Political analysts and politicians of both parties are saying Howard Baker sacrificed his personal ambitions by becoming Ronald Reagan's chief of staff. Nonsense.
Baker, of course, wants to be President. But he made no sacrifice. Nor did he abandon his ambition. No Republican could be elected in 1988 if the present Ronald Reagan image remains. No intelligent person, and Baker is intelligent, would invest time and energy in the coming primaries.
Baker could not have made a better move. As of March 2, Howard Baker became the acting President of this country. He will not play the role of an understudy waiting to go on. He will become the star. There will be new writers. They will not write for a character who is there to save a President, but to save the country.
There is no public enthusiasm for any of the presidential hopefuls of either party. Baker has no enemies except from the right-wingers--and they have never had any credibility.
Baker will be highly visible in the months ahead. He doesn't have to go out on the campaign trail--shake hands, kiss babies, seek media exposure. When the Republicans gather for their convention, Baker will have all of the advantages of any popular incumbent. His name has only to be put into nomination as the band plays "The Tennessee Waltz"--I can hear it now--and the wild applause. He will be nominated after the second ballot.