Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan, in a change of campaign plans, today announced that he will not enter the Feb. 17 GOP primary in Puerto Rico.
Reagan, the GOP front-runner, said at a news conference here that he would pass up an opportunity to campaign for Puerto Rico's 14 GOP delegate votes because he wanted to concentrate on campaigning in Iowa and Connecticut.
The Republican caucuses in Iowa are Jan. 21 and the primary in Connecticut is March 25.
The Puerto Rico primary is the first in the nation, falling nine days before New Hampshire's, on Feb. 26, in which Reagan is the favorite.
The former California governor, who will do no campaigning at all for the next three weeks, originally had planned to visit Puerto Rico this week. In his candidacy announcement speech Nov. 13 he had proposed that Puerto Rico be made a state if Puerto Ricans vote for statehood. Some of Reagan's strategists acknowledged at the time that this declaration was made with the territory's GOP primary in mind.
When Reagan was asked Thursday in Columbia, S.C., about the Puerto Rican primary, he seemed not to know very much about it.
First, he said he would "have to find out" if he was going to enter the primary, indicating that he would talk to aides about it. Asked again whether he was going to enter the Puerto Rican primary, Reagan replied:
"Well, I assume so, I was under the impression that we were entered in everything. But, ah, that is a technical problem that frankly I don't pay too much attention to."
On his chartered campaign plane enroute to Rockford, Reagan said he had been told there was a possibility that the Puerto Rican delegates would be uncommitted and that he hoped this would be the case. But he said that considerations of time and money were paramount in the decision.
At the news conference here, Reagan acknowledged that he didn't know a good deal about his own campaign schedule. When he was asked who makes the decisions about entering or withdrawing from primaries, he said:
"Well, frankly, the scheduling of my appearances I feel are up to the people in the field who have much more knowledge of the political situation than I do. It's my campaign, but there's no way I can be as familiar as they are with where are the spots that I'm needed most in my own behalf or where can they do without me."