For several decades, it has been an article of faith among politicians and political analysts that no candidate can win a U.S. presidential election unless he can dominate the broad center of the spectrum, that all candidates on the edges of the left or right are doomed. Barry Goldwater's "extremism . . . is no vice" campaign of 1964 provides the classic evidence, reinforced by George McGovern's 1972 defeat in 49 out of 50 states. And since G.O.P. Front Runner Ronald Reagan relies upon a base of support that is on the far right wing of the Republican Party, some experts have long declared that if he wins the nomination, the G.O.P. would simply be repeating the suicidal Goldwater campaign. Ex-President Gerald Ford left no doubt about his views when he warned last month: "A very conservative Republican cannot win in a national election."
But last week, after Ford gave up his own ambitions and Reagan's nomination took on a look of inevitability, a reassessment was under way across the country. The consensus was that although many hazards lie ahead, Ronald Reagan indeed has a chance to be elected as the 40th President of the U.S.
National opinion polls continue to show Carter leading Reagan by an apparently comfortable margin of about 25%. They also show that more moderate Republicans like Ford would run better against the President. This suggests that Reagan is not the strongest G.O.P. choice for the November election and that he clearly faces an uphill battle.
See that, folks? This is just 8 months before election day, not over a year. And Reagan was down 25 points to Carter. There had been no debates yet. There had been no flurry of campaign ads. Continuing with the Time Article:
As recently as last month, before Reagan's New Hampshire victory, White House advisers looked forward with relish to the possibility of Reagan as their target. No longer. Says one Georgian: "People like what Reagan's saying about the economy, about foreign policy. He's offering simple solutions and that's what people want." Adds another White House aide: "To dismiss Ronald Reagan as a right-wing nut would be a very serious error—for us or anybody else."
California Pollster Mervin Field, who just last fall felt that Reagan's nomination would lead to a Republican disaster, has changed his mind. Says Field: "I just don't see how you could dispassionately and factually argue that it will be a Carter victory. It's going to be a very close race."
Unlike the situation in 1964, when Democratic Incumbent Lyndon Johnson was still very popular, Reagan confronts a Democratic President who, after a temporary surge in the national polls because of the crises in Iran and Afghanistan, is now plagued by declining job ratings. The odds are that by fall, Carter will be trying to defend his management of an economy with double-digit inflation and rising unemployment, gasoline prices of upwards of $2 per gal. and a reduced budget that offends many of the traditional Democratic-constituencies.
Sound familiar? Doesn't that sound like where we are now? Therefore, don't lose heart. Don't believe the Karl Rove/Bill Kristol/Dick Morris nonsense. A real conservative can win. People want simple answers because there really are some simple, but perhaps difficult to stomach for some, solutions. Don't believe that we have to pick a squish like Huntsman or a chameleon like Romney to win. We have seen that before and failed. Don't lose heart.
Conservative candidates, you need to be able to articulate the message that this is just not an economic crisis, but a crisis of the American spirit. That the American spirit itself, the spirit of entrepeneurship, innovation, and pride is being hampered by an out of control government. You need to be able to articulate that America is and can maintain being the best nation in the world. Articulate the problem, but present positive solutions. For, we know, despite the efforts of Time and others, that it IS POSSIBLE. Reagan did win. And people will go for truth over a shell game every time. Check out this last excerpt from the TIME piece:
Yankelovich believes that the American electorate has already shown a predisposition to replace Carter. This was manifested in the early eagerness for a Kennedy candidacy, which proved so disappointing when it became a reality. The brief bubbling of support for a Ford candidacy was part of the same feeling. If popular unhappiness with domestic and world problems finally comes to rest at Carter's doorstep, voters may begin to see all sorts of previously invisible virtues in Ronald Reagan.
Not only does Reagan face a weakened President, he also presents a less frightening prospect than the apparently more reckless Goldwater. Says TIME Washington Bureau Chief Robert Ajemian: "To many people, Reagan is reassuring, almost parental. He is too fatalistic and too modest to be a crusader."
So far in this campaign, Reagan has done little to damage that image. Says Florida National Committeewoman Paula Hawkins, a John Connally supporter: "He has been dignified, professional under stress. He responds well when he gets punched. He's gentlemanly, answers with humor and with enough acid to let you know he has heard."
There is evidence that voters other than Republican archconservatives are beginning to support Reagan. In last week's Illinois primary, according to one poll, 40% of the Republican vote was cast by Democratic and Independent crossovers, and roughly 30% of these went to Reagan.
Just as the Republican Party is closer to Reagan's point of view than it was eight or even four years ago, the country as a whole has moved right. Reagan's reach for the center will be shorter now than before. Says Pollster Yankelovich: "Reagan should not assume this is a mandate to define a right-wing program for the country. Rather it is a chance to define a new policy for the center."
But to say that Reagan can be elected is by no means to say that he will be. On the contrary, he looks very much the underdog. Some party operatives are plainly unhappy with his selection. In Massachusetts, where both Bush and Anderson defeated Reagan, party leaders are not yet reconciled to the Reagan candidacy. Says one: "There's a vacuum of leadership at the national level; and what appears to be the Republican Party's response? A 69-year-old man who has done virtually nothing for years. We're at the same stage the Whigs were. There's no choice."
Don't believe those like Rove, who had no relationship to Reagan during the revolution, or the others who now hold up Reagan but then snubbed him. They were wrong and he was right. Read the whole article and use it as inspiration. We don't have to settle, folks. As Mr. Reagan himself said, we have it in our power to begin the world over again, a line from Paine's Common Sense that applied to Paine, to Reagan, and to us now.
So, Bachmann, you have a shot. Perry, so do you. Palin, as much as they want to destroy you, you too can still win. Find that determined but positive message and stay true to those principles. It can be done. It has been done. It needs to be done again. We cannot survive another Obama term.