Despite Kennedy victories, Reagan still targets Carter
Front-runner Ronald Reagan's perceptions of the Republican campaign to date -- and his plans for the future -- are these, according to sources close to the candidate:
* With a rich addition of delegates from the New York primary, Mr. Reagan will brush aside the primary victory of George Bush in Connecticut and continue his planning for the general election.
* The former California governor still sees his probable opponent to be President Carter. He agrees with the assessment given by Rep. Guy Vander Jagt (R) of Michigan, chairman of the National GOP Congressional Committee, who says the victories in New York and Connecticut by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy did no more than "rev" up a (Kennedy) campaign still headed for defeat.
Mr. Reagan also prefers the President as his opponent to Senator Kennedy, believing it would be much easier to nail the President on the problems in the economy, particularly inflation.
* The emerging Reagan blueprint for the fall does not yet have all the particulars written in. But it is understood that the plan will contain the following elements:
1. The ideological thrust will be, as it is today, toward attracting conservatives -- on the assumption that there is a conservative trend at work in the United States today.
2. But Mr. Reagan and his tacticians will attempt to give the voters something else, a "new Reagan."
Thus, the standard Reagan "speech," which with variations he has given for years, will likely be set aside for newly crafted position papers on both domestic and foreign affairs.
3. Mr. Reagan will underscore that he is looking across the country for new faces to fill key White House staff and Cabinet posts.
Mr. Vander Jagt told reporters over breakfast March 26 that Mr. Reagan likely will make a point of saying that he will not rely on "just some Georgians -- Californians in his case -- and members of the Trilateral Commission" for his appointments.
Said Mr. Vander Jagt, "Reagan knows good people all over the country -- and he will be bringing them in."
The Michigan congressman suggested that Michigan Gov. William G. Milliken could likely be a member of a Reagan cabinet.
He also said that Sens. Paul Laxalt of Nevada and Richard G. Lugar of Indiana , and Rep. Jack F. Kemp of New York -- all top Reagan supporters -- were probable appointees.
* Mr. Reagan will proudly bear the banner of "Republican." For years GOP candidates in general elections have played down their party affiliation as they reached out to attract independent and even Democratic support.
But Mr. Reagan, relying on recent research by the Republican National Committee that shows a majority of the public believes Republicans could do a better job than Democrats in handling economic problems, will proudly proclaim his Republicanism.
* Mr. Reagan is likely to challenge the President to debate -- a challenge which Mr. Carter will find difficult to turn down since President Ford agreed to debate Mr. Carter four years ago.
* Finally, Mr. Reagan intends to campaign widely and vigorously, hoping to make it clear to voters that his age is not a deterrent to his ability to carry out presidential duties.