RALEIGH, N.C — The Rev. Jesse Jackson formally launched his second bid for the presidency Saturday, telling cheering supporters he would bring "bold leadership and a new direction" to the White House.
The 46-year-old civil rights leader, who gathered 3.5 million votes in the 1984 Democratic Party primaries and caucuses, tacitly acknowledged the overwhelming odds against a black winning the nomination or the presidency.
But, Jackson said, "only in America is such a dream possible."
Jackson currently leads his five Democratic opponents in the national polls with a standing of about 25%, a showing that pollsters largely attribute to name recognition.
Brings Crowd to Its Feet
In a speech to the first national convention of the Rainbow Coalition, a group he formed after his 1984 campaign, Jackson brought the crowd of about 5,000 to its feet when he said of his high name recognition: "I wasn't born with it, I earned it.
"I have spent the last 25 years, not as a perfect servant, but as a public servant," he said. Although he has never held public office, Jackson said "my name has become known because I have served. That's why I want to be President--to serve the American people."
Jackson's announcement came at an event that had the trappings of both a political convention and a revival meeting.
Red, white and blue balloons cascaded down from the rafters of the Raleigh Civic Center, and Jackson was showered with shouts of "Amen" as he promised to bring "jobs, peace and justice."
In speaking to the group he said spans the spectrum of American society--its 26,000 members include whites, blacks, Latinos, Asians, American Indians, union members, farmers, the unemployed and the handicapped--Jackson never mentioned the names of his Democratic opponents, but he sharply criticized President Reagan by name for the domestic and foreign policies of the Republican Administration.
"We have guided missiles but misguided leadership," he said in pledging to cut military spending without hurting national defense.
Jackson said he was planning a trip to the Middle East to show his support for American servicemen on duty in the tense Persian Gulf. "Our challenge is to fight bad American policy but to support good American soldiers," he said.
"We cannot repeat the mistake of Vietnam, where the Vietnam vet was not wrong, the Vietnam policy was wrong," he said.
Jackson said he would act "to protect the American family from two basic threats that are shaking the very foundations of our society. We must stop the flow of drugs into our country, and we must stop the flow of jobs out of our country.
"Now is the time for bold leadership and a new direction," he said.
Describing himself as "a son of the 'New South,' " Jackson said the region long noted for football and basketball champions now "could become national political champions and elect presidents."
Indeed, his campaign strategy as described by advisers is based heavily on a strong showing in the Super Tuesday primaries in more than a dozen Southern states on March 8.
Flies to Iowa Rally
He also is hoping for a respectable finish in February's Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary. From North Carolina, he flew Saturday afternoon to Iowa for a picnic rally on a farm, and he scheduled appearances today in New Hampshire and at a Washington, D.C., parade of gay activists.
Jackson joins five other announced Democratic candidates--former Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbitt, Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis, Missouri Rep. Richard A. Gephardt, Tennessee Sen. Albert Gore Jr. and Illinois Sen. Paul Simon.