From Newsweek, September 18, 1978


Author:  Don Holt & Jane Whitmore

She never wilted in the heat, always smiled into the cameras, even spoke a little Spanish where it counted.  And when it came to plugging Democratic candidates, Rosalynn Carter was sensitive enough to give each a little wiggle room—to dodge clear of her husband’s political liabilities.  Starting a heavy cross-country campaign schedule, the First Lady clocked seven Labor Day appearances in three Texas cities last week and got high marks from the local pols.  “She’s a rallying point for people to come out,” said one.  “And she’s the most acceptable Carter to have at this time.”

She had been invited by three Congressional candidates who have tough races and by Rep. Bob Krueger, the former English professor who is challenging veteran GOP Sen. John Tower.  The crowds were bigger than expected everywhere, and all four candidates were happy to take their places in Mrs. Carter’s entourage.  But given the President’s dismal poll ratings, they were also delighted when she allowed them a little distance, calling each “his own man”—who would differ with the President as conscience and constituents demanded.  “That showed real political savvy,” said one admiring political insider.

‘Many Successes’:  Mrs. Carter didn’t neglect her husband’s interests, either.  As she launched into her defense-of-Jimmy litany at each stop, it was clear that boosting the President was the underlying reason for the trip.  “We have had many successes,” she said, mentioning reduced unemployment, a huge new appropriation for education and reduction of the budget deficit from $60 billion to $50 billion.  As for such unfinished business as energy and civil-service reform, she declared softly but with steel in her voice:  “Jimmy Carter is a fighter, and he doesn’t give up or give in when the interests of the country are at stake.”

The First Lady showed her own toughness at the Alamo in San Antonio, where she had to thread her way between lines of police who were covering a demonstration by city garbage collectors.  And in Dallas, where the temperature hit 97, she rode in an open car through the suburb of Garland and at one point even got out to stroll through the sun-baked streets.  “I was wet all over,” she said later.  “But being from Georgia, the heat doesn’t bother me too much.”  At her final stop in Houston, she encountered more demonstrators, this time against abortion and the appointment of Sarah Weddington, the new women’s-affairs staffer at the White House.  Said Mrs. Carter later:  “I’ve seen too much of [demonstrators] to let it bother me.  It’s a no-win issue; they’re always there.”

On the way back to Washington aboard a military plane, Mrs. Carter allowed that she felt she had been “a little rusty,” especially at the beginning.  “I hadn’t made speeches in so long and I didn’t have time to sit down and write it out,” she said.  But in Texas, the verdict was less equivocal.  Said Liz Carpenter, who was press secretary for Lady Bird Johnson:  “I think she’s a trouper.”