Reagan-O'Connor or Bush-Dole, which do you like? Try them on for the Republican presidential ticket next year: Ronnie and Sandra or George and Elizabeth. The White House and its attendant pols have acknowledged (lights up, drum roll, tah dah) the: Gender Gap!
If Edward J. Rollins, described by Post reporter Juan Williams as the president's "chief political adviser," is correct, then 70 percent of women won't vote for Reagan. Something dramatic will have to be done. Realistically, there is no alternative to a male presidential candidate running with a female vice presidential candidate.
An effective quick fix must be fast, highly visible, historic and capable, at a minimum, of splitting the opposition. Firing George Shultz, Cap Weinberger, James Watt et (nearly) al. and replacing them with women would minimally meet all the requirements, but there are drawbacks. There's a sort of negative precedent since Carter dumped a chunk of his Cabinet; nobody had a good word to say about him for doing so. And it has potential for derision: Ron Reagan and His All Girl Cabinet, Ronnie's Angels, etc. The president, noted for his sense of humor and penchant for disastrous ad libs, might find the situation irresistible. And the quick fix is supposed to help, not hurt.
Complete policy reversals on the Equal Rights Amendment, nuclear arms, zest for war, taxation, free choice on abortion, affirmative action and economic matters would have to come in one giant package and produce something. There isn't time. It would not be credible either, because Reagan has a record, a long record, on these issues. There would be the added problem of his staff: every time he opens his mouth on policy, 26 people in the White House pick up the phone and call a reporter to say, not for attribution, that he didn't mean it.
If Reagan doesn't run again, the Republicans could have a woman in the top spot and a man for v.p. Then all the men could tell each other it would be okay because the vice president would really run the show. Howard Baker could take the No. 2 slot with Jeane Kirkpatrick. Nice geographical balance in that one. But let's face it: all those men waiting in line aren't going to step aside to let a lady walk in the door of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, not even a courtly southern gentleman like Baker.
Not much left but war. There's a woman's victorious example to follow. Margaret Thatcher was scraping the bottom of the polls, pre-war. Then she pulled up her socks and let those Argentines have it in the Falklands. All was forgiven. The British rallied round to give her a landslide win. The problem in this for Reagan is that nobody here is British. Americans are already on record against war; we've been to one recently.
Nope, the White House and the Republican Party don't have anywhere to go but down and out absent a woman on the big ticket. Nobody of stature among their group seems to get it about women. Even the White House's political liaison person, Faith Ryan Whittlesey, one of the few women there, repeated that there was no gender gap so consistently they had to take women's matters away from her. They gave the job to a man. Whatever they do, it's got to be easy or they'll flub it.
Of course, the other party could run a woman for vice president, too. But the Republicans don't have a choice; they've got to do it. If their polls and others are even close to real, they won't be in the race at all without their woman.
Right now they're softening up their party men to accept the inevitability of the two-sex ticket. Why else does the White House call together a magic 100 women, roll out the handful of top women appointees, send its main political guru to tell the world that the Republicans are washed up and "into the status of a minority party" without the women's vote? No politician or party raises a specter of that magnitude, and generates the lead story on The Post's front page, unless a sure-fire remedy is at hand.
The troops have to be convinced that the problem is fatal, unless solved. And they've got to be ready to sign on no matter what. It's hard and necessary to reach that point with something new, and something so new it's historic is really tough. So, first the bad news, then the good news . . . the one and only way out.
However, in a spot like theirs, they can't tip their hand about the miracle move until everyone believes that all is lost otherwise. So there will be a running set of meetings and stories of Shipwreck Ahead, for a long time. This will engender hand-wringing among the faithful, glee and relaxation among the opposition. If the secret plan for salvation remains a secret, the Republicans will be all alone with their woman and the Democrats will be standing in the dust wondering what hit them. Granted it would be hard to keep quiet and it would be pretty easy to figure out.
But, the Democrats have just fallen into that absorbing early phase of candidate fratricide which has them running against each other instead of the president and the Republicans. Chances are they won't even look up until the Republican convention surprise.
There he'll be, flanked by two women, his biological mate and his running mate, grinning, hugging and checking the polls: the Republican candidate and next president of the United States. And there she'll be, the Republican candidate and next vice president of the United States, Faith Ryan Whittlesey.