Reaganemia, the typically Republican sluggishness that pervades Ronald Reagan's campaign, has limited George Bush to an Oct. 23 live telecast from suburban Palatine as the vice presidential candidate's first, last and only campaign visit to Chicago's critically important suburbs.
Reagan is not running nearly so well in those suburbs as a Republican should. Non-conservative Republicans still resist him, continuing to chase Rep. John Anderson's disappearing candidacy. The scary Carter image of Reagan "the mad nuclear bomber" has taken hold here. "The suburban mommies don't want their little boys to go to war, so they won't vote for Reagan," one gleeful Democratic politician told us.
The best antidote at this late hour is Bush, still the idol of Republican suburbia. Why, then, has he not been summoned repeatedly to pin down the state's 26 electoral votes? When a suburban party leader asked Bush that question, he replied, in effect: I go where I'm told.
Bush has not been told to go to the Chicago suburbs, save for that one-night stand, reflecting the Reagan campaign's mind set. Bush has not been deputized to conduct a rescue operation because Reagan's strategists do not think a rescue is necessary. Just that attitude has enabled President Carter to switch the campaign's focus from economic distress to war and peace. c
That single-minded intent by campaign manager Hamilton Jordan was spelled out months ago and ignored by a Reagan campaign with delusions of sitting on a lead. While Carter painstakingly laid the groundwork to smear his foe as architect of World War III, there was no Republican rebuttal.
This failure was compounded in Illinois, where native son Anderson began with a strong liberal-to-moderate Republican base in the suburbs. Although Reagan's own polls still show him a slight favorite, Illinois is so closely contested that the Reagan campaign performance is inexcusable.
Considering Anderson's strength among Illinois Republicans, ordinary prudence dictated an appeal to the party's left wing. Instead, militant Reaganities running the state campaign have barred organizational involvement by their erst-while intra-party enemies.
In Illinois if nowhere else, Republican factional sparring continues. George Kangas, Republican chairman in suburban Lake County, who headed Bush's statewide primary campaign, got no advance word of the Reagan coordinator for his district; Kangas considered him unacceptable. Moderate Republicans have been offended by independent Reagan efforts by what one party leader calls "real far-right, radical types."
Reagan himself, never markedly popular in the state of his birth, has not been showcased in the Chicago suburbs. The standing-room-only audience at a Wheaton College rally was roused to frenzy by Gov. James Thompson's jeremiads. Reagan, instead of throwing away a dishwater-dull speech on education, read every last word of it -- and anesthetized his listeners.
As a moderate Republican, Big Jim Thompson was no early Reagan booster. But he has spent the autumn romping and stomping across Illinois with head-on attacks against Carter's tactics that Republicans here only wish had been adopted by Reagan's national campaign. An outraged Thompson bellows to audiences that the president has no right to talk about warmongering when he committed "an act of war" without congressional consent in the Iranian rescue fiasco.
In contrast, Reagan strategists have spent millions for the "documentary" informing America that Reagan was governor of California after leaving Hollywood, a TV commercial whose incessant display brings Republican politicians here and elsewhere to apoplexy. Gov. James Rhodes of Ohio barged into Reagan's forward cabin on his chartered jet to declare: "If I ever see you being sworn in as governor again, I'll get sick."
Rhodes believes certain victory in Ohio was lost by not concentrating on the economic issue, a view shared in Illinois by Republican and Democrats alike. Democratic politicians here can scarcely believe their good fortune that the stunning new 12.4 percent inflation rate -- contradicting Carter's claims on the campaign trail -- was overshadowed by talk of war, peace and hostages.
Even so, Illinois Democrats find it hard to say an affectionate word about Jimmy Carter. Their heart belongs to Vice President Walter Mondale, whose popularity has been exploited in a regular commuter run for him to the Chicago suburbs (parts of five days so far). George Bush has not been used in the same manner, demonstrating not only the difference between Republicans and Democrats, but why a president so genuinely disliked may win a second term after all.