The White House has decided against a last-minute campaign visit by President Reagan to Northern Virginia amid fears that the president's appearance could end up damaging the campaigns of U.S. Senate candidate Paul S. Trible and other Republicans.
White House officials, who told reporters on Monday that Reagan would "probably" make a second visit to Virginia to help Trible, said today that the trip was off. "There are no plans right now to go into Virginia at all," said Acting Presidential Press Secretary Larry Speakes.
The decision follows public complaints from the campaign of at least one local Republican member of Congress -- Rep. Stanford E. Parris -- and public statements by the Trible campaign suggesting that Reagan's presence was not entirely welcome. Trible campaign manager Judy Peachee said today that Trible's schedule was booked solid through Election Day and "it would be really difficult for us to change our schedule."
"Everything he's doing is planned," Peachee said. "A presidential visit totally consumes your staff. It would take your entire staff off of what they're doing."
Peachee's comments underscore the private assessments of Republican Party officials here and at the White House that Reagan's presence in Virginia could harm Trible as much as it would help him.
"There are people from all over the country calling up here asking him to come," one administration official said today. "It's not as if we're scraping for places to go."
Virginia Republican polling also indicates that another Reagan visit would "cut both ways" -- energizing the party faithful, but pushing traditional Democrats and many blacks toward the Democratic Senate candidate, Lt. Gov. Richard J. Davis, administration officials said. This, in fact, is precisely what happened after Reagan's first visit to Virginia on Sept. 29 in Richmond.
Peachee said today that her polls showed that Reagan's presence "helped a little bit" overall, although there were some parts of the state where Trible's standing actually dipped. In Northern Virginia, where there is widespread anger over administration policies affecting federal workers, "it was kind of a wash," she said.
In planning Reagan's schedule, White House officials have been carefully evaluating polls from around the country in trying to place the president in states where his presence could be credited as making a difference, officials said. As a result, the White House recently scrapped a possible second visit to California, where Republican Senate candidate Pete Wilson is running even in the polls with Gov. Jerry Brown.
Late last week, White House officials circulated an internal memo discussing a planned second trip to Virginia, this time to the Washington suburbs during the final week in October. The trip turned out to be a particularly sore point for Parris, whose Democratic opponent, Herbert E. Harris, has tried to exploit discontent among federal employes. A Parris spokesman publicly invited Reagan to stay out of the district.
"If he wants to come in we're not going to fight him over it," the spokesman, Dick Leggitt, said today. "We're saying Parris is going to win anyway."
Earlier Parris had been urging Reagan to come into the district, a top GOP strategist in Washington said yesterday. But after Harris appeared to be making some headway with his charges against the Reagan administration, the request was dropped, the official said. "They may have changed their whole strategy," he said.
Harris charged last night that Parris' apparent disavowal of the president "is an obvious example of him trying to cover up a record he does not want to take credit for." The Democrat said Parris has "switched back and forth three times" on the president, depending on what his latest campaign polls show. "It's a computerized reaction to a mechanized polling operation," Harris said.