Rep. Phillip M. Crane (R-Ill.) the never-say-die conservative, relaunched his faltering campaign for the republican presidential nomination yesterday with a promise to emphasize issues rather than image from now on.
With characteristic optimism, Crane said last week's angry spate of resignations that decimated his campaign staff will have a minimal-"perhaps even positive"-impact on his chances. And he said he hoped to eliminate his $800,000 campaign debt in a three-month fund-raising blitz among loyal contributors.
Crane said he will correct the internal problems in his campaign by hiring new staffers, moving the campaign headquarters from Washington to St. Louis, and giving chief control over his activities to his state chairmen rather than to the national campaign directors.
Crane announced his presidential drive last August more than two years before the 1980 election. Since then he has traveled almost continuously and has spent nearly $2 million in his quest for the nomination. He has made some inroads among Republicans who supported Ronald Reagan in 1976, but his low standing in opinion polls has not improved much for all his hard work.
Crane's newly-named campaign manager, Iowa banker Jerry Harkins, yesterday blamed the candidate's problems on the former staff's effort "to packaged some image of what they thought Crane ought to be."
Harkins said the campaign under his leadership will emphasize Crane's forcefully right-wing positions on economic, social, and foreign policy issues.
Voting records over the years indicate that Crane is one of the most conservative members of Congress-considerably to the right of most members from his own party. For this reason, some of his former advisers had wanted Crane to stay away from volatile issues on the campaign trail.
But Crane agreed yesterday that such a strategy is wrong-particularly at a time when he is recruiting supporters. "you don't attract the dedicated workers by selling the smile, the family, the dog, and so forth," he said.
Crane said there was some truth to reports that his wife, Arlene, helped precipitate his dispute with his prior campaign staff, but he said his wife would not cause Harkins any difficulty.