Vice President George Bush, campaigning here tonight for Republican gubernatorial nominee Marshall Coleman, said the election contest between Coleman and Democrat Charles S. Robb "should be more than a referendum" on the Reagan administration, but Bush conceded that "there are national implications" in the race.
"If it doesn't go our way," Bush said at a press conference preceding two fund-raising receptions at Chrysler Hall here, "I expect someone will be taking a shot at us." And if Coleman wins, Bush said he is sure national Republicans will want to take part of the credit.
"But there's a lot more to it" than Bush and other Republican luminaries "butting in," the vice president said, adding that "Virginians should judge on their own" the relative merits of Coleman and Robb.
Nonetheless, Bush said, the administration has stakes in the gubernatorial contests in Virginia and New Jersey, the only two statewide elections in the nation this year. That is why Bush has made two appearances in New Jersey in behalf of GOP nominee Thomas H. Kean, and why he made his second visit to Virginia tonight on behalf of Coleman.
The parade of national Republicans continues here Thursday with Health and Human Services Secretary Richard Schweiker scheduled to appear with Coleman. And while it still has not been confirmed by the White House, the Coleman campaign is making plans for an appearance by President Reagan in Virginia Beach next Tuesday.
"We want to see these two governors go our way" because "it is much easier to work with people who share our belief that the power belongs in the states," Bush said.
Bush said the Reagan administration "could work with a Democratic governor," but he added that the president "would prefer" to work with someone who shares both his party and his philosophy.
As for the tactic of Coleman tying himself to Reagan's popularity, Bush said, "If I were in his shoes, I'd do that, too."
Bush took a softer approach to Robb's connections with the administration of his late father-in-law, former president Lyndon Johnson, saying, "Some programs that were beautifully conceived in the '60s failed in the '70s."
In his remarks before about 400 people who paid $100 a person to attend the rally or $1,000 a couple to mingle with him at a cocktail party, Bush said Virginians "should ask who can do more for Virginia, Chuck Robb working with Tip O'Neill and Ted Kennedy, or Marshall Coleman working with President Reagan, with me and with members of his cabinet -- the architects of the new federalism."