Ronald Reagan today added some politically experienced conservatives to his campaign organization, announced the moving of his headquarters to Arlington, Va., and prepared for a private meeting with Gerald Ford that is supposed to end in a declaration of Republican unity.
Reagan campaign director William J. Casey said that Reagan wants the views of Ford, who has already said he doesn't want a police on the Republican ticket, on potential running mates. Reagan travels Thursday to the former president's home at Rancho Mirage for a meeting and joint news conference.
In the first press briefing since he was named campaign director Feb. 26, Casey announced that William E. Timmons will assist in political and media planning for the Republican National Convention and that Lyn Nofziger will help set up the Reagan communications office for the fall campaign.
Timmons, 49, a former White House aide in the Nixon and Ford administrations, directed convention operations for those two presidents in 1972 and 1976.
Nofziger, 56 this week, was Reagan's press secretary in his first campaign in 1966. He performed a variety of assignments in subsequent Reagan campaigns until forced out last September.
The hiring of Nofziger and the reemergence of Michael K. Deaver, a long-time Reagan aide, completed the comeback for the Californians who lost their jobs in a series of battles with since-deposed Reagan campaign manager John P. Sears. On the afternoon of his victory in the New Hampshire primary, Reagan fired Sears and named "asey campaign director.
No formal role was announced for Deaver. But he accompanied Reagan on his final campaign swing of the primaries, and he is again considered to be an influential adviser.
Though the Reagan organization is moving swiftly to beef up operations for the fall campaign, Casey said many of the key decisions are yet to come.
This was deomstrated by the lack of titles for either Nofziger or Timmons, who some observers expect to become the political director of the campaign. Casey said: "It is too early for that decision to be made."
Casey said the Reagan campaign was still "evaluating talent from other organizations," and final decision on a campaign director would not be made until the evaluations were completed. Sources in the campaign said one strong possibility as a campaign director is James A. Baker Ill, the campaign manager for George Bush this year and for Ford in 1978.
One final decision announced today was the relocation of the campaign headquarters, which will begin later this month and be completed by the Republican National Convention in mid-July.
"Moving the campaign here will provide some badly needed continuity in our efforts," said Sen. Paul Laxalt (R-Nev.) in Washington. "It will be a blessing to have the policy people under one roof."
Communication between the Reagan headquarters in Los Angeles and Washington policy advisers was a recurring problem during the primary campaigns.
Casey said that after the convention the Reagans will live at the still-unselected residence in northern Virginia.
"We expect him [Reagan] to have a temporary residence in Virginia," Casey said. "Then we expect him to move across the river."
Casey also said there was a possibility that Reagan may take a European trip after the GOP convention.
Overall, Reagan won 60 percent of the vote in the Republican primaries this year, with 7,607,305 votes. George Bush, Reagan's last opponent, won 3,054,288 votes, or 24 percent, while other candidates and "uncommitted" got 2,013,577, or 16 percent.