Post-debate strategy remains intact
Baltimore — Baltimore presidential debate left no campaign-jarring rocks strewn in the candidates' paths. Ronald Reagan and John Anderson have resumed basically the same game plans they laid out before the first -- and possibly the last -- debate of campaign ' 80.
Mr. Anderson, the flintier performer, did enjoy a campaign upgrading, symbolized perhaps in getting his own chartered airplane the morning after, adding a third craft to join the fleet of President Carter's Air Force One and Mr. Reagan's Leadership '80.
But Anderson was seen here as not yet wholly convincing Americans he was a potential winner and not a spoiler, or that a vote for the Anderson-Lucey ticket would not be a vote that is wasted.
Reagan, too, must get on with his chief goal of convincing voters he is "presidential" in his own right, and not just a Republican version of Mr. Carter , his handlers say.
Despite minor clashes, both sides spoke mainly to their own existing constituencies -- Anderson often to the Democratic left, and Reagan to the get-government-off-our-backs voters right of center.
And despite critical jibes at the President, both challengers have apparently decided it will not be enough to knock incumbent Carter. The Republican and the independent-Republican must both set out positive cases for a change in the White House leadership.
"We haven't yet convinced the public why they should vote for Reagan," says Drew Lewis, liaison between the Reagan campaign and the Republican National Committee. "The debate will help somewhat. So will our ad campaign. And our volunteer organization in the states could give us an extra 2 or 3 percentage points.
"But it will still be mostly 'roadshow' -- the man himself they see campaigning -- the next few week that will make the difference."
"They didn't go after Mr. Carter as much as I would have liked," said William Casey, Reagan campaign manager.
The Reagan campaign, itself had prescribed a low-key, moderate Reagan approach, and had anticipated five of the six questions.
Asked what Reagan had to achieve next in his campaign, Casey said: "He has to show presidentiality, leadership, strength on the issues -- positive stuff. Carter is doing well enough on the negative stuff himself. Carter came through 'mean' last week on the racist charge. We are glad to leave it to the press to bring that out. And we will bring out factual gaps in Carter's record in our media campaign."
The momentum is now on their side, the Reagan staff claims. "We know our erosion of the first few weeks in voter support has stopped, and the trend is now going the other way, says James Baker, a senior Reagan/Bush adviser.
They believe Reagan gained in the debate. "We demonstrated our candidate is reasonable, compassionate, and had a hope for the future," Mr. Baker said.
But other Reagan supporters see the debate as likely not crucial.
But by his refusal to debate and by his racism/hate allegation against Reagan , Carter put himself momentarily on the defensive, these Reagan backers say, and this could lull their candidate into a false security.
"For Reagan, a negative campaign doesn't work," says a GOP strategist close to the campaign. "The chief news about Reagan is he didn't mess up today. That's not enough. He has to prove he can do a better job: that he knows the problems and he knows the answers.