ST. PAUL, Minn. — Illinois Sen. Paul Simon put his campaign on a last-stand footing Wednesday, vowing to quit the Democratic presidential race if he does not win either here or in South Dakota next Tuesday.
"In terms of delegates my situation is good," Simon said at a press conference. He finished second in the Iowa caucuses and third in the New Hampshire primary.
"But in terms of perception I know that I have to win something," Simon said. "I am a realistic politician. I have to break through to the winner's circle."
It was learned that Simon may consider a proposal by campaign advisers that he endorse Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis for the nomination, should he drop out next week.
The possibility of endorsing Dukakis was raised at a strategy session in Simon's hotel room in Manchester about midnight Tuesday following the New Hampshire primary. One source told The Times that a decision was made at the meeting to endorse Dukakis if Simon withdraws from the race.
Didn't Give Approval
In an interview, Simon acknowledged that "one or two" of his advisers had recommended that course, but said he had not given his approval and "I am not ready to make that decision."
He said he would not rule out endorsing Dukakis, but that throwing his support to the Massachusetts governor was just one of "a variety of options" and that for now, anyway, he is concentrating on trying to win the Minnesota caucus.
Simon's announcement of his do-or-die intent was greeted as a death rattle in other campaigns. A Dukakis aide said Simon's candidacy was "on the ropes," and Terence McAuliffe, finance chairman for Rep. Richard A. Gephardt, said that once a candidate begins to talk about dropping out "you're in trouble already."
Simon tried to put the best face on his situation.
"If I had gotten a total of only 6,000 more votes in Iowa and New Hampshire, I would have won one and finished second in the other," he told a press conference.
Simon particularly hopes that Minnesota Democrats, a progressive group that likes Simon's stands on the issues, will help keep his long-shot candidacy alive. He canceled a scheduled appearance today in Dallas at a Democratic debate so that he could campaign in Minnesota.