Former president Richard Nixon is also circulating at his party's affairs. At a lavish Orange County GOP fundraiser last week, his first public appearance in southern California in three years, Nixon helped raise a lot of money but didn't have many words of cheer for fellow Republicans in his native state.

He predicted that this "is going to be a tough year politically--we know that. Let's just hold our losses to a minimum."

The event netted about $150,000, which will be used for voter registration and other organizational activities by the Orange County GOP; about 100 couples paid $500 per person to have cocktails with him at a private reception and about 800 paid $150 a plate for dinner.

Nixon gave them a little political red meat for their money. He praised President Reagan for reducing taxes and inflation and restoring respect for America abroad and blamed Carter, whom he credited with "the best intentions," for allowing the Russians to gain an advantage in military strength, particularly nuclear weapons. "With the edge on their side, the Soviet Union could be in a position to launch a war--which is unlikely--or more likely, engage in nuclear blackmail. President Reagan must never let that happen again," Nixon said to prolonged applause.