Veteran analyst rates Reagan on four 'batting averages'
Richard M. Scammon, one of the best hitters in the political analyst field, was talking baseball the other morning.
He said he had seen that great reporter for the Chicago Daily News, the late Peter Lisagor, play on the University of Michigan nine back in the '30s. ''Pete was quite a shortstop,'' Mr. Scammon noted.
Whereupon a reporter asked: ''How would you say Reagan is batting today?''
''Well,'' said Scammon, the person many political experts in the media turn to for their expertise, ''I'd like to analyze that a bit.'' He continued:
''Actually, Reagan is playing in four leagues simultaneously. First, there's the communication league, where he is doing very well. He sounds good, looks good physically. No one is even hinting that at age 70 he may be less than fully fit.'' Scammon paused, finished his orange juice, and then went on with his thesis:
''Then there's the Congress league. And I give Reagan pretty high marks there. He didn't have a political majority in the House. But he won some tough financial disputations there both last year and this year.''
''Then there's the political league,'' he said. ''In California, a minor league, Reagan had hit very well. And he's hit very well here. He's turned out to be quite pragmatic, certainly not a Jesse Helms ideologue.''
''Finally, there is the running-for-president-in-1984 league. Right now Reagan looks good. But how he does then depends entirely on the terrain - the state of the economy, whether he even decides to run again.''
''But,'' an insistent questioner broke in, ''what would you say the President's overall batting average is at this point?''
''Well,'' responded the breakfast guest, nibbling while quietly calculating: ''I'd put him at .305. Also, although it is hard to say a man in his 70s has a big potential, I'd have to say this about this President.''
''But,'' a reporter put in, ''I understand that Reagan has a lower standing in the polls than previous presidents rated by Gallup at this stage in their administration.''
''That may be so,'' conceded Scammon. ''But you have to take the conditions into consideration. For example, Carter may have had a little better batting average, but the conditions - the economy, etc. - were better than now at that time.''
''Put Reagan against any Democrat,'' Scammon added, ''and you'll find that he is running about 50-50 against them, against Kennedy, Mondale, and Glenn. So Reagan is doing pretty well.''
''What will happen in the House races this fall?'' someone asked.
Another bite or two. ''Well,'' the guest, responded, ''the Republicans will lose between 15 and 50 seats this fall.'' Immediately there were calls for a more precise forecast.
''I can't,'' Scammon said. ''There are 40 or 50 very close seats that could go either way. If there is a voter switch of, say, 5 percent toward the Democrats - as opposed to their 1980 voting pattern - the Democrats could pick up as many as 50 seats.''
Wouldn't this be a tremendous defeat for the Republicans and Reagan?
Not necessarily. Reagan could lose 50 and be reelected in 1984. Truman lost all those seats in 1946 and still came back and won in 1948.''
Any possibility of a Republican takeover of the House in the fall election?
If that happened it would be the biggest upset since Truman won in 1948.
How should the Democrats run against Reagan this fall?
I would not attack Reagan. I would say that he has good intentions. But that he has been badly advised on the economy. It's like with (former President Dwight D.) Eisenhower. You attacked Ezra Taft Benson (secretary of agriculture) - not Ike.
Do you agree with Gerald Ford that if the economy is ''sick,'' the Democrats will nominate Kennedy and Kennedy will probably win in 1984?
No. Kennedy, because of his visible liberalism, is less advantaged in terms of getting the nomination under any circumstances than someone like Mondale or Glenn. It is Kennedy's liberalism more than Chappaquiddick that makes it difficult for him to be nominated let alone elected.