Jesse Jackson said Tuesday he has "earned consideration" to be the Democratic vice presidential candidate and also vowed to push the party at the national convention to commit itself to a plan to pay for a host of liberal programs.
The civil rights leader, in an appearance in the Senate chamber of the New Jersey Statehouse, said the vice presidential question was one that should not be addressed until after the final 1988 primaries next Tuesday.California and New Jersey are the big prizes on the season's last primary day June 7, and polls show front-running Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis holding an overwhelming lead in both states.
Dukakis also holds a commanding lead in the race for delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta July 18-21. The latest United Press International count gives 1,702 delegate votes to Dukakis - just 379 shy of the 2,081 votes needed for first-ballot nomination. Jackson has 935 delegates in the UPI count.
In a related development, former Sen. Eugene McCarthy, D-Minn., a veteran of the 1968 and 1976 presidential campaigns, said Tuesday he will run for the White House this year as the candidate of the tiny Consumer Party of Philadelphia.
In a telephone interview from Washington, McCarthy, 72, said he will announce his candidacy Wednesday at Independence Hall.
Jackson said Tuesday that if Dukakis wins the party's presidential nomination, as is virtually certain, "I've earned consideration" to be his running mate. He was careful, however, to note that he was not necessarily pushing for the No. 2 spot on the ticket.
"The priorities I choose in my pursuits will be determined based upon my options after June 7," he said, adding that he and Dukakis "must use our combined strength to change the course, to win the election, to return government with integrity to the people."
Recent public opinion polls have found that a Dukakis-Jackson ticket would not fare well against Vice President George Bush, the GOP candidate, with any Republican running mate - although a direct Dukakis-Bush matchup in polls gives a strong edge to the Democrats.
Jackson's statements Tuesday indicated that he apparently is focusing not so much on becoming the Democratic vice presidential candidate as on pursuing his policy goals within the party.
He said Tuesday he wants to return the party to the ideals of Franklin Roosevelt and argued that it would be inadequate for Democrats to leave the national convention without a way to pay for a liberal agenda.
"It's going to cost, and that becomes the real commitment we must make in Atlanta - a plan to pay for our dreams," Jackson said.