Bush: man of stature who should comfortably fill nation's No. 2 niche
Ronald Reagan has reassured the American voters by his selection of George Bush that a youngish man of stature is standing in the wings. By so doing, veteran observers are saying here, Mr. Reagan put together a ticket that may well be stronger than the one he pursued and lost in his courtship of Gerald Ford.
Mr. Ford was extremely attractive -- "good old Jerry Ford" to millions of people, many of whom, however, had not been that enchanted with Ford as president.
But what is known as the Reagan "age problem" would not have been solved by having Ford as a running mate.
Mr. Bush -- bouncy, personable, and sincere -- will suit Ford supporters to a "T." After all, most of Ford's longtime fans moved to Bush during the primaries. Furthermore, Mr. Bush was Mr. Ford's own No. 1 choice for the No. 2 job.
Had Ford been on the ticket, he would have brought with him both the strength of experience and the potential weakness of a presidential record which would be subject to criticism as well as praise. In fact, Ford's record could have become a burden to Reagan. It was a chance the Californian evidently had weighed and was willing to take.
But Bush brings freshness to the ticket. Furthermore, it will be easy for him to play the subordinate role that a vice- president must accept -- and one which Ford couldn't, and, in the end, wouldn't accept.
Other important aspects of the new Reagan-Bush alignment, as perceived by veteran observers here:
* Mr. Reagan's pragmatism, as opposed to following a strict conservative approach, is reflected in the choice.
While Bush really is quite conservative, his image is that of a Republican "moderate."
Thus, in selecting Bush, Reagan was willing to risk the ire of the hard-core right wing in order to broaden his base of support.
* Reagan's conciliatory nature was also represented in the choice. He and Mrs. Reagan had never been on friendly terms with the Bushes -- and the protracted, hard-fought challenge by Bush in the primaries had done little to warm up the relationship.
Thus, it seems clear that Reagan was putting personal feelings aside as he moved to select the person he believed could help him most (next to Ford) in his quest for the presidency.
* It is known that Reagan was also very interested in having a teammate who could help him in relations with Congress -- and who would also be so Washington-oriented that he could help in making the Reagans feel at home immediately in a Washington scene where they are almost total strangers.
Ford seemed ideal for that role -- as Reagan thought. But Bush also can be most helpful there, as a politician who has served in Congress and held several other leadership positions.
* Another prime consideration in Reagan's weighing of running mates was to pick someone who would be helpful in winning the big industrial centers of the North and East.
Bush showed during the primaries that he had a very strong appeal to blue-collar workers -- even more so than Reagan.
* Additionally, of course, Bush was the favorite for the No. 2 spot of Republican state leaders from coast to coast -- politicians who had gotten to know and like and respect Bush when he was GOP national chairman.
These leaders had passed along this expression of preference to Reagan, and it is understood that he found it quite persuasive.