Some sources close to GOP presidential front-runner Ronald Reagan are saying that he is leaning strongly toward choosing Sen. Howard H. Baker Jr. as his running mate.
The rationale provided to the Monitor for this decision (assuming, of course, that Mr. Reagan wins the nomination) is this:
* The former California governor will not try to provide an ideological balance with his vice-presidential choice -- as he did in 1976 by choosing sen. Richard S. Schweiker of Pennsylvania.
It is understood that Mr. Reagan is convinced that there is a strong conservative trend running among the voters and that his best prospects for election lie in clearly and undividedly bidding for that support.
He does see Senator Baker's image as being somewhat more of a moderate -- but he believes that the senator's stand on issues actually is close to that of his own. (The Panama Canal treaties, an issue on which the two disagreed, with Senator Baker favoring and Mr. Reagan opposed, will not be in the spotlight in the fall, Mr. Reagan has reasoned).
* Mr. Reagan is known to "like" Senator Baker personally and feel that he could work well with the Senate minority leader.
At the same time, Mr. Reagan is understood to feel less than comfortable with former UN ambassadr George Bush and Rep. John B. Anderson of Illinois, two of his competitors who apparently could bolster a Reagan ticket considerably.
Mr. Reagan is known to feel that Mr. Bush is too closely aligned with a longtime Reagan foe, Gerald Ford. And Mr. Anderson's "liberal" image is unacceptable to Mr. Reagan, at least at this time.
* As the former California governor looks ahead to the tasks he would face as president, he sees Senator Baker ensuring unified support from GOP members of Congress, winning strong and consistent backing for presidential initiatives.
When will Mr. Reagan make his choice for No. 2 known?
At a recent breakfast with reporters, Sen. Paul Laxalt (R) of Nevada, a top campaign aide for Mr. Reagan, said that the running- choice would come only after Mr. Reagan formally gained the nomination at the convention.
In the past, the official Reagan position has been that it was right for a presidential candidate to inform voters and convention delegates of his choice for running mate before the convention.
John Sears, the deposed chief adviser of Mr. Reagan, had engineered the preconvention choice of Senator Schweiker last time -- mainly as a device to try to prevent a stampede of delegates toward President Ford.
Would Senator Baker accept the vice-presidential spot on the ticket? He has said "yes" already in his comments on why he was dropping out of contention for the presidential nomination.
The senator indicated in 1976 that he would never again be available for the vice-presidency. This was after he had been turned down for the spot by Mr. Ford in favor of Sen. Robert Dole of Kansas.
Beside warming to Senator Baker personally, Mr. Reagan is known to look upon the Tennessean as a politician who is particularly intelligent and articulate.
Mr. Reagan also recognizes the value of the senator's ties to the South, viewing them as particularly valuable in a battle against President Carter.