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WDRD: What Did Reagan Do? The Campaigns of 1980 and 2012

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WDRD? What did Reagan do?
Because the circumstances of this campaign so closely resemble those of 1980, keeping this timeline handy is a convenience.
Thirty-two years ago this weekend The Washington Post’s Lou Cannon was writing about efforts of then candidate Reagan to work with the Hill GOP on messaging, and columnist Haynes Johnson was mulling the electoral college map. It doesn’t matter what they wrote as no one saw coming the eventual Reagan blowout, so the punditry of the era doesn’t matter so much as the fact that no one saw it coming.
But note that on June 25, Reagan urged a $22 billion dollar tax cut. That was the big news then. The numbers have clearly changed. And Soviet missiles, not Iranian ones, were driving the conversations.
Mitt Romney can keep the Reagan timeline handy just to remind himself and his team that he is far ahead of where the Gipper was then, and that the patient, disciplined approach is working. It is working largely because it contrasts so sharply with the increasingly chaotic responses of President Obama to the headlines and the polls. The president and the Chicago wizards seem to have figured out that the economy is at best stalled out and may in fact be tipping over into recession. This creates desperation and from desperation comes a series of maneuvers, not a strategy.
Tax cuts and a strong defense, coupled with a serious response to whatever is the Supreme Court’s decision next week –a commitment to repeal of Obamacare if upheld, a commitment to reform of key aspects of health care law including tort reform and interstate markets in insurance products if it is struck down– were the ticket to a landslide in 1980 and they will work again because they are consistent with the country’s understanding of itself. Events like the president’s precipitous action towards immigration policy by fiat as opposed to law and Syria’s ongoing convulsions will push the MSM to demand a daily response from Romney, but Romney has quite rightly resisted their demands for copy and stuck to his schedule and his strategy.
Perhaps Reagan historian Steven Hayward, now part of the Powerline gang, can be tempted into occasionally giving us a glimpse of what the internal Reagan team deliberations were throughout the summer and fall of 1980. If he hasn’t already done so, that would be a great study for Romney to request from his staff. That which got rewarded should get repeated.
My new book makes the argument that the presidency of Barack Obama has been more disastrous than that of Jimmy Carter’s, and most of my media interlocutors this week expressed some surprise at that judgment, but I am very comfortable standing by it because the threat posed by the Soviet Union in that era was constrained by that regime’s desire to endure whereas the mullahs of Iran might have among them the sort of fanatics that discount the virtue of planning for the next generation’s needs, and certainly Obama’s fiscal mismanagement has been far worse than Carter’s.
So conditions are ripe for a replay. In that light and as many of the potential GOP picks for Veep gather with Romney, ask yourself who most resembles George H.W. Bush in 1980? Tim Pawlenty has run for president, but Rob Portman has handled agencies and international issues. There’s the short list.
And here’s the book:


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