Columbus, Ohio — As President Carter flew to Washington Sunday to deal with the developments in the hostage crisis in Iran, Ronald Reagan continued his Midwestern campaign swing.
Mr. Reagan declined to comment on the hostages, but vowed to keep his campaign schedule through election day.
Privately, Reagan campaign officials are suspicious about the timing of the developments regarding the hostages.
But former President Gerald Ford, traveling with the Reagan campaign, said, "Should the hostages be released now, it won't help Carter any. It is too late. Further, the voters will view a release at this time with great cynisism." This sentiment was echoed by Reagan campaign officials.
The flurry of speculation surrounding the US hostages comes at a time when Reagan is getting favorable signals from Midwestern voters. A new Columbus Dispatch poll shows Reagan leading Carter in Ohio by 46 to 38 percent. An Iowa poll gives Reagan a 7 point lead there. And a Chicago Sun-Times survey shows that Reagan has trimmed Carter's lead in Illinois to 3 percent.
Nationally, polls are mixed. The Harris poll shows Reagan with a fairly substantial lead. Gallup gives Reagan a 1 point edge among "likely" voters and Carter a 3 point edge among "registered voters." And a Washington Post poll shows Carter out in front 43 to 39 percent. Reagan's own surveys show him moving with renewed momentum following last Tuesday's debate.
Carter's political spokesman, Robert Strauss, admits the anxiety in the Carter camp over the shifting political fortunes in these last days of the campaign. Speaking to reporters over breakfast in Washington last Friday, he indicated that die-hard support for John Anderson plus a low voter turnout on Tuesday would sink Carter's chances for re-election.