Details of Carter's campaign plan: regional thrusts
Carter strategists, rejuvenated by the degree of party unity achieved here, have mapped a campaign blueprint for catching up with Ronald Reagan, which they are dubbing "Operation Turnaround."
It sets up a national strategy. But it is a strategy that will concentrate on the South, Mr. Carter's personal power base; on the Northeast, the traditional Democratic Party base; and on what the strategists call the four "critical" states of the Midwest -- Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, and Missouri.
The plan also calls for an all-out Carter effort in Ronald Reagan's backyard -- California, Washington, and Oregon.
"Our polls show we have a chance on the WEst Coast," one Carter political adviser says.
The Carter campaign also will be carried into the Western states that appear definitely to belong to Mr. Reagan.
"We won't concede these states to Reagan," this same planner says. "We can't. We have to contest Reagan there so as to make Reagan spend campaign money in those states -- so he can't save in that region and thus have extra money to spend in areas where the real battle will be waged."
In defending the Carter Southern base, the bluepring calls for special time and attention to be given to four states where the Reagan challenge seems to be particularly strong -- Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida.
The blueprint also rejects the idea of the President sticking close to the White House, as he did in the early stages of the primary campaign.
Instead, Carter is slated to take to the hustings with the kind of extensive travel that would normally be expected of a challenger -- not an incumbent President.
"Jimmy's going after it," this strategist says. "He's going to look like the Jimmy Carter of four years ago, speaking everywhere, chatting with people everywhere, and battling Reagan every inch of the way."
And the bluepring includes a section on campaign issues to be emphasized by the President.
First and foremost is experience. Carter and those assisting him will, in every way possible, seek to make the point that he is experienced in the presidency -- and that Reagan is not.
"We think that very soon now," says this source, "certainly by the time the first debate has been held in mid-September, the voters are going to begin to look hard at Reagan. And they are going to ask this question: 'Do we really know this man? Is he really what we want in the presidency?' And when they start to express these doubts, the race will begin to turn around."
Second, the President will stress his role in foreign affairs -- particularly the fact that during his administration the United States has been at peace.
Further, Carter will seek to gain credit -- and votes -- by persuading the public that he pushed hard for getting the hostages back, that he effectively penalized the Soviets for their aggression in Afghanistan, that he moved SALT II forward, that he strengthened NATO, and that the was responsible for bringing about some important progress toward peace in the Middle East.
Third, the blueprint calls for the President to "go on the offensive" on the economy issue.
Carter is expected to try to make the case that he moved early and vigorously to deal with the difficult problems of inflation and unemployment.
Strategists hope that the voters will begin to see that Carter has acted ably and responsibly in coping with a problem that was beyond the solution of any President -- because of OPEC oil-prices rises and other uncontrollable factors.