With his strategists banking on a major break, Walter F. Mondale today continued campaigning on his personal political creed, this time as a champion of human rights abroad.
At a warmly enthusiastic rally on the chilly downtown streets of this city and earlier at a crowded college gymnasium in overcast Portland, Ore., Mondale drew a portrait of the Reagan administration as one that had "dumped human rights as a foreign policy priority."
Mondale's lengthy litany of charges against President Reagan included arms sales to "dictatorships" in Guatemala and Haiti, sending top diplomats to Chile to "clink glasses with the thugs that run that country" and making the United States the sole dissenter from a recent U.N. Security Council resolution condemning mass arrests in South Africa.
"America must not only stand tall. We must stand for something; we must stand for something as an America," Mondale told a crowd of more than 10,000 people here who stood nearly three blocks deep, filling the streets from curb to curb.
"In our foreign policy debate Oct. 21 . . .the president said that the choice was between our tyrants and communism. Shame on you, Mr. President. That's not the issue at all," Mondale said.
"I don't want the peoples of the world who yearn for freedom to turn to the Soviets. I want them to turn to the United States as the symbol of leadership and decency all over this world."
Human rights has not been a major issue in this campaign, and Mondale aides did not expect today's speeches to begin the virtual avalanche of defections among weak Reagan supporters that Mondale needs to close a Reagan lead of 20 points or more in some opinion polls.
Campaign chairman James A. Johnson said today that such statements of Mondale's "basic convictions" offer "the best prospect of moving voters."
But as much as anything, the Mondale campaign is doing two things at once. Frustrated by the inability to turn around the race on issues, it is trying to maintain momentum with Mondale's daily statements of his personal political convictions. At the same time, the campaign is trying to remain agile enough to recognize and promptly take advantage of any break that comes Mondale's way.
"We need a feeling that it's rolling," one top political adviser said. "Absent a big Reagan mistake, if we see a trend moving in the next three or four days . . . we would tend to move everything in that direction and have a single message for the last five or six days."
Today, there were mostly small signs to warm the spirits of the candidate and his traveling political entourage.
When Mondale stepped off his chartered campaign plane here today, a onetime rival for the nomination, Sen. Gary Hart (D-Colo.), showed him a copy of The Seattle Times, which had a front-page story with the headline, "A Surge for Mondale."
Mondale grabbed the newspaper, held it up for reporters to behold and, as he worked the receiving line, said, "It's moving . . . . Everything is moving. People are starting to see the issues. Let's go get them."
The size and spirit of the crowds also have buoyed him, along with his endorsement Sunday by The New York Times and today by The Washington Post.
In Portland this morning, the normally stiff Minnesotan offered one of his sharpest put-downs ever to a heckler. When the woman, who had been prodding Mondale to give his views on the Palestinians, tried one final time to interrupt, Mondale fired back, "Aw, please shut up," to the delight of the crowd at Portland State University.
In Seattle, he told the audience, "This election is wide open; it's in your hands."
"My fellow Norwegians of Washington," Mondale joked. "This nation has discriminated against us for 200 years and it's time that a Norwegian was elected president of the United States."