Naturally, there has been plenty of talk this week about who won the debate. As I mentioned in my own recap, I thought that though Obama won more “points,” Romney did a better job advancing his argument for election.
I've been wary of comparisons of this year's presidential race with that of 1980. I'd love it if the comparison holds, but have been worried 1) that the conditions aren't the same as in 1980 in all kinds of ways, and 2) that over-confidence the race will inevitably break to Romney at the end, as the 1980 race did to Reagan, could lead to complacency on the right rather than a sense of urgency, including a sense of urgency in pushing the Romney campaign to improve.
When Republican strategists like Karl Rove cite 1980 as a model for this year’s election, they usually have in mind two main elements: Ronald Reagan’s question in the late October presidential debate about whether voters felt better off than four years earlier, when they elected Jimmy Carter, and Reagan’s ability in that debate to reassure swing voters about his ability to serve successfully if elected, converting a very close race into a ten-point blowout by “closing the deal.”
Today brings us a Bloomberg column from Michael Tackett, "Hero Reagan’s Compromise Would Collide With Tea Party Certitude." It's rather unfortunate this particular talking point keeps making the rounds, as it requires arguing alternate history. Further, asserting that Ronald Reagan is significantly divorced from our current understanding of conservatism is silly on its face.
The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that Mitt Romney is recounting a Jim Baker anecdote in which President Reagan ordered Baker, as White House chief of staff, to hold no national security meetings over a hundred day period early in his first term so that President Reagan and his team could focus on the economy. If the Journal's reporting is accurate—and I don't believe the Romney camp has challenged it—Romney should stop telling this false and foolish tale.
On the day that the Supreme Court released its Obamacare ruling, my daughter and I had the opportunity to visit the Reagan Ranch. Located in the mountains in the Central Coast region of California, the ranch is where President Reagan spent nearly one out of every eight days of his presidency. As you might imagine, it’s a wonderful place.
When I interviewed President Reagan in the Oval Office in 1987, I took with me a photograph of him with two dozen women at the Presidio of Monterey in California 50 years earlier. My mother, the presidio commander’s daughter, was one of the women. I wanted Reagan to autograph the photograph, and he graciously obliged, but not before telling me in extraordinary detail how he happened to be at the presidio, a cavalry post, and everything about the movie he was making there.
Yesterday, I noted that we have generally had our strongest periods of economic growth coming out of our deepest recessions, and I compared FDR and Obama in this vein. Another good comparison is a more recent one — between Obama and President Reagan.