Still-confident Republicans undaunted by Democrats' duo
Republicans do not appear to be shaking in their boots. As the weary Democrats wend their way home after their unity convention, GOP stalwarts modestly forecast ''a close race'' in November. But they also exude confidence that Ronald Reagan will carry the day - even though Geraldine Ferraro is the wild card that could benefit the Democratic ticket.
In early reactions to the convention, before Democratic presidential nominee Walter Mondale's acceptance speech, GOP leaders and supporters cited what they saw as political pluses for their party:
* The Democrats have not found an effective campaign formula on the all-important issue of the economy. New York Gov. Mario M. Cuomo courageously took on President Reagan in a strong and effective speech, but did so in an unrealistic way. He did not address the mainstream Democrats who have benefited economically under the Reagan presidency and now have a stake in the economic recovery.
* Bringing Bert Lance on board to run the general campaign is a strategic mistake. It associates Mr. Mondale with the discredited Carter presidency. It also neutralizes the ''sleaze factor,'' making it more difficult for Democrats to raise the issue of ethics in the Reagan administration. (Mr. Lance, former budget director, came under a cloud for alleged financial wrongdoing but was cleared of all charges.)
* The San Francisco convention was more a celebration of the old Democratic coalition than of the leadership running for office. There still is not the enthusiasm for Mondale needed to put him over the top. Despite a show of unity, the party remains beset by deep divisions and fragmented constituencies.
''Mondale has not shown a great deal of strength here,'' comments Lyn Nofziger, a political consultant to the Reagan campaign. ''The Manatt-Lance thing and the way he backed down on the Hart platform planks - the overall impression is not one of strong leadership.''
It is not denied that the nomination of Congresswoman Ferraro poses a potential challenge for the GOP. She is an unknown quantity for both parties.
Republican strategists expect to have to address the women's issue more boldly. They believe President Reagan has a creditable record in advancing women but say they have not managed to get out this message persuasively. The President himself may be enlisted in this chore.
''If we can be blamed for anything, it is that we haven't told our story very well,'' says Betty J. Rendel, president of the National Federation of Republican Women. ''We have to talk harder and with more reality about the President's record and bring it to life.''
In the aftermath of the reconciliation of Jesse Jackson with the Mondale leadership, GOP leaders say they also will have to do the best job possible with voter registration in order to neutralize the black vote.
''Jesse Jackson will stimulate black registration in Texas and probably increase voter output and that concerns me,'' says GOP state chairman George W. Strake. ''Ronald Reagan is running good now, but we could lose Texas with a big Democratic voter turnout.''
''We have to be concerned in our big cities,'' says Republican national committeewoman Mary H. Boatwright of Connecticut. ''In places like Hartford that are predominantly black it's a real worry.''
Balancing such a loss for the Republicans, however, are the backlash votes expected to be picked up as a result of a prominent Jackson campaign role. ''Jesse fired up the blacks, but he may have fired up the whites, too,'' comments Mr. Nofziger.
It appears that the Lance affair gives the Republicans an opportunity to attack Mondale's leadership qualities. Reagan reelection officials think the Democratic nominee made a fatal error by, first, appointing Lance party chairman and, second, not sticking by his choice once it was made.
Says one GOP campaign operative: ''Mondale has shown an inability to stand up under pressure - on the Lance affair and on the Hart pressures. How can he negotiate with (Soviet leader Konstantin) Chernenko?
As for the Democratic effort to lay out a line of attack on the economic front, Reaganites say they think the Cuomo rhetoric may have weakened support for Reagan somewhat. ''People haven't been exposed to such criticism before,'' says David Gergen, a former official in the Reagan White House.
But Reaganites question whether so much emphasis on the poor and the disadvantaged will win many votes. ''That's not as effective with the middle class,'' Mr. Gergen says.
''Cuomo started the 1984 election in a way we wanted it started - by asking, 'Are you better off today?' '' says an official at the Reagan-Bush campaign committee. ''By talking about 'four years of stagnation,' they are out of touch with reality. People will be looking around and seeing something else.''
''The Democrats are being partisan to the point of losing their crediblity,'' says Illinois Republican state chairman Don W. Adams. ''They can't ignore that the misery index is down, unemployment is down, and even interest rates are down from the Carter-Mondale period.''
In the Illinois party leader's view, the Democrats in San Francisco showed up a number of inconsistencies: They embraced the homosexuals on one hand and talked about family values on the other. Jesse Jackson spoke passionately about American pride but arrived at the convention after having applauded Fidel Castro in Cuba. Democratic leaders assailed the Reagan economic record and then put in charge of their campaign a man closely associated with Jimmy Carter, whom voters repudiated in 1980.
Says Gergen: ''What has happened so far shouldn't hold much terror for the White House.''