President Reagan opened the final week of the 1982 congressional campaign today by urging Americans to "vote for your hopes, not your fears," casting himself as the messenger of hope and his critics as purveyors of fear.
In a speech that sought to evoke the kind of optimism about the economy that carried him to the presidency in 1980, Reagan said the nation "is ready to move again, and it's time others stopped trying to scare people and subvert recovery."
The president's comments at a rally for GOP House candidates reached back to the themes he employed in 1980 and foreshadowed the tone of his campaigning, including television appeals this weekend, before next Tuesday's elections.
"The real truth is, our critics are playing with people's fears, trying to scare them into believing things will get worse so their own political fortunes will get better," Reagan said. "But the picture of fear and despair that they paint on the network evening blues, that's a picture of America where she was, not where she's going. We didn't create the grain embargo, and we didn't create double-digit inflation, or 21 1/2 percent interest rates that caused so much misery. We ended them."
The stage was set for Reagan's optimism by a report that inflation has moderated to 4.8 percent so far this year. His audience cheered when he noted that it's "exactly the same 4.8 percent as when Jerry Ford the previous GOP president left office."
Another pillar of Reagan's optimism recently has been the soaring stock market, and he maintained an upbeat outlook today despite Monday's 36-point plunge in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
As he left the White House this morning, Reagan recalled listening to economists on television over the weekend describing Wall Street as being on the verge of a bull market, and he said some "ups and downs" are "typical of the beginning of a bull market."
"And actually the percentages bear this out," Reagan added, "because in the last 10 weeks the market has gone up 260 points and in the last two days the drop has only been the fraction under 42 points. So it is still an up market with this drop."
In his speech here, Reagan said, "We are clearing away the economic wreckage that was dumped in our laps. Now, of course, you would never believe that if you listened to the drumbeat of doom and gloom from our critics."
The president urged voters to have "the courage to believe in our hopes rather than be ruled by our fears."
"We are changing the direction of America . . . . We are putting her back on the course of hope charted by the founding fathers," he said in reiterating his claim of "solid progress" against the problems of "runaway spending, runaway taxing, double-digit inflation and record interest rates."
And the crowd of about 4,000 people, who were given free admission tickets to the Raleigh Civic Center by the North Carolina GOP, cheered Reagan's assertion that Democrats are trying to subvert recovery.
"If they can't encourage, if they won't work with the rest of us, then let 'em get out of the way," Reagan said.
The president's appeal to voter optimism reflects the thinking of his advisers that GOP losses next week can be minimized if voters are convinced that better times lie ahead. Reagan has made "stay the course" his campaign slogan this fall, and today he sought to make the course sound worth staying for.
"America is entering a new season of hope," he promised his audience.
Reagan's appearance today marked one of the few campaign swings he will make to states where Republicans do not have a Senate seat or governorship at stake. The president came here chiefly to help four House candidates who have received extensive assistance from the National Congressional Club, the political machine of Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), who appeared with Reagan today.
In keeping with the White House tactic of campaigning for likely winners, the president praised as a "champion" GOP challenger William W. Cobey Jr., a former University of North Carolina athletic director who is favored to unseat Democratic Rep. Ike Andrews in the 4th Congressional District.
On Thursday and Friday Reagan goes west to Montana, Wyoming, Nevada, New Mexico and, officials said today, to Utah for Republican Sen. Orrin G. Hatch.