DALLAS — President Reagan, branding 1986 as a last chance for liberals "to steer American politics way over to the left," appealed today to Texas-sized pride and patriotism in a bid to bolster GOP fortunes in the South.
Kicking off a three-state Southern swing intended to plant the seeds of a Republican resurgence, Reagan charged profligate fiscal policies by Texas Democrats caused the economic tailspin that has plunged portions of the oil-dependent state from boom to bust.
The attack was directed at Democratic Gov. Mark White on behalf of William Clements, the man White upset four years ago. In their bitter rematch, Clements has tried to capitalize on the state's economic woes--punctuated by a $3-billion deficit--to regain the Statehouse for the GOP.
The drop in oil prices, a result of OPEC overproduction, has ravaged oil-producing states like Texas but has been a boon to other sectors of the economy--most noticeably at the pump, where consumers have enjoyed gas prices as low as 60 cents a gallon.
Praised Gas Price Drop
Reagan has praised the drop in gasoline prices as an economic stimulus but took a different tack in Texas, as he promised that his Administration "is wholeheartedly committed to a strong oil industry."
"Let me pledge that with the help of the people of your great state, this Administration is determined that America will never again be captive to a foreign oil cartel," Reagan said.
"Believe me," he said, "the liberals in Washington know what's at stake in this election. They know that this may well be their last chance to steer American politics way over to the left. They know that if we Republicans do well this November, it's going to permanently alter the political landscape."
Reagan pointed to recent congressional approval of his aid request for Nicaraguan rebels as a sign that liberal influence is on the wane.
Quip About Nicaragua
Referring to his oft-repeated warning that Nicaragua is a two-day drive from Texas, he quipped: "Even with all the tanks and gunships from the Soviet Union, my guess is that the Sandinistas would make it about as far as the shopping center in Pecos before Roger Staubach came out of retirement, teamed up with some off-duty Texas Rangers and the front four of the Dallas Cowboys and pushed the Sandinistas down the river, out across the Gulf and right back to Havana where they belong."
Reagan was expected to raise well in excess of $1 million for GOP candidates on a trip that was to take him from Dallas to Miami and then to sun-baked South Carolina, where Republicans hope to take credit for an airlift of hay to aid drought-stricken farmers.
A key objective of his trip is to give a boost to endangered Sen. Paula Hawkins in Florida, whose fate could be central to chances of retaining Republican control of the Senate.