Patrick J. Lucey, who spent 10 months campaigning for Democrat Edward M. Kennedy only to become the running mate of independent John B. Anderson, has dedicated his small slice of the fall presidential campaign to blurring the distinction between two quite different politicians.
At every stop on his tour through New England this week, Lucey, who is so little known here that he confessed relief when his name was spelled correctly on a hotel marquee, has tried to gain both recognition for himself and votes for Anderson by invoking the liberal aura of Kennedy, Lucey's long-time party ally.
"My friend Ted" has become the one predictable refrain in Lucey's still-evolving stump speech. When called upon to explain Anderson's proposed tax on gasoline, Lucey most frequently answers by comparing it to Kennedy's gas-rationing plan.
And when the inevitable questions arise about the upcoming televised debate between Anderson and GOP candidate Ronald Reagon, Lucey assails President Carter's planned absence with recycled quotations not only from Edward Kennedy, but from John F. Kennedy as well.
Although he freely admits that Anderson and Kennedy differ on national health insurance, wage and price controls, spending programs and other issues, Lucey's campaign has one distinctive message: "Anyone," he says, "who supported Ted Kennedy as I did will have no problem embracing John Anderson."
Or, as Lucey delicately phrased it at a fairground appearance in Massachusetts last Wednesday, "John Anderson is clearly the most qualified candidate still in the race."
The Kennedy appeal, say Lucey's aides, is the greatest contribution the former Wisconsin governor believes he can make to Anderson, who, because of his record on labor and fiscal issues, is viewed with suspicion by some of the liberal voters he needs.
It is also, Lucey points out, the only strategy he can reasonably adopt after 20 years of supporting Kennedy campaigns in the Democratic Party. "I lean pretty heavily on Kennedy," Lucey said. "But part of it is the fact that I have to justify my own switch from one campaign to another even while pointing out the Anderson difference."
Lucey admits that the Kennedy-Anderson balance he strikes is often fragile. Although he links Anderson and Kennedy as the two candidates "who have proposed strong energy conservation programs," Lucey also feels obliged to note that Anderson's plan to impose a 50-cent-per-gallon tax on gasoline is "less burdensome, with less red tape" than the Kennedy rationing plan he previously supported.
While saying that he "pushed Kennedy" to propose mandatory wage and price controls, Lucey now adds that the more conservative Anderson program involving voluntary price controls "makes a good deal of sense to me now."
On the issue of national health insurance, however, Lucey still sides with Kennedy, not Anderson. "I support national health insurance, and Anderson has not yet accepted it," Lucey tells audiences. "That is something we will have to argue about after the election. But in any case you're not going to get national health insurance from Ronald Reagan."
That sort of talk upset some of the Anderson campaign staff last week when Lucey repeated it in Oregon, a state that soundly rejected Kennedy in the Democratic party.
"I guess they were right," Lucey admitted later, adding that he had gotten into an embarrassing exchange in Portland with "a vehement anti-Kennedy woman." "I probably ought to look at the primary results in some of these states before I start in."
Even on the East Coast, however, the Kennedy pitch does not always work on more conservative Anderson supporters. After he had repeatedly quoted Kennedy in a stump speech at Providence College in Rhode Island Thursday, Lucey's first question came from a student who said he was "a strong Anderson supporter" but who asked, "Why do you keep reminding people of your involvement in the Kennedy campaign? A lot of my friends don't like Kennedy because they think he's ultra-liberal. Why don't you talk more about where you agree with Anderson?"
Despite such pressures, Lucey told the Providence crowd that he was "easily the happiest vice-presidential candidate.
"I know some of the pressures that Fritz Mondale has been subjected to," Lucey said. "And all you have to do is look at that dour look on George Bush's face as he watches Reagan try to explain himself . . . to know that I'm happier."
He may be right. With only an irregular handful of national reporters following a sometimes jumbled schedule that includes such electoral backwaters as Maine and Hawaii, the Lucey campaign is often likened to what its staff calls the "Doonesbury days" of Anderson before the Massachusetts primary last winter. The images of carefree bluntness and well-meaning bumbling in the popular cartoon strip could well apply to this week's trip to New England, which Lucey's staff was left describing as a "shakedown cruise."
In an effort to portray Lucey as a "substantive" candidate, Anderson's staff had him deliver a lengthy speech on energy conservation to a packed hall of students at Holy Cross College in Massachusetts.
Lucey prefaced the speech by commenting, "I'm going to do a terrible thing today: I'm going to deliver a serious speech . . . I hope you'll bear with me through the process." The result was that the Holy Cross students greeted the speech with a silence so respectful that after several pauses Lucey cleared his throat and said, "You know, it's perfectly permissible to clap at any time you want."
The next day Lucey picked another appearance at a small campus to deliver a speech on ousted Cambodian leader Pol Pot and Kim Dae Jung, the Korean political leader who recently was sentenced to death. Another stunned silence followed, finally broken when Lucey responded to a question by saying what the students wanted to hear: that he was opposed to draft registration.
By Thursday, Lucey had gone back to traditional stump speeches. 'That's the last time I go to a student audience and burden them with Pol Pot," he said.
"We are reliving the fun of the old Anderson campaign," one veteran staff member commented. "We're sort of off here by ourselves, not really under the whip like everyone else, and not that many people are worried about what we're doing."