The Reagan Administration said today that it will "help our friends first" in parceling out presidential support for Republican senators seeking reelection in 1986 but is also intent on keeping GOP control of the Senate.
White House spokesman Larry Speakes made it clear that the Administration will be watching how Republicans vote on such politically tough issues as the MX missile, the budget, overhauling the tax system and aid for rebels trying to overthrow the Nicaraguan government.
But Speakes denied that any "strong-arm tactics" are being used to corral the votes of the 22 GOP senators up for reelection next year. "The President has not authorized anything. But, to be absolutely candid, we want to help our friends first."
The message was spelled out on Capitol Hill last week by Max Friedersdorf, chief White House strategist on congressional lobbying, Speakes said.
Speakes said Reagan has two primary goals: passage of his budget and keeping Republican control of the Senate in 1986.
"He is using, on the upcoming votes--MX, budget, and others--friendly persuasion. This will continue. He will be willing to talk to the American people" on those subjects, Speakes said.
Asked whether Reagan will help GOP senators who do not vote the Administration line, Speakes replied, "As time permits."
He added, "Our friends know who they are."
The New York Times, citing unidentified Administration officials, reported today that the Administration had hoped to cement the support of the 22 Republicans on pending votes by playing political "hardball."
The newspaper quoted one White House official as saying that, "basically, what it means is that if the senator doesn't support us on the MX and he wants a fund-raiser in the next three or four months, he's not going to get a fund-raiser."
The source went on to say, "If the President's going to go out and raise a million dollars for an incumbent that's going to be up for reelection, we can expect a little support from him here."
Reagan agreed to a political "hardball" strategy shaped by ranking White House aides including Friedersdorf and Chief of Staff Donald T. Regan, the newspaper said.