By a Diplomatic Correspondent pRESIDENT JOHNSON'S -11decision this week not to stand for re-election increases the chances of a Catholic becoming President of the United States next November.
With Lyndon B. Johnson out of the running, the stage would seem to be set for a straight fight between Senator Robert F. Kennedy, 42, and Senator Eugene J. McCarthy, 52, for the Democratic Party nomination for the Presidency— although at this stage VicePresident Hubert Humphrey cannot be ruled out as a contender.
On the face of it Senator Kennedy, brother of the late President John F. Kennedy, has the edge on Senator McCarthy, but as he himself said on Monday, "it's a long road to Chicago" (where the party will meet in August to choose its candidate) "and it's a long road to the November election." McCarthy, the Senator from Minnesota who was once a novice in the Benedictine order and later taught sociology and economics at the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul, has garnered powerful support since his surprise entry into the presidential reckoning in February.
It was then that McCarthy ran the President a close second in the New Hampshire primary election McCarthy polled 28,791 votes to Johnson's 29,021 in the New Hampshire primary and has since become the idol of thousands, particularly young people.
Kennedy, too, is making an immense appeal to American youth. His campaign tours are highly organised — they have been described as "like a Billy Graham revivalist Crusade" and as "mass evangelism."
What is intriguing the political pundits just now is what will come of the talks which are to take place between Kennedy and his erstwhile rival, LBJ.
Will Johnson throw in his support for Kennedy in exchange for pledges on future policy? Will he instead give his backing to Vice-President Humphrey? Or, indeed, will Johnson opt for the McCarthy bandwagon?
Meanwhile, the Republican Party is receiving rather less of the political limelight just now. Their choice as presidential candidate looks like being Mr. Richard Nixon. So, by an ironical political twist, Mr. Nixon may fight in the Presidential election the brother of John F. Kennedy, the man who defeated him in the 1960 election.