CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — The Bill Clinton-Jerry Brown fight for the Democratic presidential nomination is deja vu — a throwback to 1976 when Brown tried to stop Jimmy Carter, a University of Tennessee political scientist said Wednesday.
Dr. Bob Swansbrough, head of political science at UT-Chattanooga, said there are many parallels between Clinton’s campaign this year and Carter’s 16 years ago.
Carter, like Clinton, worked the primaries and caucuses to slowly stockpile Democratic convention delegate votes.
”There was a reaction to Carter’s candidacy, and one of the key people was Jerry Brown. Sen. Frank Church (of Idaho) entered the race at the last minute to stop Carter,” Swansbrough said.
”It was called an A-B-C movement — anybody but Carter. They didn’t think he was electable as a Southern politician, as a governor without any Washington experience. Many of the regulars and big-city folks were put off by (Carter) being a very devout Southern fundamentalist,” he said.
”Brown jumped into the campaign at the end. He had his ‘governor moonbeam’ image, but again he was governor of California, a major state. You couldn’t ignore him. He became a kind of lightning rod to attract those people who were very uncomfortable with Carter.
”It looked like Carter was on the way, so Brown and Church got into it. And Brown did fairly well in some of those states, particularly California, but Carter again captured the nomination by steadily building his delegate count.”
Carter faced opposition right up to the convention, ”but his strategy was much like Bill Clinton’s, going from battle to battle to rack up those delegates,” Swansbrough said.
Clinton also is having to fight for the nomination, partly because he’s from the South but also because he’s ”not part of the Washington crowd,” Swansbrough said.
Like Clinton, Carter faced attacks.
The integrity issue has plagued Clinton’s campaign, and in 1976 Carter had to make special appeals to Jewish and black voters to assure them he was not a bigot and a racist, Swansbrough said. Black leaders, such as Coretta King, widow of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., helped Carter with black voters.
”What we’re finding with Clinton is a different issue. What’s been attacked on him is his fundamental character. It’s been a much harsher attack on his basic character, his integrity (than Carter faced), and that’s a little harder to overcome,” the UTC political scientist said.
Swansbrough said it is unlikely that Clinton can be denied the nomination — unless he makes a major mistake or is hit with a personal or political scandal.