The chairman of the House Republican Conference said something on television yesterday that some Republicans have been saying privately for months: there is no chance the GOP will nominate former president Ford or former Gov. Ronald Reagan for the presidential race in 1980.
"Logically, in view of their age and in view of what happened in 1976, I don't think the party is going to look to either of these emn as a candidat," said Rep. John B. Anderson (R-Ill.), the conference chairman, No. 3 Republican in the House.
"We will develop a new leader between now and 1980. I'm convinced of that," Anderson said on "Face the Nation" (CBC, WTOP).
Anderson was asked if he was depressed because Ford, 64, and Reagan, 66, who fought each other for the 1976 nomination, are "talking about leading the party again for the presidency."
He replied bluntly: "I'm not depressed because, frankly, I don't believe that either former President Ford or Gov. Reagan will end up as the nominee of the Republican Party in 1980.
"Obviously, for tactical reasons, each one of them may feel that it is desirable to project himself as a potential candidate because unless do that, of course, they would be - if not utterly without influence - at least with diminished influence within the party."
Anderson did not mention women when asked where the Republican Party will find the "younger blood" to replace its older leaders.
"Well, of course, we have a great many men in the party," he said. There is "the governor of my own State of Illenois [James R. Thompson], the governor of Michigan [William G. Milliken] - I could go on," Anderson said.
He added: "There are fine men in the statehouse, in the [U.S.] Senate and in the House as well."
At one point, Anderson referred to Reagan as the "self-styled leader of the conservative wing" of the Republican party. At another, he took issue with speculation that only a conservative has a good chance of taking over the reins of the party in 1980.
"I disagree with that," he said. "I think that we will nominate a moderate Republican in 1980."
At the moment, Republicans are in a "peroid of reassessment where there is no clear, single leader of the party," Anderson said.
In his statements on the future of the Republican Party, Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.), Ford's running mate in 1976, declined to speculate on whether Ford or Reagan would seek the party's 1980 presidential nomination.
"That would be a matter for [former] President Ford to decide," Dole said on "Issues and Answers" (ABC, WMAL). Dole said Ford and Reagan are "both in good health, both very vigorous," and that both "are going to have an influence on the party."
"They haven't said they are not ready to go; I will put it that way," Dole said. "I think what we need to do now is to build the party and let the candidates and the speculation rest for a couple of years," he said.