Campaign image for Carter; man of peace
President Carter's central campaign strategy will be to seek to dramatize and emphasize his experience in foreign affairs as opposed to Ronald Reagan's inexperience.
Sources close to the President also disclosd that:
* Mr. Carter will be "coming up with a series of initiatives in the economic area" as his "No. 2 weapon" in the campaign.
These initiatives include not only a big tax-relief package that has already been widely speculated about, but also a new job program "which will have as its essence a targeting of funds to distressed areas -- like the auto manufacturing centers."
One high-level Carter political adviser says: "It is very difficult for the President to provide anti-inflation restraint and, at the same time, find money for jobs and allow for a sizable tax cut. He has to fine-tune it. But he's going to do it -- no doubt about it now."
* In foreign affairs the President believes he has a distinct advantage over the prospective Republican presidential nominee -- particularly now that Mr. reagan apparently has decided not even to make a gesture in this direction with a preconvention trip abroad.
It is true, a Monitor source says, that "the President can't say that he's been able to pull off many great [foreign policy] successes. But he'll be able to make a strong case for having pushed hard for getting the hostages back, for penalizing the NATO alliance, and for making some important progress in the Mideast." The source continued:
"What can Reagan say to all that? He has no foreign policy record of his own to cite. All he can do is criticize and say he'll do better."
* In this same foreign policy vein Mr. Carter is said to believe that he will be perceived as having presided over four years of peace -- and that Mr. Reagan will find it impossible to knock down that achievement.
Furthermore, it is the belief of the President and his strategists that if Mr. Carter is, indeed, viewed widely as a president of peace, this issue of itself will bring him the victory next fall.
* Finally, the President's strategists say he is "in good shape" despite new figures that show Mr. Reagan's present lead in public opinion polls lengthening to as much as 10 percent.
"Reagan should be worried about being in this position," one Carter aide says. "He has to know that, after the conventions, it is inevitable that the race will tighten -- and he will have to go down [in the poll ratings]. That will look as if he is starting to fade -- and he will have a hard time stopping the slide.
"Reagan's in the same tough position that Kennedy was at the beginning of the primaries: too far out in front to be able to maintain that position, and with the predictable tightening of the contest bound to make the front-runner look like he's losing."
The Carter people also think that John anderson will soon begin to decline in public favor. "When Anderson starts to lose support," the presidential aide says, "he, too, will drop fast and far.Voters will soon begin to say, 'Anderson just doesn't have it. A vote there will be a wasted one.'"
Asked if he didn't think this was evidence of wishful thinking in the Carter camp, this presidential adviser said:
"Sure. But we do think it will happen. And our strategy is based on a campaign where we will come from behind and peak late -- at election time."