Friday, October 12, 2007

Republican Presidential Primary voters Looking for Mr. Right: Ronald Reagan Redux

Ronald Reagan and the 1980s

Oh, how the Republicans remember and cherish Ronald Reagan. In 1980, he was just what the doctor ordered, promising a strong national defense; low government spending, taxes, inflation and unemployment and a de-regulated economy. Reagan conservatism, the perfect contrast to the Carter mish-mash. And, what a charmer Reagan was.

Reagan’s views and actions on abortion—while not perfect for the base, were good enough to satisfy the Pro-Life, Family Values segment of the Party.

Charmer-In-Chief, Bill Clinton

Since Reagan left the Presidency, national Republican politics have been about finding another Reagan. George Herbert Walker Bush was elected to a third Reagan term. However, the patrician Bush was no Reagan; he increased taxes after promising not to-- and was surely no match for the Charmer-in-Chief, Bill Clinton. Bob Dole was no Reagan, but he was next in line.

W and taking back the White House

Those who promoted the second coming of Bush, W, liked to say he was Reaganesque. But, few believed that. Instead, W was sold as the antidote to the immoral Clinton years. More importantly, the name Bush would make the campaign donations roll in; the Republicans could then take back the White House and this Bush would cut taxes for all, which is why (as Robert Novak said) God put Republicans on this earth.

Tommy Thompson and Jim Gilmore give up

The Republicans current search for Mr. Right, i.e., Reagan Redux, started with ten candidates, with two jettisoned fairly quickly: former Governors Tommy Thompson (WI) and Jim Gilmore (VA). No Reagan in that pair.

The Republicans were left with eight candidates and that list expanded last month to nine, with the entry of former Senator, Law and Order prosecutor and Watergate counsel, Fred Thompson.

With less than 90 days until the first vote is cast, it is time to winnow the field again. First to go should be the three congressmen: Ron Paul is an interesting libertarian; Duncan Hunter a possible Deputy Secretary of Defense; Tom Tancredo argues what is wrong with illegal immigration (and sometimes he is right). However, none in that trio is Reagan Redux. Not in a million years.

Senator Brownback has a few interesting anecdotes and family adoptions. But, no Reagan there.

We could narrow it to the final four, but what the Hell, let former Governor, well-spoken Mike Huckabee stay in. In some ways, he is kind of like a pace car at the Debates—useful to see how the top tier does with some Democrat, populist type arguments about helping the little guy. But, probably best to have him exit by Thanksgiving so we can see some sharp exchanges among the Final Four.

Goodbye John McCain

Least likely to win among the Final Four is Senator McCain. He oozes integrity and character. About half a century of combined Congressional and military experience. A genuine American War Hero and POW. However, the base views him as wrong on tax cuts, campaign finance and immigration. Not very Reaganesque. Goodbye John.

When you get to the final three, picking a winner becomes difficult.

Mitt Romney is leading in the early primaries and he has enough wealth to see this thing through on his own. His primary problem, of course, is “Gays, Guns, God and Abortion.” On all but God, he has flipped and the base is not sure if he can be trusted not to flip back. And, on God, he is a Mormon, which makes him inherently suspect to many Christians and perhaps others.

Other than those cultural issues, the former Massachusetts Governor looks like a President and sounds like a conservative, unless you ask him what his constitutional powers are as Commander-in-Chief to take the country to War. For that, Romney said at this week’s debate, oddly, “Your attorneys will tell you what you have to do.” Perhaps he thinks this because he got his law degree from Harvard Law School. Sorry, no Reagan there.

Senator Thompson:

Former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson appears to have almost all the right views for the Republican base on cultural, economic, domestic and foreign policy issues. Further, he should have most of the Southern vote locked up, save perhaps Florida—which has a very large component of ex-New Yorkers. Thompson's supporters like to characterize him as “Southern fried Reagan.”

On the other hand, Thompson has been described by many as lazy, lacking in accomplishment when in the Senate and not all that interested in being President. After this week’s debate, Charles Krauthammer said Thompson is “sort of Reagan after his bedtime,” and he said Thompson is “soporific, lugubrious, slow and measured.” Sorry, not even a southern fried Reagan there.

Mayor Rudy Giuliani

Last, but not least, is former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Still viewed by most as a heroic leader on 9/11, he never misses a chance to extol the wonders of free market capitalism, less government spending, lower taxes and less regulation. Shut your eyes and you can hear and see Reagan.

We have to play offense, not just defense, when prosecuting the war on terrorism

Nobody rallies the base more than Rudy with his line, We have to play offense, not just defense, when prosecuting the war on terrorism.” On the negative side for the base, however, are his historical and current views on gays, guns and abortion. And his three marriages don’t help either. Rudy’s candidacy could precipitate a third party challenge from the “family values,” crowd. Still, if this reporter had to bet, he would put his money on Rudy. Not a Reagan, but a charming showman and a charismatic conservative on domestic (other than cultural) and foreign policy issues-- and that’s as close as the Republicans get to Ronnie this year.
Jeff Berkowitz, Show Host/Producer of "Public Affairs," and Executive Legal Recruiter doing legal search can be reached at You may watch "Public Affairs," shows with Presidential Candidates Richardson, Obama, McCain, Giuliani and Cox and many other pols at