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Analysis: Democratic unity gave Carter his edge

By MIKE FEINSILBER

WASHINGTON, Nov. 3, 1976 (UPI)-In the end, all those campaign gaffes-Jimmy Carter's Playboy discussion of lust, Gerald Ford's twist on Eastern Europe, Earl Butz' crude crack about "the coloreds"-did not seem to matter.

What mattered were the old basics:

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The majority Democrats, united for once, reassembled much of the old Roosevelt coalition: city machines, union telephone banks, blacks, ethnics, Catholics, Jews, working people, the poor.

The minority Republicans, claiming the affiliation of only one voter in five, could not shake off the residue of the worst political scandals since the Harding Administration and the worst economic record with the Hoover Administration.

Carter was the anti-establishment outsider. When the mood of the country was to throw the rascals out, he read the mood and responded. To a mistrustful people, he preached that he could be trusted.

For once money was not a factor. Under a campaign reform law, both presidential campaigns were financed by the U.S. taxpayer. Both candidates spent the same amount. Neither had to stop campaigning to beg for funds; neither had to indebt himself.

So what someday may seem surprising about this election is not the outcome but its narrowness. The people, forced to choose between the certainty of the status quo and the prospect of uncertain change, were evenly divided.

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Considering his strong lead in the polls four months ago, Carter is shown by the election results to be still largely mistrusted by many, still a mystery for all his daily exposure on television and for all his tendency to talk about himself.

The Republicans set out to make Carter the issue. Robert Dole called him "weird." President Ford pictured him as dangerous, one who "could lead to a major international crisis."

And that strategy came close to success.

Burdened by Watergate, the Nixon pardon, persistent unemployment and inflation and a stalled recovery, Ford still put Carter on the defensive.

Carter's freshness broke down; he emerged looking like another politician, and he depended on other politicians for help.

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