Bruce Wagner to Rogers Morton, 4/7/76, Attacking the Candidacy of
April 7, 1976
This is to recommend
execution of a five-minute television commercial by President Ford
designed to attack the basic premise of Ronald Reagan's candidacy.
This advertising will be used in Texas and appropriate for use in
the following primaries.
has several objectives:
the leadership perception of President Ford as the leader of all
the American people.
the shallowness of Ronald Reagan's negative appeal.
continued momentum for the President's campaign effort just prior
to Election Day by providing a dramatic focal point for media
and voter consideration.
In recent weeks,
Ronald Reagan has demonstrated his ability to revitalize his campaign
with a series of highly personalized half-hour television addresses.
These messages have:
1. cast the
Reagan candidacy in a more "Presidential" communications
an effective dialogue with the voter,
improved Reagan's image as a knowledgeable critic of the Ford
his contrasting stance on certain campaign issues, particularly
April 7, 1976
effective change in campaign tactic, it appears that Reagan has
begun to seize the campaign momentum that had previously belonged
to President Ford.
it is our judgement that Ronald Reagan's apparent success using
lengthy commercial messages does not hinge exclusively on the specifics
of a defense argument. Rather, these messages capitalize on an existing
perception of indecisive leadership with President Ford, and the
lack of clear voter comprehension of current defense/foreign policy.
As such, a dramatic
response and argument on the limited focus of national defense is
insufficient ... a continuing argument may even provide credibility
to the charge while quietly recalling the existing impressions of
indecisive leadership. Rather, we must assert a strong leadership
stance by the President.
must be that the American public is being misled by ambitious, irresponsible
campaign rhetoric. The President must deliver a personal message
to the American public...and communicate his saddened, somewhat
righteous indignation with his challenger. Importantly, Ronald Reagan
must not be mentioned or singled-out of the group of Presidential
aspirants, but it must be implied that:
- He is an
irresponsible and ambitious man. He has sacrificed his principles
- He must be
depicted as naive.
- He would
commit our young men to another "Vietnam war" in Africa
- His "eyeball-to-eyeball"
diplomacy really means nuclear confrontation with the Soviet Union.
In a nutshell,
we must go for the jugular and eliminate, the credibility of the
It is recommended
that the President carry out this responsibility with a five-minute
Presidential message to the American people from the Oval Office.
The commercial will be aired one week before the May 1st Texas Primary.
This timing will allow dramatic impact during the crucial days just
prior to Election Day with sufficient time for non-paid media coverage
and voter assimilation.
April 7, 1976
1. The Texas
Primary offers us the opportunity to cut the Reagan candidacy down
once and for all. Ronald Reagan has the capacity to do a great deal
of damage to the President's autumn election effort...and recent
events indicate he will not be swayed by discussions of Republican
Party unity. Clearly, Reagan believes his hard-hitting campaign
against the President will enable him to gain the Republican nomination.
He must be stopped
in Texas. A loss in Texas will most likely end his challenge ...
a win in Texas will most likely allow him to go into Kansas City
via California with momentum.
2. The concept
of jeopardizing Republican Party unity is not as valid as it once
was. Rather, the message should be that irresponsible criticism,
particularly without specific counter- proposals, can jeopardize
the national interest.
Ford should not attempt an itemized response to each criticism or
allegation of candidate Reagan. It would demean the prestige of
the Office and the President. In addition, it could begin an endless,
no-win debate since some criticisms, particularly those relating
to defense, do not have simple, obvious answers. The results could
be increased publicity for Reagan contrasted against a spectre of
over-reaction by the President.
President Ford has a responsibility to correct false allegations
that jeopardize the national interest and mislead both the American
people and foreign governments. He has the obligation to draw the
line between responsible criticism and irresponsible political opportunism,
whether it relates to domestic policy or America's role as a world
4. We must respond
promptly to the Reagan attack on a national basis prior to the Texas
Primary simply because an unusually strong response by President
Ford will be too late in the California Primary -- the impression
of a hard-hitting Ford campaign in California would be one of a
last-ditch, desperate effort by the President. Clearly, Texas is
the place for aggression and initiative.
this subject as soon as possible.
cc: Stu Spencer