A Handshake, a Whisper, a View of the Valentino: It's Jackie's Gentle Campaign for Ted
The Kennedy campaign needed glamor, given Ted's record of defeat everywhere but in Massachusetts. "No question about it," says one Kennedy fund raiser, "she's the biggest draw. We reserve her for the big ones." So far she has been very reserved indeed, appearing only a half-dozen times in three months. But she has drawn capacity crowds to rallies in Boston and New York, a fund raiser at the Manhattan townhouse of Jean Kennedy Smith (Jackie wore her black velvet Valentino suit) and even a reception for well-heeled socialites in the Republican suburbs of St. Louis. "With Joan, they come to make sure she's sober," cats one campaign worker. "With Jackie, it's different. She comes in like visiting royalty, looking elegant and beautiful, has a drink and goes. People are thrilled just to get a glance at her."
As Kennedy's campaign sputters, though, some confidants are less than thrilled at how infrequently those glances are available. "If Jackie campaigned actively, she would be an asset," complains one staffer. "I think her role in the campaign now could best be described as nonexistent." When she does appear, Jackie limits herself to handshakes and greetings. At one reception it was announced impulsively that Mrs. Onassis would speak. "Oh, no!" exclaimed the thunderstruck Jackie, and the idea was instantly scrubbed. "That's the big difference between her and Rosalynn Carter," chortles one Democratic National Committee stalwart. "Mrs. Carter's style is strictly down-home—she's approachable." Replies a Kennedy intimate: "Jackie's presence is her statement."
Family members hasten to point out that Jackie is just one of the Kennedys involved in the campaign; the senator's wife, Joan, his sisters Jean, Pat and Eunice, and his other sister-in-law, Ethel, have all pitched in too. Given daughter Caroline's rumored impending marriage to writer Tom Carney and Jackie's editing responsibilities at Doubleday (she is working on four books, including a photography collection compiled by Diana Vreeland), Mrs. Onassis can clearly plead other commitments. Even so, she has picked her spots in this campaign almost too carefully. On the eve of the Massachusetts primary, Carter's Bay State coordinator, David Flynn, was asked about the effect of her five-hour Boston visit. "Oh," he replied disingenuously, "was she here?"