President Reagan sent the conservative pulse rate up Sunday and brought the Republican checkbooks out for senatorial candidate Ed Zschau.
The President, Gov. George Deukmejian and GOP political friends from two decades of California politics rallied around newcomer Zschau for a $1.5-million fund-raising dinner at the Century Plaza.
Reagan was both sentimental and combative.
"Together, we've mobilized the people time and again," Reagan said. "It is fitting that as I head into the last major campaign of my political career (the 1986 congressional elections), the last campaign in which I will have a personal stake, that I am here with you." He called the U.S. Senate contest in California "a make-or-break election" in which voters will choose which party controls the U.S. Senate.
"Their decision will determine if everything we've worked for, everything we've struggled and sweated for, is to be given a chance or to be undermined by people who oppose everything we believe in. It all comes down to the Golden State."
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday September 9, 1986 Home Edition Part 1 Page 2 Column 1 Metro Desk 1 inches; 15 words Type of Material: Correction
A story in The Times on Monday incorrectly stated the age of Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.). The senator is 72.
Reagan sent an unmistakable signal to conservatives, many of whom have been cool to Zschau, a Los Altos congressman with a moderate bent. Conservatives have accused Zschau of voting against the President too often and object to his support for abortion and affirmative action.
"Yes, we've got our differences," Reagan said. But then again the President recalled that some conservatives four years ago expressed reservations about GOP Senate candidate Pete Wilson.
"But now, needless to say, we know Pete Wilson has been doing one magnificent job in the United States Senate and is one of my strongest supporters. All this suggests that any differences between us are trivial compared to our differences with the opposition and compared to what is at stake."
In recent weeks, Republicans have worried that Zschau was not forceful enough in attacking his Democratic opponent, Sen. Alan Cranston. That accusation is not likely to be leveled against Reagan.
Attack on Spenders
The President began his attack on Cranston this way: "The days of the big taxer and the big spender are over. The days of something for nothing and left-wing redistribution schemes are over. The days of blame America first are over. And the days when one of America's most strident liberal leftists can represent California are over."
Reagan said Zschau is up against a man "who is a world-class champion at expanding government and centralizing power in Washington--a man with a 100% rating with the left-wing A.D.A. (Americans for Democratic Action)."
Reagan said Cranston "has spent much of his career trying to weaken American's military strength and encourage retreat from our foreign policy responsibility. Ed's opponent is a man who voted against an amendment declaring it American policy to oppose Cuban expansion in this hemisphere; who said the presence of Soviet troops in Cuba is not a threat; and who has blamed the arms race on the U.S."
Speaking to a head table that was two-deep in celebrities--famous names ranging from Cary Grant to Arnold Schwarzenegger; from Fred MacMurray to Rosey Grier--Reagan blamed the three-term veteran Cranston for high interest rates and inflation of the late 1970s. "You might say our economy had been Cranstonized."
At age 75, Reagan was even bold enough to raise Cranston's age (also 75) as an issue.
"Just so no one here gets the wrong idea," he said, "with a birthday cake that looks like a bonfire every year, its not that California's senior senator is too old--its his ideas that are too old."
And Zschau was a bit aggressive himself, declaring: "Throughout his 18 years in the senate, Cranston has been anti-business, anti-agriculture, anti-jobs. . . . Mr. President, you deserve better."
Plenty of Attention
Besides the cash, which may amount to 15% or more of Zschau's general election fund-raising, and the bridge-building to conservatives, Sunday's dinner also showered media attention on Zschau. His private polls have shown him that one of his biggest obstacles is that Californians know little of him.
As much as Zschau has emphasized support for Reagan in recent days, this has not always been the case. At an August press conference, in fact, Zschau seemed to be more interested in emphasizing his differences with Reagan.
"When you ask people what are their opinions on a variety of issues, the facts are that a lot of people don't agree in detail with the President," Zschau said. "I support the President's leadership and his general philosophy but on a list of issues I feel there may be better ways."
Sunday's GOP dinner was not the only $1.5-million political fund-raiser in Southern California this weekend. The Democrats raised that much for Cranston and five other Democratic Senate candidates Saturday night at the Malibu ranch of entertainer Barbra Streisand.
Unlike the GOP dinner, however, the Democrats stuck with an entertainment theme, not an evening of politics.