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Election Could Mirror 1980 Race
Townhall.com ^ | September 27, 2012 | Victor Davis Hanson

Posted on 09/27/2012 3:39:06 AM PDT by Kaslin

There was only one presidential debate in 1980 between challenger Ronald Reagan and President Jimmy Carter. Just two days before the Oct. 28 debate, Carter was eight points ahead in the Gallup poll. A week after the debate, he lost to Reagan by nearly ten percentage points.

Reagan's debate quip, "There you go again," reminded voters of Carter's chronic crabbiness. Even more devastating was Reagan's final, direct question to American voters: "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" No one, it seemed, could muster a "Yes!"

Yet there was more to the 1980 campaign than the final game-changing debate rhetoric -- and some of the details are relevant to 2012.

Carter conceded that he could not run on his economic record -- not with a high "misery index' driven by high inflation, high interest rates, high gas prices and high unemployment. The lengthy Iranian hostage crisis finally began to highlight rather than mask Carter's anemic domestic leadership. Without a record to defend, Carter instead pounded Reagan as too ill-informed and too dangerous to be president.

The negative campaigning had not only worked but also seemed to get under Reagan's skin. He kept going off topic while committing serial gaffes: He claimed that California had eliminated its smog; that trees polluted as much as cars, that Alaska had more known oil than Saudi Arabia, and that new evidence cast doubt upon Darwin's theory of evolution. Reagan got clumsily bogged down in distracting controversies about everything from Taiwan and the Vietnam War to the Ku Klux Klan and the stealth bomber program.

Reagan fumbled facts and numbers constantly, as the nitpicking Carter blasted him for implausibly promising lower taxes, balanced budgets and vastly higher defense spending all at once. Throughout late summer, Reagan could not tap widespread voter dissatisfaction with Carter's disastrous economic and foreign policy and his off-putting sanctimoniousness.

Even more unfortunate for Reagan, Republican Congressman John Anderson announced a third-party candidacy. Anderson and a fourth candidate, Libertarian candidate Ed Clark, eventually combined to siphon off more than 6.5 million votes, most of which probably otherwise would have gone to Reagan.

A desperate Reagan also was having difficulty getting Carter out of the Rose Garden to debate. Finally, in late October, Reagan capitulated to Carter's preconditions and met him one time, face to face, without Anderson present.

In other words, until the very last week of the campaign, Reagan had an uphill fight. True, he eventually won a landslide victory in the Electoral College (489 to 49) and beat Carter handily in the popular vote. Yet Reagan only received a 51 percent majority.

What had saved Reagan from a perfect storm of negative factors -- gaffes, additional conservative candidates on the ballot, a single debate and a biased media -- was not just the debate. Voter turnout was relatively low at only 53 percent. If Reagan's conservative base was united and energized, Carter's proved divided and indifferent.

Reagan also won about a dozen (mostly Southern) states by less than 4 percent. Had just a few hundred thousand votes gone the other way in those states, the race might have been far closer than the eventual electoral and popular tallies indicated.

What does 1980 tell us about 2012? Barack Obama, like Carter, can run neither on his dismal four-year stewardship of the economy nor on his collapsing Middle East policy.

Instead, Obama, as Carter did, must stamp his opponent as too inexperienced, too out of touch and too uncaring to be president. While Carter was a dull speaker and Obama, in contrast, possesses teleprompter eloquence, there is no evidence that Obama is any better a debater than was Carter.

Turnout will matter. Challenger Mitt Romney, like Reagan, is said to have the more fired-up base, but the demography of the electorate is far different than it was 30 years ago and now may favor Obama. There are no third-party candidates to skew the result, but the polls seem just as volatile, as Obama, like Carter, usually surges ahead for a while, only to fall back to even in tortoise-and-the-hare style.

Unless there is a war abroad or a financial crisis at home -- such as the financial trauma that helped the struggling Obama surge past John McCain in mid-September 2008 -- the race between an unapologetic liberal and a confessed conservative will go down to the last week.

