The national Draft-Ford Committee launched an effort today to elect national convention delegates pledged to former president Gerald R.Ford in the March 18 Illinois primary.
Thomas C. Reed, California-based chairman of the national draft, designated W. Robert Blair, who had been heading the state campaign of Sen. Howard H. Baker Jr. (R.-Tenn.), to head the Illinois effort.
The impact of a Ford draft on the Illinois primary was unclear since the Ford campaign has no money and identification of Ford delegates for voters will be difficult.
A press conference to begin the Ford effort here appeared more to represent an attempt by Blair, former Illinois House speaker, to preempt others who may want to capitalize on growing sentiment for the former president. The choice of Blair could cause difficulties since he is out of grace with Gov. James R. Thompson's wing of the Illinois Republican Party.
Reed acknowledged in a news conference that he had neither checked with Thompson, who is neutral in the Illinois campaign, nor with state GOP chairman Don Adams, before making the move. One Thompson aide called the move "silly" and said that it may create confusion that could help Ronald Reagan.
Most of the key state GOP leaders had been working in the campaign of former Texas governor John B. Connally, who ended his campaign today.