Outside the White House gate used by newsmen, a young man in a raincoat has been passing out a document jacketed in "Reagan blue." It's titled "The 1980 campaign promises of Ronald Reagan: compiled and published by The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Tony Coelho, Chairman."
And thus the long Democratic battle to make Ronald Reagan accountable in the 1982 and 1984 elections has, overtly, clear begun.
Officials on both sides of the political aisle agree the "promises exercise" can hurt an incumbent. President Carter found this out four years ago when he published his own campaign pledge list -- and found the Republicans matching promise to failed delivery by the end of his first summer in office.
Already, the Democrats are trying to tag President Reagan with reneging on his campaign pledges regarding social security. They cite his October 1980 statement to the American Association of Retired Persons: "Any reform of the social security system must have one overriding goal -- that the benefits of those now receiving, or looking forward to receiving social security must be protected, and that payments keep pace with the cost of living."
Stuart Eizenstat, President Carter's chief domestic adviser and author of Carter's compilation of campaign promises, describes the pluses and minuses of publishing the Carter pledges.
"It served as a reminder to the President, and to the Cabinet officers, of the direction the President wanted to head," Mr. Eizenstat said. "It set a sense of direction."
"The disadvantage was permitting opponents to point out a couple hundred of the 900 or so promises we failed to achieve," Eizenstat said. "Most of the promises not implemented -- except for some glaring exceptions, like the decontrol of crude oil -- were due to congressional inaction."
Michael Baroody, who directed the Republican National Committee's research effort to match Carter promises to delivery, and now works in the Reagan White House communications office, counted 650 promises from the Carter campaign. In the last of three reports, which appeared in the early fall of 1980, the Republicans claimed Carter had reneged on "slightly more than half" his promises.
"It was a useful exercise for us," Mr. Baroody says. "It became an ongoing project. Its format and comprehensiveness allowed us to look at the Carter administration on a long range of issues.
Baroody's Democratic counterpart, taking up the Reagan promises watch, is Eric Berkman at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The DCCC is detailing a staff to update daily Reagan's progress on his pledges, Mr. Berkman says. The Democrats plan to publish their first pledg e scorecard a year from now.