TAMPA, Fla. -- President Reagan, running against Jimmy Carter as well as Mikhail Gorbachev in the GOP drive to hold onto the Senate, charged Friday that potential for progress at the Iceland summit would have been thwarted if 'the liberals in Congress' undercut his arms policies.
Racing to the rescue of Sen. Paula Hawkins, R-Fla., Reagan thrust the summit outcome to center stage of a final campaign blitz to save the Senate and stave off lame-duck status in the last two years of his presidency.
Earlier, campaigning in Oklahoma for Sen. Don Nickles, Reagan said he resisted 'immense pressure' in Reykjavik to abandon his 'Star Wars' space shield 'simply to have a trophy to wave.'
'Americans realize that no deal is better than a bad deal,' he told thousands of cheering supporters at the University of Oklahoma. 'We are working for the day when we can just say 'yes' to a good agreement. I am confident that with all the progress we've made, that day -- the yes day -- will come sooner than anyone expects.'
Hawkins, one of the Class of '80 Republicans swept to Washington on Reagan's coattails, trails by as many as 11 points in a hard-fought - and expensive -- re-election contest against popular two-term Gov. Bob Graham.
The president also pulled out the stops for Tampa Mayor Bon Martinez, who has the best shot of any Republican in 20 years to become Florida's next governor.
Reagan, in a pointed, personal attack, warned the election of Graham would mean a return to the 'tax and spend' policies at home and 'military weakness' abroad that voters repudiated with his election in 1980.
He quoted Graham as having told the 1980 Democratic National Convention that the nation entered 'the twilight of the petroleum era' and needed the likes of Sen. Edward Kennedy, former California Gov. Edmund Brown Jr. and 'all the wise warriors of their party' to endure 'a period of austerity.'
'You know,' Reagan said, 'hearing that lighter-than-air liberalism, I can't help but think that if you liked Jimmy Carter, you'll love Bob Graham as senator.'
Bolstered by polls showing widespread support for the position he took in Reykjavik, Reagan used the summit to inject a national theme into Senate races that have hinged in large part on personalities and regional concerns.
In Oklahoma, where holds a comfortable lead, Reagan charged the Democratic challenger, Rep. Jim Jones, 'like the liberal leadership of his party,' had 'voted to freeze the United States into a position of inferiority' by supporting cuts in defense spending.
At a rally at the University of South Flordia, Reagan -- forced two weeks ago to compromise on funding for his Strategic Defense Initiative - lambasted Graham for supporting 'something less than full funding of SDI' and declared, 'Florida doesn't need a senator who wants to reserve judgment on our security insurance policy.'
'Just a few days before I left for the meeting,' Reagan said of his talks in Iceland, 'the liberals in Congress were working to cut funding for SDI as far as possible. As I was about to go to the bargaining table with the Soviets, they were trying to take away one of the things that got the Soviets to that table in the first place.
The president departed from his text in Oklahoma after a turmoil in the crowd over someone holding a banner that said 'SDI (equal sign) first strike.' Reagan said there was a 'legitimate misunderstanding' of SDI's role in strategic policy.
While Reagan has trumpeted economic recovery on the campaign trail, he also has been forced to acknowledge that some areas of the country - especially farm and oil-producing states -- continue to be in the grips of hard times.
In Oklahoma, which suffers from the depressed farm economy and oil industry plunge, Reagan blamed 'the liberal gang' in Washington before he took office for today's problems.
In cocaine-plagued Florida, Hawkins has campaigned hard on the drug issue, which hits close to home in a state with a vast underground economy.
The White House considered having Reagan sign a $1.7 billion anti-drug bill during his stop for Hawkins. The idea was rejected as too blatantly political -- especially on an issue that Reagan himself insisted transends partisan lines.