Backing into The Race

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Laxalt and Rollins, who is leaving his job as the President's chief political aide this week to take over the day-to-day duties of campaign director, were also against the idea of including a disclaimer in the FEC statement. Reagan wanted to state clearly that he had not made a final decision on whether to run. Baker and Deaver supported him. After some discussion, Reagan agreed simply to include a sentence saying that a formal announcement would come later.

Besides being a back-door affirmation that he is, at least for the moment, running for reelection, the formation of Reagan's official campaign committee quiets speculation on another subject. The name of the new group, chosen with the President's approval, is Reagan-Bush '84, indicating that Vice President George Bush will be his running mate. Had Reagan delayed declaring that Bush would be on the ticket, it would have provided an opening for some activists on the right to pressure for a more conservative candidate.

In fact, the composition of the new committee moving into the Reagan-Bush '84 offices on the edge of Capitol Hill this week indicates that the more moderate of the President's advisers will be in the driver's seat. Laxalt's conservative principles and his longstanding loyalty to his friend Reagan are beyond question, but when it comes to political strategy he is more pragmatic than ideological. Lyn Nofziger, Reagan's deeply conservative former top political aide, made a bid to have greater control of the re-election effort, but instead he will return only as an outside consultant. Although he is a Nofziger protégé, Rollins is less likely than his mentor to look upon his role as that of an ideological conscience to the campaign. Drew Lewis, the former Transportation Secretary who supported Gerald Ford over Reagan in the 1976 primaries, will come aboard by May 1 as campaign manager. Richard Wirthlin, the White House pollster, will be director of research and planning.

Handling press and media relations for the upcoming campaign will be James Lake, who along with John Sears was one of the pragmatic political professionals who ran Reagan's early primary campaign in 1980 and was ousted after a clash with old-line Reagan loyalists. Charles Black, a close colleague of Lake's, will be among the outside consultants, along with veteran Republican Strategist Stuart Spencer and Pollster Robert Teeter.

Clearly playing a central role in putting together this group has been White House Chief of Staff Baker, who has been meeting with Laxalt and Deaver each week for the past five months to discuss strategy. Baker's top aide, Margaret Tutwiler, will coordinate the activities of the campaign committee with the White House, the Republican National Committee and other Republican groups.

For all his public reticence about running, Reagan has been deeply involved in establishing his campaign apparatus and choosing the people to run it. He talks and acts like a man already stumping to keep his job.

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