-minute meeting with Anderson and his vice president running mate, Patrick J. Lucey, the policy committee of New York state's Liberal Party Recommended the party endorse the Illinois congressman.
It was expected to pave the way for the first major endorsement Anderson has received since he launched his independent presidential candidacy last April.
This, some Democrats fear, could cost President Carter, whom the party endorsed four years ago, New York state's 41 electoral votes.
In a resolution that is expected to be approved by the party's state committee on Sept. 13, the party panel said:
"We feel strongly that American voters deserve a chance to express their dissatisfaction with the present Democratic and Republican presidential nominees. We also believe that many American voters an opportunity to give their support to John Anderson, a man with lively intelligence, refreshing candor and commitment to programs and policies which are sensitive to the basic needs of New Yorkers."
The endorsement, if approved, will mark the first time in the small but sometimes pivotal party's 36-year history that it has not endorsed the Democratic Party nominee.
Like most political marriages, this was a match of convenience. For Anderson, it gives his long-shot candidacy a boost by putting him on a ballot slate that includes Sen. Jacob Javits (R.N.Y.) and a host of Democratic state legislators already endorsed by the party.
"I said to the Liberal Party, I need New York," Anderson told a news conference. "I cannot see a scenario where I can win a majority electoral college vote of 270 votes without New York State."
For Liberal party leaders, Anderson's candidacy offered a chance to show them independence from the Democratic Party and regain the spot their predecessors once held as power brokers in New York and national politics.
Raymond Harding, the party's chief strategist, said he hoped the upcoming endorsement would help "in making viable the other alternative to the Carter-Reagan choice -- the Anderson-Lucey ticket.
"I predict on Nov. 4 Anderson-Lucey will carry the state of New York."
Joel McCleary, Carter's New York coordinator, charged that the party had been "sold a bill of goods" by its leaders, who did not take into account Anderson's conservative and anti-labor voting record in Congress.
The planned endorsement, he said, was designed to promote Harding's self-interest. "He said the hell with the country. It's a very cynical move," McCleary said.
In a poll published last week in The New York Times, Anderson, a Republican, had the support of 20 percent of the state's likely voters, compared to 33 percent for Carter and 30 percent for Ronald Reagan.
The fear among Democrats is that a Liberal Party endorsement could give Anderson enough votes to throw the state to Reagan, the GOP nominee. Carter forces, as a result, have lobbied intensely for months for the endorsement.
Several policy committee members expressed that same concern during deliberations today. But Harding said the majority, by 32 to 2, decided "that was a risk well worth taking."
He said party leaders met with Carter on June 18, just before the president left for a trip to Europe, and expressed their dissatisfaction with his record.
"We were not satisfied with the high rate of unemployment in this country," Harding said. "We were not satisfied with the impreciseness of American foreign policy the last three years. We were disturbed by United Nations' resolutions affecting the security of Israel."
Carter, Liberal Party leaders said, did not respond to their complaints for 42 days, and then offered a recitation of the administration's record, which they considered inadequate.
Carter sent a second 10-page letter to Harding Aug. 28. His campaign followed up with an intense lobbying effort in which Gov. Hugh Carey, former New York mayor Robert F. Wagner Sr., Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and several of the nation's top labor leaders took part.
"They pulled out every stop on this one," said Anderson campaign director David Garth, who handled negotiations with the party.
Anderson apparently will drop his efforts to get on the New York ballot as an independent if he receives the formal endorsement.