Republican presidential nominee Ronald Reagan said today that he and his running mate, George Bush, would wage " a single, integrated campaign" using the same staff, issues research and scheduling.
The announcement, made at a news conference here with Bush and newly appointed Reagan campaign cochairman Anne Armstrong, capped two days of private meetings in which the candidates and their aides discussed the themes and strategy of the campaign.
According to some of the participants in these meetings, Reagan and Bush were pleasantly surprised with each other.
"The governor was pleased that George was so loyal and unstinting in his commitment -- qualities any presidential candidate wants in a vice president," one participant said. "At the same time, Bush came away realizing that our campaign is better organized and that Gov. Reagan knows more about details than has appeared in the papers."
In contrasts to the nervousness Bush displayed when Reagan presented his new running mate to reporters at the Republican National Convention, the vice presidential nominee seemed relaxed and happy today. He used the word "comfortable" several times to describe the way he felt about the campaign.
"There is no effort to hammer me into some ideological mold," Bush said. "There is no effort on my part to go out and highlight differences, either." Both Reagan and Bush appeared to have achieved some central goals in the meetings here and at a related strategy session Monday in Washington, presided over by campaign chairman Sen. Paul Laxalt of Nevada.
Bush gained, without resistance, spots in the campaign organization for some of his own key aides. James Baker, his campaign manager in the primaries and Gerald Ford's campaign manger in 1976, will serve as a trouble-shooting senior adviser on the Reagan staff. Dean Burch, the well-connected Washington lawyer who had influence in both the Nixon and Ford administration and who is a friend of Bush, will be liaison between the two campaigns, coordinating activities from the Washington office.
What the Reagan organization gets from the arrangements is a subordination of Bush's efforts to the central campaign. Bush said he would keep a small personal staff with him on his campaign plane but that he would draw on Reagan's staff for issues and direction.
The intent is not only to have the presidential nominee and his running mate say the same things, it is also to prevent, as Reagan described it today, the kind of scheduling overlap in which the candidates appear in the same town within a few days of one another.
Some political professionals associated with the Reagan organization consider GOP vice presidential candidate Bob Dole's 1976 campaign as a classic example of candidates on the same ticket working at cross purposes.
"Whatever other mistakes we make, we don't intend to emulate that example," a Reagan aide said this week.
At the news conference here at an airport motel across the street from Reagan headquarters, the GOP nominee became aroused on only one occasion.
This was when reporters quizzed him about the allegation of the Carter-Mondale committee that it is unfair for independent anti-Carter committees to raise millions of dollars above the $29.4 million in public funds Reagan and Carter each will be allowed to spend in the fall election campaign.
Reagan said there was nothing he could do about these committees. He said that they have a constitutional right to raise the money and that he had not been in comunication with any of them. Reagan added that such groups as the National Education Association and the AFL-CIO's Committee on Politcal Education spend plenty of extra money for Carter and other Democrats.
"As a matter of fact, I think maybe one of the reasons there is so much discomfort about this is administration circles is that this is the first time there's been anything of this kind that might want to support a Republican," Reagan said.
Some Reagan staff members are worried about the independent campaign's potentially harmful effects on the GOP ticket's own efforts, because nothing they do can, under the law, be controlled by Reagan.
"Listen, this is a hazzard," Reagan said when he was asked about it today. "You've got a loose cannon on the deck, but there isn't anything you can do about it."
Reagan said he expected President Carter to make effective use of his incumbency -- a point that has been stressed in staff meetings here this week and in the past by Laxalt. The example Reagan gave today was of Carter's announcement, on the morning of the Wisconsin primary, of a change in the status of the U.S. hostages in Iran.
There was no change, as it turned out, put polls showed that the announcement helped boost Carter's margin over his Democratic opponent, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.
Reagan said he "feared the worst" in personal attacks against him but intended to ignore them. Asked if Bush would take the "attack role" that has fallen to many vice presidential nominees in the past, Reagan replied, with tongue in check:
"I just think that it would be absolutely impossible for either one of us, knowing our characters, to take the low road."