The race for the Republican presidential nomination has reached the crucial point. After viewing results from primaries in Georgia, Alabama, and Florida, most political observers conclude that Ronald Reagan is poised to take the prize unless some rival steps in quickly to snatch it from him.
Meanwhile, new polls show that Rep. John B. Anderson of Illinois seems ready to jolt former California Governor Reagan in next week's Illinois primary.
And Gerald Ford may any day now launch what clearly would be a stop-Reagan effort.
George Bush, overwhelmed by Reagan landslides in Florida, Alabama, and Georgia, remains a factor in the race. But Mr. Bush needs some victories soon or his campaign will slip to the place where he will be forced to follow Sen. Howard H. Baker Jr. and John B. Connally out of the contest.
The big question being mulled by politicians and political pundits at this moment is: If Mr. Ford decides to run, can he win?
Should the former President announce before March 14 (in time to file for entry into the Nebraska primary), he could enter 14 primaries with a potential 617 delegates. A total of 998 is needed to win the nomination at the convention.
Should Mr. Ford miss the Nebraska primary, which seems likely, he could well be entered in 13 primaries that select 592 delegates. But this would mean that he would miss 23 of the 36 GOP primaries.
So Mr. Ford would need help from the other candidates -- from Messrs. Anderson and Bush -- if he is going to take the nomination away from Mr. Reagan.
At this point, both Mr. Anderson and Mr. Bush are saying quite firmly that they are seeking the nomination for themselves and have no intention of throwing their support to the former President.