Newly named White House political director Edward J. Rollins said yesterday that he hopes to mobilize New Right and single-issue groups along with the resources of the White House and the federal government in an all-out drive to give President Reagan a "philosophical majority" in the House of Representatives in the 1982 election.
He conceded that it would be "very hard" for Republicans to win an outright majority in the House but said that a gain of 10 or 15 seats could create a stable base for Reagan's economic program with the help of conservative Democrats.
Referring to groups like the National Conservative Political Action Committee (NCPAC), Rollins said, "Very clearly we will be meeting with them regularly, to tell them where we're heading and let them tell us what they're doing."
In his first meeting with reporters since the White House announced last week that he would succeed Lyn Nofziger as the assistant to the president for political affairs, Rollins said the political office would reduce its patronage operations in 1982 and concentrate on its role as the "driving force" in the midterm congressional and gubernatorial campaigns.
"We will be the ones that target the Democrats we think we can beat," he said, adding that the only House Democrats who can feel safe from challenge are the 20 who supported Reagan's position on all four of the key tax and budget roll-calls last spring and summer. Everywhere else, he said, "wherever there are viable Republican candidates, we will be supporting them" with the biggest treasury the GOP has ever assembled and all the firepower the administration can muster.
Rollins, a 38-year-old Californian, has been Nofziger's deputy and will succeed the longtime Reagan lieutenant when Nofziger resigns in January to resume his private political consulting in Washington.
Nofziger has been involved in a continuing argument with Republican National Chairman Richard Richards, who said such New Right independent expenditure groups as NCPAC "create mischief" and "are not responsible to anyone." Rollins left no doubt he agrees with Nofziger in cherishing such organizations.
He said NCPAC "has made a great contribution in many races" by moving in early and "softening up candidates" with ads attacking their voting records. Those ads have drawn controversy and some observers have contended they have boomeranged, but Rollins said the evidence showed the early attacks were "very helpful."
"With the breakdown of parties," he said, "the role of conservative groups becomes much more important. Putting together a variety of single-interest groups is the wave of the future."
Noting that Republican candidates will not be able to run "against the government in 1982 because the American public views Congress as being controlled by the Republicans," Rollins said the New Right groups could supply "that additional margin" GOP candidates may need.
In outlining his plans for regular meetings with the independent-expenditure groups, Rollins noted that they could not "coordinate" their activities with those of the White House and the GOP campaign committees without running afoul of the election law.
"But they all have high-powered lawyers to keep them out of trouble," he said, adding that he could safely discuss "general strategies" with them without dealing with specific races where they all might be involved.
Nofziger, who accompanied his successor to the lunch with journalists, said that White House hopes of increasing Republican strength in the House and Senate depended on "interest rates being down, inflation in the single digits, and the economy on the upswing, so people feel good about the country."
Nofziger conceded that "at least temporarily," the administration's political momentum had been damaged by the controversies over budget director David A. Stockman, national security adviser Richard V. Allen and Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr. "But public memories are short," he said. "One victory in Congress, and all this will be forgotten."
Nofziger also defended Reagan's controversial choice of William M. Bell as chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Civil rights groups have attacked Bell, who is black, as unqualified, and a Senate committee last week postponed a vote on his nomination when it appeared he might be rejected.
Nofziger said he had endorsed Bell as a loyal Reagan supporter in Michigan but "never passed judgment on his qualifications. That's the job of the personnel office."
But he said he supported the choice because, "to me, the most important thing in politics is loyalty, and we'll get loyalty from him. We'll get done what the president wants to have done. He'll follow administration policy."