Super Wednesday Quarterbacks Assess Super Tuesday
Mar. 12, 1988
Undated (AP) _ If the goal was to beat Iowa, the Wednesday morning quarterbacks agreed, the South had a winner in its ''Super Tuesday'' regional presidential primary election experiment.
Many officials in the 20 voting states were elated to have real, live presidential candidates trooping through, but some felt they could have attracted more attention with a less crowded primary.
''Super Tuesday did what I thought it would do,'' said Georgia Secretary of State Max Cleland. ''It has meant sudden death to most candidates and sudden life to a few.''
Jim Hunt, former governor of North Carolina, thought Super Tuesday proved its worth. His candidate, Sen. Albert Gore of Tennessee, gained the stature he needed after ignoring earlier contests in both Iowa and New Hampshire.
But although Gore did well, he had to share the victory with two liberals, Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis and Jesse Jackson. Each won about a third of the states and delegates.
Alabama Republican Party Chairman Emory Folmar called that a defeat for Southern leaders who had hoped Super Tuesday would give the edge to a moderate or conservative.
''It blew up in their faces,'' Folmar said.
But the Democratic finish, combined with Vice President George Bush's 16-1 sweep of Tuesday's primaries and caucuses, turned the Iowa caucus results on their head. There Rep. Richard Gephardt was the Democratic winner, while Sen. Robert Dole and Pat Robertson both beat Bush.
''Presidential candidates may approach the race differently as the result of Super Tuesday. It could be they will no longer consider Iowa a must stop,'' said U.S. Rep. Tom Tauke, R-Iowa.
''Gore's strategy has revealed that the New Hampshire primary doesn't control how the Democratic nominee will be selected,'' said Oklahoma Attorney General Robert Henry.
However, Joe Grandmaison, New Hampshire's Democratic party chief, said Super Tuesday proved the ''value and singularity'' of his state's first-in- the-nation primary. ''New Hampshire's brand of retail politics forces the candidates to face the voters and debate the issues,'' he said.
Many Democrats in the South and some Republicans were pleased with the outcome.
''We wanted to nationalize our message, and we accomplished that. Compare the rhetoric between 1984 and 1988. It was far less damaging this year than four years ago,'' said former Gov. Charles Robb of Virginia, a Democrat who endorsed Gore and promoted the Super Tuesday idea.
''Before this year, all the presidential candidates did in the South was change planes in the Atlanta airport,'' said former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander, a Republican.
''We just felt for years like the candidates were ignoring us to go to Iowa and New Hampshire. We've had more presidential candidates in Texas already this time than we've had in the whole past 10 years,'' said former Texas state Sen. John Traeger.
U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, D-Texas, said Super Tuesday forced candidates to address locally important issues such as low oil prices, but he thought the calendar was too crowded with 14 southern and border states, plus six other states and American Samoa, holding primaries or caucuses.
''I'd rather Texas be out by itself. I wish we could figure out some way to get it ahead of Iowa,'' Bentsen said.
Wallace Hyde, a Democratic fund-raiser from Asheville, N.C., and co- chairman of Gore's state campaign, was happier.
''It worked - almost on the money,'' he said. ''You definitely came out of it with a moderately conservative candidate.''
However, Texas state Sen. Chet Edwards said Super Tuesday was not conceived as a way ''to elect some Neanderthal Anglo Southerner.''
''It was designed to give 16 million Texans and citizens throughout the South a voice in the selection of our president and a voice in the setting of our national agenda,'' he said.
John Weaver, executive director of the Texas GOP, thought Democrats hoping for a conservative must be disappointed.
''I'm sure the people who hoped the Democrats would nominate (Sen.) Sam Nunn or Chuck Robb would rather put this primary in a burlap bag and drop it in the Colorado River,'' Weaver said.
Judge-Executive Jerry Taylor of Whitley County, Ky., called Super Tuesday ''the biggest farce there ever was.''
''Unless you have something locally as a drawing card, it's just difficult to get people involved,'' said Taylor, a Democrat.
Turnout in Kentucky was 24.4 percent for Democrats and 22.1 percent for Republicans.
Most states did better. Georgia had a 40 percent turnout overall, a record for a presidential primary in that state, and a GOP turnout which doubled the previous mark.
Mississippi's Republicans had a record turnout, 31 percent of the total vote in a traditionally Democratic state. ''In fact, it was double what we've had before in a Republican primary,'' said Evelyn McPhail, executive director of the Mississippi GOP.
In Texas, a presidential primary record 2.77 million voters participated, or 35 percent.
In Tennessee and North Carolina, officials said the turnout was about the same as in previous, non-super primaries.
In Maryland, the Democratic turnout of 38 percent compared to 34 percent four years ago, when Walter Mondale was all but unopposed, and 48 percent in 1976 when Jimmy Carter ran against former Calfiornia Gov. Jerry Brown.
Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer, a Democrat, called the March 8 primary a waste of time that drew only token appearances by the candidates.
''Mr. Bush made a telephone call to one of the Baltimore radio stations,'' Schaefer said. ''I would hope we would go back to May when the candidate would have to come through and talk to the people.''
Maryland also held its Congressional primaries March 8, and GOP chairman Dan Fleming said the early primary made it impossible to find a candidate to oppose Rep. Tom McMillen, even though the first-term Democrat won by only 428 votes in 1986 in a historically Republican district.
''People aren't used to thinking about the election until the first of the year. Here we had a filing deadline that was in December for a March primary,'' said Schaefer.
In Massachusetts, Republican and Democratic leaders agreed they would not want to compete with a southern primary again.
Joe Malone, executive director of the Republican State Committee in Massachusetts, also complained that a big, one-day contest gives an advantage to candidates with money and organization.
''Once you get into what is the closest thing to a national primary, then you better have a lot of ammunition,'' Malone said.