Jerry Brown is campaigning in New York with a live political grenade in his pocket that may explode at any moment -- his repeated declarations that he would offer the Democratic vice-presidential nomination to the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson.
For Jewish voters, the notion of Mr. Jackson on the ticket is a bad dream. They have not forgotten his reference to New York as "Hymietown" during the 1984 campaign. And Jewish voters will cast at least one-fourth and perhaps one-third of the 'N Democratic primary vote April 7.
The issue has not come to the forefront because Mr. Brown's rival, Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas, dares not raise it if he intends to hold his grip on black voters, who make up the second-largest bloc in the Democratic electorate in the state and cast about 15 percent of the vote.
But Mr. Clinton's politically prudent reluctance to raise the Jackson question doesn't mean it won't happen some other way, perhaps when Mr. Brown meets with one of the several influential Jewish groups all candidates in New York solicit.
The touchiness of the relationship between blacks and Jews in New York was never more evident than in the 1988 primary. Sen. Al Gore of Tennessee, struggling for a foothold and as green as grass in New York politics, allied himself with Mayor Ed Koch and then tolerated his blunt criticism of Mr. Jackson in what was seen, correctly, as an attempt to draw Jewish voters away from )) Michael S. Dukakis.
But sophisticated Jewish voters recognized the ploy for what it was, and it didn't work. Mr. Dukakis won, and Mr. Gore finished a distant third behind Mr. Jackson.
Political professionals in New York expect a low black turnout there similar to what it has been in most states this year. They point out that such high-profile black leaders as Mayor David N. Dinkins and Rep. Charles B. Rangel have remained neutral.
But Jewish voters tend to turn out heavily in every election.
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Mr. Jackson is not running for president this year, but his continuing political clout isn't diminished in the eyes of candidate Brown.
While Mr. Brown was speaking at a black Baptist ministers' meeting in New York yesterday, a call came from Mr. Jackson on an aide's cellular phone.
The aide rushed over and handed the phone to Mr. Brown, who abruptly interrupted his talk, turned and walked to an anteroom to take the call -- but not before letting the assembled ministers know who wascalling and letting one of them say hello to Mr. Jackson.
As Vermont goes . . .
Mr. Brown is expected to win a small -- very small -- triumph in the Vermont town caucuses Tuesday.
Democrats there will vote at 205 locations to choose 1,364 delegates to a state convention, at which 14 delegates to the national convention -- one-third of 1 percent of the total -- will be elected.
Mr. Clinton has the backing of most of the political establishment in the state, including Gov. Howard Dean and former Gov. Madeline Kunin.
But the party activists, many of them followers of independent Rep. Bernard Sanders, are among the most devoutly liberal in the nation. Four years ago, the same political establishment supported Michael S. Dukakis, but he was edged out, 46 percent to 45 percent, by Jesse Jackson.
Mr. Brown is scheduled to make one campaign stop in the state over the weekend. Mr. Clinton is giving Vermont a pass, although his campaign has dispatched two organizers to help his local backers.
Although it is generally fair to say that the results in one state usually have some effect on the next, it's safe to say that the Vermont outcome will not be a factor in New York.
Defeated presidential candidate Tom Harkin has now endorsed Mr. Clinton's presidential candidacy. But 25 of the 28 members of the steering committee of Mr. Harkin's discontinued campaign in Wisconsin have swung to Mr. Brown in advance of the state's Democratic primary on April 7.
Ed Garvey, the former National Football League players' lawyer and Democratic senatorial candidate who was a leading Harkin supporter, has taken over as chairman of the Brown campaign in Wisconsin.