Washington — Vice-President George Bush was relaxed and informal as he answered questions aboard Air Force II en route from Washington to Albuquerque, N.M. Q. Looking back on your presidential campaign, when do you think the turning point came, when your loss began to become a certainty?
A. The day I started was the day that things started to move against me. (Laughter). But they went up in Iowa, and then went badly in New Hampshire, compared to expecta-tions.
But, in retrospect, I feel that if I made any mistake it was my handling of the debate in New Hampshire. But then I won the next primary, which was Massachusetts, and I then went on to win a couple of other big ones.
I think the decline in my fortunes coincided with the rapid escalation in Reagan's fortunes. I think after Iowa there was an overall public underestimation of his power.
Q. Is Reagan as formidable politically now as when he won last fall - or have presidential decisions and events nibbled away at his political strength?
A. He's more formidable. And he still obviously retains the trust of the American people. They see him as a President. They see him in the office, knowing what it is about, and leading. That is an enormous dimension that he didn't have on the day he won. He can handle the job. He's up to the job. The job isn't too big for him. That's what people see today.
The voters wanted him over the other man. But this whole dimension of a man who is confident, unthreatened, and seasoned by a year in office gives the President vast political strength that he didn't have when elected.
Q. Are political trips like this one, including your visit to Albuquerque tonight, somewhat fact-finding in nature?
A. Every trip ends up to be that. Yes, I report back the mood of things. This one is predominantly Republicans tonight. But you get a feel for things, watching the local news, listening to different people.
Q. If the President decides to run again and selects you as his running mate, all these political trips of yours will have a relationship to that effort won't they?
A. Well, everything I do every day probably has some relationship to what I do in the future.
Q. But what will you be doing in the future?
A. Well, if the President runs again and wants me to be with him, why then I would - and then, of course everything you do now helps, if you do it reasonably well. If you do it badly, I presume it would hurt.
Q. In a sense then the 1984 campaign has already begun?
A. No, I don't think so. Because we are not doing political scheduling. The 1982 campaign may have begun. Because we have been assisting people who have been up for election in 1982 already.
Q. I understood that the President very early on decided that because he was going to concentrate on domestic matters he would use you a great deal in foreign affairs. Has it turned out that way?
A. Well, we've made four trips to eight different countries.
Q. How much of your travel abroad has been of a substantive nature?
A. I went to the funeral for Mr. Betancourt, symbol of democracy for the hemisphere. The funeral part was ceremonial. But then I had meeting after meeting with top officials including three hours with the President of Venezuela , which was substantive.
There's kind of a mix on those things. The visit to France was the first contact with the newly elected French President. I met not only him but the prime minister and the new foreign minister. That was substantive.
Mrs. Thatcher in England - I spent the whole evening talking on issues with her and then visiting with various leaders of Great Britain. You try to take whatever the occasion is to talk substance.
Q. Can you compare your job with what Mondale did?
A. No, I really don't know what he did. But from the public perception of what he did I would say there are some parallels. I'm not being coy about it. I just don't know how much Mondale saw the President or how much he did in terms of substance vs. form. But in the public perception there are some parallels - probably valid parallels.