The winner probably won't be decided by old video clips, gaffes or even campaign money, but by turnout and the October debates -- depending on whether incumbent Obama comes across as a petulant Carter and challenger Romney appears an upbeat Reagan. As in 1980, voters want a better president -- but they first have to be assured he's on the ballot.


TOPICS: Editorial; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: 2012election; jimmycarter; mittromney; ronaldreagan

1 posted on 09/27/2012 3:39:12 AM PDT by Kaslin
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To: Kaslin

I know dozens of people who voted for Obama last time, that either are voting for Romney now or sitting it out. I’ve yet to see ONE McCain voter saying that he was happy with Obama and was going to vote for him in 2012.


2 posted on 09/27/2012 3:45:47 AM PDT by MuttTheHoople (Obama does not have the work ethic to be Anti-Christ.)
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To: Kaslin

Yeah, except that Romney is no Reagan.


3 posted on 09/27/2012 3:50:03 AM PDT by Westbrook (Children do not divide your love, they multiply it.)
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To: Westbrook
Romney is no Reagan.

That's countered by Obama is no Carter. He's 5X worse, as if that were possible.

4 posted on 09/27/2012 3:57:26 AM PDT by MrDem (Founder: Democrats for Cheney/Palin 2012)
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To: Kaslin

I hope Romney knows he needs to give America an optimistic vision of his potential presidency in the debates, like Reagan did.


5 posted on 09/27/2012 3:58:19 AM PDT by ChronicMA
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To: Kaslin

I know it probably sounds alarmist to those of a different mindset, but I believe this country is teetering on the precipice of a thousand years of darkness. What should be just a relatively inconsequential election to replace one administrator with another has become the final battleground to entrench a criminal junta and snuff out any remaining notion of what was traditional America. It’s almost too depressing to contemplate.


6 posted on 09/27/2012 4:02:21 AM PDT by SpaceBar
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To: Westbrook

I don’t think it was the Reagan part that beat Carter.

It was the “not a war crazy meanie” that beat Carter.

The race was also similar in that a lot of folks didn’t want Carter,but Carter/Media had were successful in scaring many about Reagan.

When they saw Reagan was jovial and balanced, voters had an alternative to Jimmah that they were no longer afraid of. “There you go again” was effective as much for the smile and way Reagan said it.

If Romney can show that the Obama/Media portrayal of Romney is BS, the result could be the same.


7 posted on 09/27/2012 4:05:43 AM PDT by D-fendr (Deus non alligatur sacramentis sed nos alligamur.)
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To: Kaslin

At the risk of stating the obvious, Mitt Romney is no Ronald Reagan.


8 posted on 09/27/2012 4:13:49 AM PDT by Delhi Rebels (There was a row in Silver Street - the regiments was out.)
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To: D-fendr
Pretty good summary. Reagan's performance in the debates sealed the deal for him. His background helped. He was comfortable before a crowd and the cameras didn't intimidate him. Most of all, Reagan was comfortable in his own skin, and that gave him a confidence that he was able to project.

The other factor was that Carter committed a tactical blunder by allowing Reagan the last word, which he used to slip in the brilliant "are you better off now than four years ago" thought. People remembered that and took that to the polls when they voted. Carter couldn't blunt that stroke.

9 posted on 09/27/2012 4:17:31 AM PDT by chimera
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To: Kaslin

“While Carter was a dull speaker and Obama, in contrast, possesses teleprompter eloquence, there is no evidence that Obama is any better a debater than was Carter.”

That is just it, “teleprompter eloquence.”

Take away the teleprompter and Obozo will be deer in headlights. I can’t wait!


10 posted on 09/27/2012 4:18:41 AM PDT by VRWCRick
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To: MrDem

The American people (in general) are more stupid than they were in 1980. Hollywood and the music industry are balls out telling their audience that not voting for Obama is “racist”. A generation of liberal, touch-feely school teachers have ingrained that “fairness” is more important than reality. The American Idol/Jersey Shore crowd is more concerned about gays being able to marry than they are about a nuclear Iran.

