Gerald R. Ford photo

Exchange With Reporters on Arrival at Birmingham, Alabama.

May 03, 1976

GOOD AFTERNOON. It's great to be in Birmingham along with John Buchanan and all of the other fine people that are with the Republican Party and with the President Ford Committee. It is nice to be here, and I will be glad to answer any of your questions.

REPORTER. Mr. President, you said that Ronald Reagan is the only Republican that can beat Jimmy Carter in the South. If you are the Republican nominee, will you have a Southern strategy, so to speak?

THE PRESIDENT. I think it's best for the country if a candidate for the Presidency has a program to win all over the country. Of course, the Southern region of our great Nation is a vitally important area, economically and politically and otherwise, but I think a President who is going to be President of all the people must get support from all regions of the country. And when I am the nominee of the Republican Party, after the convention in Kansas City, I will make a national appeal to voters all over the country.

Q. Mr. President, how well do you think you will do in the Alabama primary?

THE PRESIDENT. We are always hopeful. I have got some outstanding people who are working very hard on my behalf. I have got some very strong endorsements from some of the top political people in the State of Alabama. I think I have good programs to get the economy moving again, as it is, with increasing prosperity. I think I have got a program that means no American boys are fighting in combat. We are getting all our military personnel by an all-volunteer military force. So, when you look at our leadership, our endorsements, our programs and policies, I think we will do quite well in the State of Alabama.

Q. Do you think you will get a large crossover vote like you did in Texas?

THE PRESIDENT. I have no way of knowing. Certainly, in Texas, there was a very substantial crossover, and we hope that we can get a good vote from all citizens in-the State of Alabama.

Q. Governor Reagan says that he is the only Republican who can carry the South in a race against Jimmy Carter. What's your response to that?

THE PRESIDENT. I don't think that is an accurate statement. I have been in the South a good many times campaigning for various candidates. I have a good many friends in the South. My policies are aimed at improving the economy all over the United States, including the South. I think I have an excellent chance of winning against any Democratic candidate.

Q. In Indiana, you said that Mr. Reagan might be, in your words, rash in using the power of the Presidency. What do you mean by that?

THE PRESIDENT. Certainly, when he talks about using military strength first in the settling of the Panama Canal, instead of my program which means negotiation first and then the utilization of whatever we have to do if negotiations fail, I think that's a rash statement. I think it's a very unacceptable one at this point.

Q. Mr. President, your loss in Texas coupled with a poll showing you are doing poorly in Alabama and Georgia--do you plan to reorganize your committee to reelect?

THE PRESIDENT. Not at all. We have had a strategy right from the beginning that meant we were going to win in Kansas City, and I think without any question of a doubt, we will go to Kansas City with enough delegates to win.

Q. Mr. President, will any change in our current relationship in the Panama Canal be made through a formal treaty submitted to the Senate, or will you do it through an executive agreement?

THE PRESIDENT. Certainly, we would do it in the constitutional way, which means that any treaty would, of course, be submitted to the Senate for ratification. And also, under the unique circumstances that involve the Panama, it would be expected that we would also submit it to the Congress as a whole.

Q. Mr. President, can you talk about a possible Southern running mate? Would any of those possibly be from Alabama?

THE PRESIDENT. We have a wealth of material here in the Republican Party, and Alabama included. I think it's premature to start identifying individuals. Certainly, people from Alabama would not be ruled out automatically.

REPORTER. Thank you very much.

Note: The exchange began at 2:01 p.m. at the Birmingham Municipal Airport. In his opening remarks, the President referred to Representative John H. Buchanan, Jr.

Gerald R. Ford, Exchange With Reporters on Arrival at Birmingham, Alabama. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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