President Reagan will tap Sen. Paul Laxalt (R-Nev.) today to be "general chairman" of the Republican National Committee, putting one of his closest Capitol Hill friends in charge of the party apparatus.
The long-rumored appointment was confirmed yesterday by administration officials, who said Laxalt will meet today with Reagan and members of the senior White House staff.
"He will be the day-to-day contact between the president and the party," a White House official said.
Laxalt will keep his Senate seat and provide overall direction to the party, while the nuts-and-bolts work will be placed in the hands of an executive director still to be selected, the officials said.
Reagan will announce the Laxalt decision at a White House luncheon today. Those present at the luncheon will include Richard Richards, the retiring GOP national chairman, Betty Heitman, the party co-chairman, and a dozen regional Republican chairmen.
Administration sources said yesterday that Reagan intends to tell the party officials that an executive director will be recommended by Laxalt before the annual meeting of the Republican National Committee in January.
The sources said Laxalt's choice is most likely to be either Edward Rollins, the current White House political director, or Frank Fahrenkopf, Nevada Republican chairman. Rollins, recuperating from a stroke, was released yesterday from George Washington University Hospital. He is expected to recover fully.
Others who were reported to be under consideration earlier for the executive director's job included Rich Bond, currently the second-ranking official at the national committee; Rick Shelby, another RNC official; Haley Barbour, the defeated GOP Senate candidate in Mississippi, and Richard S. Williamson, Reagan's assistant for intergovernmental affairs.
Williamson has said previously that he made it clear to White House officials he did not want the job.
The president does not actually choose the party chairman, but it is customary for the national committee to accept his selection. In this case, Reagan is turning to a trusted friend to run the GOP as it heads toward the 1984 presidential election--and as the party awaits a decision from Reagan about whether he will again be at the top of the ticket.
The courtly and astute Laxalt was chairman of Reagan's 1980 campaign, and was Nevada governor when Reagan was chief executive in California. Laxalt has been known as Reagan's "eyes and ears" on Capitol Hill, and administration officials hope he will perform a similar function with the party.
Since Laxalt plans to retain his Senate duties, the choice of his executive director will carry particular weight. Some White House officials strongly favor Rollins for the job.