The silent majority that most of us are, are dying off and being replaced by whiny, limp-wristed children who don’t remember living under the threat of the Soviet Union. This once proud nation that kept order in the world simply by its strength and leadership, now is a capitulating, apologizing farce of a country, destroyed by the hordes of freeloading deadbeats, celebrities who have to push the shock envelope to be relevant, and lazy democrat politicians who could never make anything of their own lives and now want to ruin it for everyone else.

Romney may very well win, and I hope he does, but I see no “morning in America”. Ever again.


11 posted on 09/27/2012 4:48:16 AM PDT by RabidBartender (If pigs could vote, they'd vote for the guy holding the slop bucket.)
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To: RabidBartender

RE:#11, as much as I hate to say it, you’re spot on.


12 posted on 09/27/2012 4:53:21 AM PDT by Marathoner (If the bastard were to win reelection, let America burn. IDGAF anymore.)
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To: SpaceBar
I know it probably sounds alarmist to those of a different mindset, but I believe this country is teetering on the precipice of a thousand years of darkness. What should be just a relatively inconsequential election to replace one administrator with another has become the final battleground to entrench a criminal junta and snuff out any remaining notion of what was traditional America. It’s almost too depressing to contemplate.

I totally agree with your assessment.

13 posted on 09/27/2012 4:55:50 AM PDT by Rummyfan (Iraq: it's not about Iraq anymore, it's about the USA!)
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Please God, put Mitt in.

ff

14 posted on 09/27/2012 5:17:44 AM PDT by foreverfree
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To: RabidBartender

You nailed it.


15 posted on 09/27/2012 5:18:07 AM PDT by Inyo-Mono (My greatest fear is that when I'm gone my wife will sell my guns for what I told her I paid for them)
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To: Rummyfan

“...but I believe this country is teetering on the precipice of a thousand years of darkness.”

Spot on. It can be seen and felt in a hundred ways every day. If this maddening Progressive is voted back into office he will institutionalize all the negative things that are poking their nose under the tent flap. If they win, all they will have to do is choose either black or brown for the color of their official political shirts;
something that will contrast nicely with Che Guevarra’s image.

IMHO


16 posted on 09/27/2012 5:21:26 AM PDT by ripley
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To: MuttTheHoople

That’s what I would try to estimate if I were a pollster, rather than guess at the Democrat-Republican ratio.


17 posted on 09/27/2012 5:21:51 AM PDT by scrabblehack
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To: Kaslin

In other words, until the very last week of the campaign, Reagan had an uphill fight. True, he eventually won a landslide victory in the Electoral College (489 to 49) and beat Carter handily in the popular vote. Yet Reagan only received a 51 percent majority.

That is amazing that Reagan only won by 1 percent popular vote. I think what will happen is that Obama wins the popular vote but Romney wins the electoral college. I think the population is not as patriotic as they were in 1980.


18 posted on 09/27/2012 5:46:36 AM PDT by napscoordinator (GOP Candidate 2020 - "Bloomberg 2020 - We vote for whatever crap the GOP puts in front of us.")
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To: Kaslin

Obama will spend more time cracking on liner joke than sticking to the issues,he has no answers no plan he only has excuses and blame.


19 posted on 09/27/2012 6:45:06 AM PDT by Vaduz
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To: Kaslin

From VDH’s mouth to G-d’s ear. Unfortunately, the electorate is vastly different from that of 32 years ago- richer but cruder, more informed but more ignorant, more racially diverse but more racist...


20 posted on 09/27/2012 7:28:52 AM PDT by oblomov
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To: Kaslin

We can analyze it to death, but the main thing is - massive voter turnout to vote out the usurper is what it takes this November!

Massive voter turnout to destroy their chance to steal the election!

Spread the words to the ‘leaners’, the Independents, the undecided - vote out the usurper/traitor obozo!

Our lives, our country depend on it!


21 posted on 09/27/2012 7:30:04 AM PDT by chrisnj
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To: D-fendr
If Romney can show that the Obama/Media portrayal of Romney is BS, the result could be the same.

