Walter F. Mondale, lifted by the enthusiasm and pageantry of this city's once all-powerful Democratic organization, tonight issued his most forceful call for Democrats to return to the fold and give him an upset victory in next Tuesday's presidential election.
At a rally before thousands of partisans, Mondale time and again brought the crowd to its feet and drew deafening applause as he invoked the memories of Presidents John F. Kennedy and Harry S Truman and recited a litany of the social programs and ideals that he said made the Democratic Party great.
His voice trembled with emotion, his hands shook as he made his points, and his face quivered in a style reminiscent of his mentor, Hubert H. Humphrey.
Earlier in the evening, as sirens wailed, bands played and fireworks boomed above the banks of the Chicago River and sparkled in the mirror-like windows of city skyscrapers, thousands more had cheered Mondale as he marched in the traditional torchlight parade that for decades has kicked off Democratic presidential campaigns here.
At the end of his subsequent speech, Mondale experienced the high point of his day and what some Illinois Democratic leaders called the beginning of a Democratic "victory week." It involved none of the Minnesotan's sharply partisan rhetoric.
The tumultuous closer occurred when he read a Chicago Tribune editorial endorsing President Reagan and told his audience to forgive the newspaper because it had been wrong previously.
Then, he held up a copy of the Tribune's front page after the 1948 presidential election. "DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN" read the bold-face error.
"They were wrong in 1948 when they endorsed Tom Dewey and announced Dewey's victory," Mondale said, "and they're wrong again when they endorse Ronald Reagan and believe he's going to win."
At the beginning of the rally, Mondale received ringing endorsements from the two most prominent local Democrats, Mayor Harold Washington and Cook County Democratic Chairman Edward R. Vrdolyak, whose frequent feuding symbolizes the lack of ease with which the current party machine operates here.
"One of the best things we can do for this country is to make a damned lie out of the polls because you know they're lying anyway," said Washington, predicting that Mondale would receive 1 million votes in Chicago alone.
Vrdolyak said Reagan had broken 1980 campaign promises, adding, "Watch what they do, not what they say."
Mondale tonight added a new emphasis to his allegation that Reagan and the Republicans have been "grave-robbing" by using the names of Kennedy, Truman and other Democrats to appeal for Democrats' votes.
"I'll tell you what's going on," Mondale said. "It is the Democratic Party that stands for people, and it's our heroes who are remembered and revered because in their time they stood for people, helped people, brought us together."
Mondale's speech was laced with populist appeals, promises to stand up for the elderly and American workers and condemnations of the Reagan administration for abandoning the interests of the industrial Midwest and Northeast that Mondale must win to capture the presidency.
Earlier today, Mondale asked fellow Minnesotans for help in his effort to restore "that Minnesota-Humphrey sense of fairness in the White House."
During the rally at the Duluth campus of the University of Minnesota, Mondale appeared visibly angered when several Reagan-Bush supporters sarcastically feigned sympathy for the difficult financial times faced by Mondale's mother after her husband's death.
Mondale was relating her plight in trying to illustrate his family's experience with the Medicare program, which he credits for allowing his cancer-stricken mother to "pay the bills and live with dignity" in her later years.
"When my father died, my mother raised the last three boys -- and I was one of them -- and she put every dime she had into her kids."
"Aw," the hecklers groaned.
"Shut up, will ya," Mondale snapped.
"You may not want to hear about Social Security and Medicare, and I don't blame you," he said, after sustained applause. "But we're going to hear about it. We're going to elect a president to protect those programs for our senior citizens."