Republicans admit Reagan slippage
Washington — President Reagan's slippage is being conceded now where such admissions are only made very reluctantly: in Republican leadership circles. And even in the lofty realms of the White House, there are officials who now regretfully say that the President's pace has not been what he had hoped it would be.
One administration official puts it this way: ''Most people still feel the country as a whole is better off under Reagan. But I must say that people aren't too confident about their own personal financial situation.''
Mr. Reagan himself admits that his goal of balancing the budget in 1984 is no longer attainable.
Veteran presidential watchers are beginning to say that the success of his administration is now in doubt. They question his foreign policy, as well as his economic initiatives, indicating that his performance must catch up with his popularity soon, or he will begin to lose favor with the public.
The President told associates after the election last fall that his prime goal was to bring about a change in public thinking, one comparable to what Franklin D. Roosevelt accomplished in the great depression, when he told the people that all they had to fear was fear itself.
Reagan was convinced that Roosevelt did wonders for the nation by setting a new mood - fashioning a more hopeful mental climate that helped Americans lift themselves up by their boot straps.
Thus, more than anything else, the President has hoped to bring about a more sanguine mood in America, one that would cause businessmen to invest and business to hum. He has wanted to curb and perhaps end the tendency of American consumers, apprehensive over what items would cost in the future, to keep buying now, thereby pushing prices ever upward.
The President's public statements indicate he believes he has gone some distance in effecting this change. He sees it in the dip in the inflation rate. But the stock market has not given him a vote of confidence. And the current recession, with high unemployment, shows that he has yet to make an FDR impact on the public outlook.
Recent Monitor conversations with key Republicans, here and around the United States, has brought forth this assessment of the Reagan administration a year after the President's impressive victory:
* Reagan is still liked by politicians and most Americans. This remains his greatest asset.
* But the widespread hope that Reagan's economic policies would somehow quickly turn the economy around is dimming, even among his staunchest supporters. Some GOP politicians say that it is unfair to judge those policies so quickly. Others stress that the spending cuts are on the right track. But some Republicans view the recession with alarm, voicing anxiety over where it might lead.
* The Republican leadership in Washington still talks hopefully of the 1984 elections. But their forecasts have this caveat: the nation's economy must at least be looking up by that time.
Privately, these same leaders concede that if the recession lingers on, with unemployment at 8 percent or higher, the Republicans and the President, by reflection, could be in for a critical judgment from the voters.
* There is growing uneasiness in GOP circles over what is perceived as the relatively large group of voters that appear to be completely dissatisfied with the President's performance. This group is made up of the disadvantaged, particularly blacks and Hispanics.
Republicans say they believe that only a decided lift in the economy would permit Reagan economics to filter down benefits to these minorities by the time the 1984 elections are held.