True but I'm now starting to conclude he's incapable of doing that. I don't think he has it in him to blunt the types of attacks on him that Obama's making. First and foremost is that Bush's mess is still being cleaned up and Romney's going back to Bush. He has no ability to articulate exactly why Obama's wrong. I get the feeling he doesn't think there's any point in trying. In fact I just heard on the radio that Romney seemed to back away from his tax cut proposal in an Ohio campaign stop.

22 posted on 09/27/2012 8:15:34 AM PDT by lasereye
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To: lasereye
I've heard Romney doing it. Now whether he does so in the debate remains to be seen.

And it can be as simple as: "Mr. Obama's theory requires that we believe we have 23 million unemployed because we don't pay enough taxes. Americans are smarter than that."

Romney can also easily point out that lower taxes and less regulation resulted in the longest economic growth - into the Clinton years - when implemented by Reagan.

Anyway, I believe it can be done, I've heard Romney do it. Doing it right at the right time in a debate will be something to look for.

thanks for your reply.

23 posted on 09/27/2012 8:32:50 AM PDT by D-fendr (Deus non alligatur sacramentis sed nos alligamur.)
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To: D-fendr

Well it’s not really as simple as that but that is exactly the type of response he gives and will give in the debates.

That doesn’t address the question of why exactly the recovery is so bad - if there even is a recovery at this point. Nor does it point out USING NUMBERS the fact that it is terrible. It doesn’t explain why Obama’s at fault. It doesn’t challenge the FALSE idea that there is some Bush mess that Obama’s still cleaning up. In polls I believe more people still blame Bush for the bad economy than Obama. And it only indirectly disputes the ridiculous idea that Bush’s tax cuts caused the problem.

That is in fact a LOSER’S response. Which I’m starting to conclude is what Romney is.


24 posted on 09/27/2012 9:08:25 AM PDT by lasereye
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To: lasereye

I don’t agree. “Not because we’re not taxed enough” is a paraphrase of Reagan. By no means is it a full explanation of economic theory of the free market though.

I do agree that much more should have been done by now to refute the meme that Bush economic policies (instead of mortgage devaluation by government action) caused the crash.

I don’t know if it is too late to counter this. And, I think it may well be a mistake to refer back to Bush at all; but rather speak common sense on freedom and free markets.

thanks for your reply.


25 posted on 09/27/2012 9:22:01 AM PDT by D-fendr (Deus non alligatur sacramentis sed nos alligamur.)
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To: D-fendr

He doesn’t have to refer to Bush by name. But he has to dispute that there’s still some mess he’s cleaning up. And he doesn’t even have to go back to the cause of the mortgage mess.

This is what he could say:

“There was something that needed to cleaned up, the huge bad mortgage debt owned by financial institutions. However, whatever you think of them, the bailouts (TARP etc.) did clean that up more than 3 years ago. Further, tax cuts didn’t cause trillions in worthless mortgages to be lent out - the idea is idiotic. Obama’s not cleaning anything up, he’s actually making a new and bigger mess.” Then run through the numbers like plummeting household income, continuing high first time unemployment claims, 3 million more people in poverty, the labor participation rate down to levels from 30 years ago etc. etc. Lot’s of numbers.

See how that works? But Romney will not say anything like that. He’ll give essentially a one sentence explanation (”I don’t think higher taxes will help the economy”).


26 posted on 09/27/2012 9:36:20 AM PDT by lasereye
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To: lasereye

http://www.270towin.com/

SO, does Romney have a chance?


27 posted on 09/27/2012 9:39:36 AM PDT by GeronL (http://asspos.blogspot.com)
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To: GeronL

Not according to that (well 2%). He would have an excellent change if he knew how to articulate things in a detailed forceful way. He has “Republican disease” though where you can’t explain anything in any detail that people can understand, and you can’t forcefully attack Democrat premises. He’s just counting on people wanting to fire Obama and he has to just be not offensive. So 2% may be about right.


28 posted on 09/27/2012 9:53:54 AM PDT by lasereye
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