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Competence of candidates will be key campaign issue

The Republican National Convention, as it reflects Ronald Reagan's views and emerging campaign theme, points to a fall presidential election with clear-cut choices for American voters.

The adopted Republican platform differs sharply from the draft platform of the Democratic Party on the issues that some political analysts expect to dominate the November election.

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And with three expected major candidates -- Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, and John Anderson -- "this looks like one of the most interesting elections we have had in a long time," says political analyst Richard M. Scammon, director of the Election Research Center in Washington.

Mr. Scammon expects the candidates to make their opponents as much of a campaign issue as policy matters. "Carter will be painted as inept, Reagan as simplistic and too right wing, and Anderson as single-issue oriented," he said.

Beyond this, Mr. Scammon expects the economy to be the major issue in the presidential race.

Thomas E. Patterson, a political science professor at Syracuse University, agrees that the economy would be the major issue if Americans view the presidential race from the depths of a national recession.

Ronald Reagan already has urged a broad, $36 billion tax cut in 1981 to benefit mostly individual wage earners. Mr. Patterson argues that this has given the Republicans the initiative on developing a positive approach to the economy.

"President Carter has a big problem: How do you run on what is perceived as a disastrous economy? He will have to convince voters the important thing is the trend and that it is improving," says Mr. Patterson.

Most discussion about the Republican platform has centered on its failure to support the Equal Rights Amendment and its support of a constitutional amendment banning abortion. Yet political analysts expect these planks to play virtually no role in Mr. Reagan's campaign.

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However, his opponents may try to remind voters of these stands, because both strongly disagree with them.

"You can count on us to make sure the platform is scrutinized by the voters. It is a platform that Reagan believes in, and we won't let voters forget it," vows Michael MacLeod, campaign manager for John Anderson.

Mr. MacLeod says the economy will be the mosts important issue in the Anderson campaign. He adds that Mr. Anderson has not outlined a detailed economic policy yet. But he predicts, "We wouldn't embrace tax cuts of the magnitude called for by Ronald Reagan."

The draft platform of the Democratic Party and the approved platform of the Republicans contrast sharply on these basic issues:

* Energy. The Republicans endorse nuclear power, calling it, along with coal and natural gas, "the best intermediate solutions to America's energy needs." The thrust of the Republican platform on energy is toward less government regulation and control of energy prices. It states that "American values of individual enterprise can solve our energy problems." It urges more rapid decontrol of oil and natural gas prices and repeal of much of the "windfall profits" tax that President Carter strongly supported.

The Democrats have drafted an energy platform that calls for new safety measures before any new nuclear power plant is licensed, and the retirement of existing plants as alternate energy fuels become available.

* Economy. The Democrats pose no specific tax cut plan like the Republicans.

* Foreign policy and national security. The GOP platform rejects SALT II as "fundamentally flawed," calling for a number of new military programs. The Democratic draft platform says SALT II is in the US interest and must be ratified "as soon as it is feasible."

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