President Reagan Wednesday boasted that the Democrats are “squealing” and “squirming” about negative campaigning because their records on taxes, national defense and other issues have been exposed.
“Republicans are talking about the issues, and the American people are listening,” Reagan said at a fund-raising luncheon for Alan Keyes, a Maryland GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate.
Keyes, 38, darling of GOP hard-rightists and one of two black Republican senatorial candidates, faces an uphill battle against incumbent Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, a Democrat.
Vice President George Bush, on the other hand, has surged in popularity over his Democratic presidential rival, Michael S. Dukakis, in opinion polls in Maryland, as well as elsewhere in the nation.
Dukakis has accused Bush of unfair campaigning and, belatedly, has attempted to convince voters that Bush has lied about his record. As the campaign enters its final stages, “truth squads” from both camps stalk the campaign trail, attempting to set their men’s records straight.
One-Man Truth Squad
Reagan, acting as a one-man squad, joined the battle Wednesday.
“You know George took quite a shellacking when the liberals had their party in Atlanta this summer,” Reagan told the luncheon crowd. “And all he did was cite the record--his and theirs. And now they’re squealing, ‘He’s running a negative campaign.’ Well, I think they’re squirming because George has shown America how far outside the mainstream they really are.”
Reagan attempted to attach the liberal label to Dukakis and Sarbanes. He said the two longtime friends, who are both Greek-Americans, “are so alike they could be twins. What they have most in common these days is a healthy fear and understandable terror of America’s least-favorite word. You know the word. It’s the L-word.”
Reagan cited his usual list of issues involving crime, drugs and patriotism, asserting that they separate “the liberals” from “the mainstream,” which he considers to be the GOP.
Declares Keyes’ Strengths
Keyes would be tough on crime, stout on defense and protective of family, community and church, Reagan said, declaring: “He truly knows that freedom works.”
Despite the President’s effusive remarks and his effort to boost Keyes’ campaign, even the GOP faithful are betting Keyes will lose.
But several senior White House officials cited Keyes’ loyalty to the Administration--he served as an assistant secretary of state and U.S. representative to the U.N. Economic and Social Council--as a reason Reagan made the trip here on his behalf.
His color is another reason, officials said. Reagan has been excoriated by black people as insensitive on social issues during his entire tenure and he sees Keyes as a way of demonstrating his support of black political power.
Supports ‘Black Leaders’
“Even though Keyes is a long shot, (Reagan) thinks it’s important to show the party is willing to help young black leaders,” said White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater.
Today, Reagan returns to the road in his effort to promote local candidates, campaigning in Arkansas, Missouri and California, where he will divide his time between his Santa Barbara ranch and Los Angeles.