Well-organized Reagan effort shifts into gear in New Hampshire
Manchester, N.H. — The Reagan team in New Hampshire was running hard - even before the President said ''go.'' At 106 Blodgett Street, here in New Hampshire's biggest city, a small staff has already been hired at the Reagan-Bush reelection headquarters. In a corner office, a small computer, chockful of the names of New Hampshire volunteers, hums away. Local chairmen have been chosen to spearhead the campaign in nearly all of the state's 299 precincts. A statewide phone bank goes into operation this week in Concord. And a few days later, a mass mailing goes out to Republicans all across the Granite State.
''This is spring training for the general election,'' says former state Senate President Robert Monier, who heads Reagan's campaign effort in New Hampshire.
The President has only token opposition in the Feb. 28 Republican primary here. But the campaign is taking nothing for granted. ''I always worry,'' says Mr. Monier.
Monier says he is concerned even more about the general election. While the Republican primary is a quiet affair, drawing little news media attention, the eight major Democratic candidates are roaring all over the state, firing up voters. That means the Democrats will recruit a large number of workers, excite their partisans, and gain valuable experience in political organization. All of this could give the Democrats a running start on the fall.
Political experts, however, say Monier and the Republicans probably don't have very much to worry about here. They call New Hampshire solid Reagan country. The New Hampshire campaign manager for one of the major Democratic presidential hopefuls puts it this way:
''Once this primary is over, you've probably seen the last of the Democratic presidential candidates here. They know this state is for Reagan, and they probably won't even bother to come back.''
The early Reagan effort here is mirrored across much of the country.
Reagan's national campaign director, Edward J. Rollins, says that although the President faces only token opposition for the GOP nomination, the campaign will spend $26 million in the primaries alone. That includes $4 million for fund raising, $1 million for compliance procedures, and $21 million for actual campaign costs such as advertising, staff, and overhead.
''We feel that it's very, very important that we put our organization together early,'' Mr. Rollins says.
Here in New Hampshire, the budget is much more limited. Spending will reach about $175,000 through next August's national convention, Monier says. Much of that will go into voter identification - contacting a large portion of the state's 80,000 households to find out which voters are leaning toward Mr. Reagan.
Monier says that personally, he would rather see the President in a ''tough, spirited campaign'' for the nomination. That's the best way to sharpen a political team for the fall campaign.
What will be the deciding factor in New Hampshire in November 1984?
''The economy is the No. 1 issue here - no doubt about that,'' Monier says. ''This is a thrifty state. (Voters') first concern is for their pocketbook. . . . They are pleased to see interest rates down and taxes cut. The unemployment rate has been dropping steadily, and in New Hampshire it never was that high.''
What about the war-and-peace issue? What about Lebanon and the marines.
''It's certainly something the press plays up,'' says Monier. ''But most of the calls we get here deal with the economy and the budget deficit. Most of the people are smarter than the politicians or the 'quick press.' They are concerned about foreign affairs, but they are not stupid. . . . They hope we'll get out of Lebanon, but they also realize it's complicated. They trust Ronald Reagan as much as Congress, or a much as those who would use the issue for their own political purposes.''
There is something in Lebanon, however, that the White House must be concerned about, Monier notes. If the US pulled out of Beirut, and a slaughter followed - ''the kind of slaughter of the PLO that happened recently in Lebanon'' - would the President then be blamed for that? The situation must be handled very wisely, he says.