Lashing out at "confiscatory taxation and excessive regulation," conservative Rep. Philip Crane (R-Ill) officially entered the 1980 presidential race yesterday.
He became the first Republican to announce his candidacy and acknowledged he may have set a record for early entry into a presidential campaign.
"Lacking name recognition. I have to start early," Crane explained. "As President Carter demonstrated, it's important to break out of the pack early," Carter entered the 1976 race in December 1974.
Crane denied that he was a stalking horse for Romald Reagan, his political idol, but admitted that, (If he were an announced candidate. I would not be making his announcement."
Crane sais, however, that he would not discourage Reagan or former president Gerald R. Ford from seeking the Republican nomination. In case of a conservative split Crane said he had made a pledge to Reagan "that I would not permit my candidacy to let a candidate win the nomination who does not represent the 1976 party platform."
Appearing with his wife and eight children under a portrait of George Washington, Crane made his announcement in a crowded Seante meeting room. He called his candidacy "a commitment to our future, a restoration of the American dream to its proper custodian - the American people."
Crane promised to enter all 36 state presidential primaries and said he had already begun raising compaign funds.
As chairman of the American Conservative Union and a strong backer of conservative causes, Crane has built solid support in the right wing of the Republican Party.
He helped lead the campaign to rally opposition to the Panama Canal treaties and has urged a tougher stand in arms control negotiations with the Soviet Union. A computer analysis of 1977 voting records by the National Taxpayers Union showed that Crane was the most frugal member of the House on government spending.
Crane's natural constituency may be split among several candidates, however, with Reagan and 1976 vice presidential nominee Bob Dole wooing conservative backers.
Several of Crane's Republican colleagues from Illinois said they advised him against an early candidacy.
House Republican Whip Robert Michel said he told Crane, "Well, Phil, I can't tell somebody else with ambitions what they ought or ought not to do, but I find it hard to position anywhere but to the right of Reagan."
Illinois Rep. Paul Findley said that "between him and (Illinois Gov. Jom) Thompson, I'd support Thompson." Thompson has been mentioned as a possible Republican candidate for president.
Rep. John Anderson, after defeating a conservative challenger in this year's primary, warned, "I do not believe a person of that persuasion or that sentiment will emerge from the convention as the candidate."
Crane first went to Congress in 1969 in a special election.
He had taught at the University of Indiana and Bradley University. In 1964 he served as the Illinois director of research for the Goldwater for president organization. He was chairman of the Illinois Citizens for Reagan Committee in 1976, and also worked for Reagan in 1968.
During his announcement yesterday, Crane criticized the policies of President Carter.
"The greatest presidential weaknesses are in the policy area - there is a failure to lead," Crane said. Carter is the proponent of the largest taxing program in history, he said, and although the president "made a commitment to deregulation, we got this monstrous Department of Energy and there's talk of a new Department of Education."
Crane also criticized Carter's foreign policy and defense stands, which he said "befuddled" even America's friends.
Next January, Crane may have two new supporters in the House of Representatives. His brother Dan, a dentist, is running for a House seat from central Illinois while another brother. David, a psychiatrist, is running for a House seat from Indiana.