Sharing the spotlight Tuesday with Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), Democratic Sen. Alan Cranston rolled out the first segment of a three-part strategy for the final two weeks of his reelection campaign.
"What you did for John Kennedy in 1960, Robert Kennedy in 1968 and for me in 1980 I want you to do now for Alan Cranston," Kennedy told a group of Latino get-out-the-vote volunteers in the City of Commerce.
"When you needed Alan Cranston, he was there, and now he needs you," Kennedy said, stressing Cranston's strategy to increase voter turnout in key minority precincts on Nov. 4.
A recent Los Angeles Times Poll found that while Cranston is splitting the non-Latino white vote with Republican challenger Ed Zschau, he leads Zschau by 2 to 1 among Latino voters and by 10 to 1 among blacks.
Thus he is hoping the longtime appeal of the Kennedy name in those communities will give him a boost.
Kennedy also exhorted more than 200 mostly black get-out-the-vote volunteers in Oakland.
"The question here in California is whether you are going to return to the Senate one of its most effective voices against discrimination and injustice," Kennedy said at an appearance at Laney College in Oakland.
State Board of Equalization member Conway Collis, who is heading up a special voter project for the Democrats, told the Oakland volunteers: "The Republicans think that fewer than 4 million Democrats will show up on Election Day. But if we can turn out 250,000 more people than they are predicting, Democrats like Alan Cranston will win."
Although some political strategists are dubious about old-fashioned get-out-the-vote plans in an age when television dominates politics, Cranston and other California Democrats have been laying the groundwork for some time to turn out Democratic votes in 2,000 targeted precincts.
Bradley's 1982 Loss
"We saw what happened in 1982 to Tom Bradley when we didn't get out enough voters in some areas," Cranston said Tuesday, referring to Bradley's loss of the gubernatorial race by 93,000 votes, a loss some blamed on turnout problems in minority precincts.
Cranston's decision to bring in Kennedy to campaign for him has surprised some of Zschau's aides, who contend that it works against Cranston rather than for him in a state where Democrats have been steadily losing ground to Republicans on the voter rolls.
But Cranston recalled Tuesday the many battles he and Kennedy have fought together in the Senate for arms control, civil rights and human rights and told reporters: "What Ted Kennedy represents is guts and courage. I am proud to have him here."
Kennedy was also the keynote speaker at a Beverly Hills fund-raiser Tuesday night that Cranston spokesman Kam Kuwata said would bring in about $300,000 for Cranston's multimillion-dollar TV ad campaign.
The second element of Cranston's home-stretch campaign involves continued use of negative television commercials to raise doubts about Zschau, a two-term congressman from Los Altos who is new to statewide politics.
The Times Poll found that though Zschau has cut Cranston's lead in the race from 15 points to 7 points since early September, much of Zschau's support is softer than Cranston's, and 16% of the voters were still undecided in the Times mid-October survey.
As have other Cranston commercials, the new ones will attack Zschau's inexperience and ridicule his inconsistent votes on such issues as the MX missile and aid to the Nicaraguan rebels.
The third element of the Cranston plan will be to "travel California and remind voters of what he has done for them as a senator," in the words of Kuwata.
Just as he brought out Kennedy to send a message to minority voters and progressives, Cranston is also planning to campaign with Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Georgia), whose profile is much more conservative than Kennedy's.
Among other things, Nunn, a major Democratic spokesman on the need for a strong defense, will speak to veterans about Cranston's accomplishments as a senior Democrat on the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs.
Cranston, a Senate leader in establishing national parks and wilderness areas, will also stress environmental issues in his travels over the next two weeks. Cranston will also underscore his role in boosting funds for day care and in establishing paramedic programs.
President Reagan, long a foe of Kennedy on many issues, is scheduled to campaign for Zschau again in California before the race is over. The appearances of the conservative Reagan and the liberal Kennedy have raised an interesting point about the California Senate race:
As Cranston exhorts his liberal base and Zschau touts his conservative credentials, neither has made a big appeal to the middle of the political spectrum, something they had been expected to do in a state with key swing votes in the middle.