Former president Gerald Ford swept through Virginia yesterday, seeking to boost Republican congressional candidates in the closing days of their campaigns and to raise money for the state Republican Party.
Ford, who has been crisscrossing the nation since April on behalf of the GOP, attended a breakfast at the Twin Bridges Marriott Motor Hotel in Arlington, a luncheon in Roanoke and appeared at a gala dinner in Richmond.
Yesterday's "1984 Commonwealth Gala," chaired by former Virginia governor Mills E. Godwin Jr., was expected to raise about $100,000. In Arlington, former Northern Virginia representative Joel T. Broyhill, state Republican Party Chairman Donald W. Huffman and Rep. Frank R. Wolf joined Ford and Godwin on the podium, which was decorated with red, white and blue flower arrangements.
The only hitch at the $100-a-plate breakfast came when the American flag fell over at the beginning of the Pledge of Allegiance. Minutes earlier it had been knocked aside as Ford and others mounted the platform.
Ford joked later about his clumsy image, saying that he knew his golf game was improving because "I'm hitting fewer spectators." He added that despite the improvement, Bob Hope still calls him a "hitman for the PGA," the Professional Golfers Association.
Rep. Stan Parris (R-Va.) and Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.) had previous campaign engagements and did not attend, but their signs adorned the meeting room, along with those of Wolf, who Broyhill predicted "would win by a landslide."
"There's no question about it. Ronald Reagan and George Bush not only deserve to win, but will win on Nov. 6," Ford told the 330 people attending the breakfast.
Ford also predicted a net Republican gain of 25 seats in the House of Representatives. But he was far less optimistic about the Senate.
"It is not absolutely certain that the Republicans will continue to control the Senate. The odds favor it, but we have some tough races," Ford said. "I think we're going to retain a majority. I believe it will be, maybe a net loss of one or two at the most."
In his introductory remarks, Broyhill noted that Ford lived for many years in Northern Virginia while in Congress. He declared that Ford was "coming home."
Godwin, who pointed out that Virginia was the only southern state that supported Ford in 1976, praised Ford's performance as president.
Ford responded that Godwin "was an excellent governor, even as a Democrat, and I happen to think he was even a better governor as a Republican." Godwin was elected governor as a Democrat in 1965; later switched parties, and won as a Republican in 1973.