Getting new voters to the polls. That could be the key to victory in a close presidential race in November, say Reagan campaign strategists.
And that is why the Republicans have mounted a strong drive to match the Democrats in signing up new voters. That drive expands on June 23 with a ''Reagan Roundup'' - a one-day effort in 49 states to mobilize 25,000 volunteers to identify and register some 100,000 new Reagan supporters.
So far the Republicans have identified or registered or both some 750,000 new voters in 28 states and about 100,000 are registering every week, says Ed Rollins, director of the Reagan-Bush campaign committee. The goal is 2 million through the combined efforts of the Reagan campaign and the Republican Party. Some $8 million is budgeted for purpose.
Independent groups, including the Moral Majority and state party committees, also will spend about $2 million to register pro-Reagan voters. These groups could pull in another 2 million new voters, say GOP campaign officials, for a total of 4 million. The Democratic program calls for between 3 million and 5 million new voters.
In order to capture a share of the Democratic vote, a Democrats-for-Reagan organization will be announced in the next couple of weeks, according to campaign officials. If Reagan is to win, says Mr. Rollins, he must get the vote of 1 out of every 4 Democrats.
Reagan strategists are confident that, if the election were held now, Reagan would win handily. ''Today he is entering the campaign in the strongest possible position,'' said Rollins in a press conference Wednesday. ''Things could not be going better.''
The Gallup poll now shows Reagan ahead of Mondale by about 10 points nationwide. But state by state, Rollins says, GOP polls find Reagan leading anywhere from 8 points in the industrial states to 30 points in some Southern states.
Despite the undisguised optimism in the Reagan campaign, the official stance now is cautious. They forecast a close race. ''We are not going to be cocky,'' Rollins says. ''It will be a close election.''
Studying past close elections, says Rollins, the campaign committee found that Democrats usually won because they did a better job of recruiting new voters. Hence the Republican effort not to be caught short.
Registering new voters is harder for Republicans, campaign officials note. As there are more Democrats than Republicans, all the Democrats need to do is set up card tables at shopping centers and they are bound to net more Democrats.
Since the Republicans do not want to do their opponents any favor by such methods, they are resorting largely to phone banks and prescreening. Among their tasks is to find out where Republicans have moved and are no longer on voter lists. Military personnel and their families, for instance, are a major GOP target.
Republican registrations are running strong in the South, where whites are concerned about the black support for Jesse Jackson, Reagan campaign officials indicate. There has also been good registration response in Florida, where there are many pro-Reagan Hispanics.
Independents are a special target of the GOP drive. Campaign planners say they believe Reagan must also capture half the independent vote to win in November. They are encouraged by the primary exit polls showing that most of those who voted for Colorado Sen. Gary Hart would not vote for Mr. Mondale.
Saturday's Reagan Roundup will be an example of the massive organizational and promotional activity under way in the Reagan campaign. Eighteen teams of surrogate campaigners - including Vice-President George Bush, 8 Cabinet members, 50 members of Congress, and a host of Hollywood and sports celebrities - will travel to 57 cities for various events. There will be rallies, parachute jumps, cook-outs, and other activities aimed at rallying volunteers, encouraging voter registration, and building enthusiasm for the campaign.