Ronald Reagan, the now-uncontested choice for the Republican presidential nomination, swept to nine primary victories today, then called upon Democrats to cross party lines and support him in his challenge to President Carter.
Network projections and incomplete returns gave Reagan lopsided victories in each of the nine states that voted today -- California, Ohio, New Jersey, Mississippi, West Virginia, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Montana and New Mexico.
Reagan was expected to get most of the 418 delegates at stake in these primaries, which were largely meaningless for Republican voters. Going into the final round of primaries, United Press International gave Reagan 1,071 delegates, with 998 neaded for nomination.
In a victory speech here that described Carter economic policies as "inhumane" and "illogical," Reagan portrayed the president as deliberately encouraging unemployment in order to reduce inflation. It is part of a Reagan campaign strategy aimed at attracting the support of working-class Democrats and independents.
"Mr. Carter, when he was campaigning in 1976, concocted something he called a 'Misery Index,'" Reagan said. "This was the sum of the rates of inflation and unemployment. Then, it was 12.5 percent. Today, thanks to his policies, it is almost twice that -- 24.5 percent."
Except for this criticism of Carter economic policies, the Reagan speech was mostly a bland recitation of oft-used generalities. It failed to measure up to what some aides had predicted would be a major speech that took advantage of the television coverage of tonight's primaries to set the tone for the fall campaign.
As he has often done, Reagan identified himself with those who want to increase production and against "those in positions of leadership [who] tell us over and over again that the best has come and gone, that we must do with less."
"We cannot make this a better world by moving backward ourselves," Reagan said. "Each generation of Americans has been willing to produce more so that the tomorrows could always be better than the yesterday."
In a litany he used in campaigning for Republican candidates two years ago, Reagan said that most Americans shared values of "family, neighborhood, work, peace and freedom." These, said Reagan, are the concerns of everyone regardless of party and region.
"I want my candidacy to work toward unifying Americans," Reagan said. "And, my administration will reflect this spirit so that we can move forward, united as a people."
While many of Reagan's statements were innocuous, they reflected the findings of his polls about a growing concern for "family" values among the working-class Democrats and independents he is courting.
The validity of the Reagan strategy was suggested by ABC exit polls in California and Ohio. In California, 24 percent of those who participated in the Democratic primary said they would vote for Reagan. Reagan received 14 percent of the Democratic vote in Ohio, according to the poll there, and independent candidate John B. Andersoh received 24 percent.
According to the ABC polls of voters, Reagan would now be a narrow winner over Carter in Ohio and defeat the president by more than 2 to 1 in California.
Even though Reagan faced no opponent today, the candidate and his strategists had hoped for an overwhelming vote intended to demonstrate that Reagan was the united choice of his party. For the most part, Reagan received the ratification he wanted with winning percentages that ranged from 65 percent of the vote in New Mexico to more than 80 percent in Ohio, South Dakota, New Jersey, Rhode Island and his home state of California.
An ABC poll of voters leaving the polls in Ohio showed that Reagan was supported by the spectrum of GOP voters, at least with no active candidate in the race against him. He had the backing of 84 percent of GOP conservatives, 74 percent of the middle-of-the-road votes and 69 percent of GOP liverals.
But with the nomination contest already decided, the turnout was low in most of the GOP primaries except for California, where interest in state ballot initiatives helped bring voters to the polls.
Reagan has been unopposed for the nomination since George Bush dropped out of the race May 26 after various delegate counts showed Reagan having clinched the nomination. Bush was on all the ballots, however, in the primary states that voted today.
Reagan's final total in the GOP primaries was 29 victories in the 33 races in which he competed. Bush won the other four plus primaries in the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico where Reagan was not entered.
Reagan has always demonstrated a fondness for statistics and he came up with some new ones tonight about his primary campaign. During the seven months of his campaign, he said he had visited 318 cities and towns and traveled 166,450 air miles, an average of 855 miles a day since he declared his candidacy last November.
"Everywhere I have been in these primary campaigns I found people concerned about the state of the economy at home and the state of America's leadership in the world," Reagan said.
Primary day was a relaxed and happy one for Reagan and his wife, Nancy, who voted in a precinct near their Pacific Palisades home, then took the rest of the day off until Reagan's appearance at the victory rally in the Ambassador Hotel tonight.
Reagan delivered his victory speech tonight before a happy crowd of volunteers and precinct workers. To the strains of such 1940-era hit songs as "In the Mood," Reagan presented his carefully prepared and previously distributed speech as spontaneous remarks.
"On the way down in the elevator I made some notes of things I want to say to you," Reagan said as he launched into his speech text.
Reagan will travel to Rancho Mirage on Thursday to receive the political blessing of the man he challenged in 1976, then-president Gerald Ford. He resumes campaigning with a three-day trip Friday.