Ronald Reagan hinted yesterday that he might have accepted the Republican vice presidential nomination if President Ford had offered it to him at the GOP convention in Kansas City last summer.
"It would have put me in a tough spot," Reagan said. "I don't know what I would have done."
The former California governor said he and his wife, Nancy, had speculated frequently on what he would have done if the nomination had been offered. Ford called on Reagain after the nomination and asked his views on several prospective vice presidential candidates.
Reagan said he tried to find something nice to say about most of the people mentioned by Ford, one of whom was Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, the eventual nominee.
Reagan said that a group of 29 Republicans called on him the following morning to ask if he would object to their propsing to Ford that he pick Reagan as his running mate. Before the meeting began, however, Reagan received a telephone call telling him about the Dole selection.
Various Ford strategists have said that Reagan's name never came up in discussions about the vice presidential nominee because Reagan repeatedly had indicated he would not be receptive.
On the same day Ford was nominated by the convention, a handwritten letter from Regan to members of his California delegation said that there was "no circumstance whatsoever" under which he would accept the vice presidency.
Richard B. Cheney, formerly White House chief of staff, confirmed yesterday that the possibility of Reagan's being the vice presidential nominee was never raised by Ford when the two men met. Cheney said that was because one of the conditions of the meeting laid down by John Sears, the Reagan campaign leader, was that the vice presidential nomination not be offered.
Reagan's comments were made in an interview with The Washington Post, during which the former California governor also said he has no timetable for deciding whether he will run again for President in 1980. When a reporter observed that Reagan, who was 66 on Sunday, would be nearly 70 at campaign time, Reagan responded that Verdi did not write "Falstaff" until he was 83.
Reagan predicted that Ford would make another try for the White House.
"I'm sure he's going to take another whack at the presidency," Reagan said.
In the interview Reagan also:
Said that a new political action group he has formed, Citizens for the Republic, would try to help bright, young candidates of conservative persuasion and that the emphasis would be on candidates who had a chance to win, not "lost causes." The organization, which Reagan said also will develop a newsletter, is being financed by the nearly $1 million left over from his presidential nomination campaign.
Said that President Carter remained "kind of a mystery" to him and that his political direction was still unclear. Reagan observed that Carter was "a hard target" and added: "I've never seen anyone throw a peanut in the air and shoot it."