As Ronald Reagan campaigned throughout the East this week describing the deficiencies of President Carter, some of the problems of Reagan's candidacy became increasingly evident.
Reagan demonstrated he could meet eastern politicians and publishers and emerge intact, but his campaign organization here remains hesitant, faction-ridden and financially hard-pressed.
A month after he clinched the Republican presidential nomination, Reagan is still without a full-time political director. His campaign plan for the fall is incomplete. His schedule is uncertain, and there are conflicts between the scheduling office and state political directors. The candidate remains poorly briefed on issues he has been discussing throughout the year.
A political bromide says a campaign isn't any better than its candidate. In Reagan's case, there is little doubt that the candidate has been much better than his campaign.
"The candidate has been carrying us," acknowledged a Reagan aide this week. "The question is whether he can carry us very far against a president who knows how to use his incumbency and has a top campaign staff."
Some worried Republicans here would trade the electoral votes on a safe Rocky Mountain state for a little of the political expertise that surrounds Carter. "We don't have a Ham Jordan, a Bob Strauss, a Jody Powell," says one well-placed Reagan worker. "They would be tough to compete against even if he had an experienced political team. And we don't."
In many respects, Reagan's organizations still suffers from the after-shocks of a series of staff shakeups that began last year and culminated with the firing of campaign manager John P. Sears and two other top aides on Feb. 26, the day of Reagan's win in the New Hampshire primary. Since then, various aides and factions have jockeyed for key positions in the campaign.
The main concern of those familiar with the Reagan campaign is that valuable organizational time may have been squandered, wasting the advantage that Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's still unresolved challenge to Carter would seem to have given Reagan and the Republican Party.
Reagan political operatives in the field have had no leader since field director Andy Carter quit a month ago, and state campaign organizers still don't know where Reagan will concentrate his efforts.
Because the spending limits of the federal campaign law make it difficult for any presidential challenger to compete everywhere at once, Reagan's state campaign organizers want to know the target states as soon as possible.
"It's obvious you can't run a full-fledged campaign in 50 states on $30 million," sayd Lyn Nofziger, a long time Reagan trouble-shooter who has been brought back into the campaign to reorganize the candidate's communications division.
Others in the Reagan entourage say that the problems of the campaign, while serious, have been exaggerated because the campaign is near the spending ceiling for the primaries. As a result, the campaign has not been able to hire some of the new people it needs.
These optimists predict that the political operation will be on track when William Timmons, a former Nixon White House aide directing Republican National Convention operations for Reagan, is named political director of the campaign near the end of the month. And they say that some of the present difficulties arose from a circumstance that could not have been foreseen -- the sudden surgery needed by Reagan pollster-strategist Richard B. Wirthlin at a time the campaign plan was being completed.
Sen. Paul Laxalt (R-Nev.), a Reagan cochairman, believes that many of the campaign's organizational problems will be resolved by relocating the Reagan headquarters from Los Angeles to the Washington area. This week, the Reagan campaign took over John B. Connally's former headquarters in Arlington, and the organization is moving there in stages. Reagan and his wife, Nancy, will move to a temporary residence in the Washington area in late August.
Laxalt last week brought together a dozen congressional issues committees to advise Reagan and said he expects them to provide quick-response assistance on issues, frequently lacking in the Reagan campaign.
Whatever the deficiencies of his organization, Reagan was in a happy mood as he returned Friday night from what might have been called "Eastern Establishment Press and Republican Unity Week."
Reagan met with the editorial boards of major East Coast publications, met with congressional supporters in Washington, spoke at rallies in New York and Chicago and conferred with 13 Republican governors who pledged their support for the fall campaign.
"For the first time, he was seen as a potential president," says Reagan chief-of-staff Edwin Meese.
Reagan has light campaign schedule this week and will follow it with a six-day vacation at the ranch of an old friend, investment counselor William Wilson, south of Nogales, Mexico.
Reagan will return July 8 to what both he and his staff believe will be a difficult campaign.
The expectation is that Carter will effectively use his incumbency and that "some unanticipated major event," as Laxalt calls it, will benefit the president politically in October. When Meese was asked in Washington whether he thought such an event would occur, he replied with a smile, "You mean the day they release the hostages, cap Mount St. Helens and find oil in the White House?"
Both Laxalt and Meese say that Reagan has to go into the last weeks of campaign well ahead if he is to win the election.
As yet, however, there are few signs in California that Reagan has put together an organization that will help him get the lead.