RCP

Craig Shirley: Republican Elites Tried to Stop Reagan From Getting Nomination, Was Called The George Wallace Of GOP

RCP

By Ian Schwartz
Posted on March 4, 2016

Reagan biographer Craig Shirley appeared on Morning Joe this week and discussed parallels between Ronald Reagan and Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump. Shirley is president of the prestigious Shirley & Banister public affairs firm.

“In the ’60s and ’70s he was often derided by the eastern elites, by academia, by the establishment of the Republican party. He was considered the George Wallace of the Republican party, a grade B actor with premature orange hair,” Shirley said.

Shirley said in 1980 when it Reagan was gaining momentum to secure the Republican nomination, the party elders went into panic mode and sent emissaries to talk to Gerald Ford about getting into the race “just to stop Ronald Reagan from getting the nomination.”

“In 1980 as he started to break loose and head towards the nomination, the party elders in a panic, you know, ring the fire alarm, break the glass and go see Gerald Ford. Dick Cheney went to see him. Henry Kissinger tried to go see him to get Ford to get back in the race just to stop Ronald Reagan from the nomination,” Shirley told the Morning Joe panel.

Transcript:

SCARBOROUGH: Craig Shirley, you have written about parallels that some have made between Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump. The only parallels we’ve made have been the constant underestimation by the political class, by the consulting class and by the media of both men. Reagan before his sweeping victory in 1980 and Donald Trump up until this moment.

CRAIG SHIRLEY: Well, thanks, Joe. I compared dynamics and institutions but not individuals. You know, you’re absolutely right, and I tell people that before Ronald Reagan was Ronald Reagan, Ronald Reagan wasn’t Ronald Reagan. And by that I mean like you said, in the ’60s and ’70s he was often derided by the eastern elites, by academia, by the establishment of the Republican party. He was considered the George Wallace of the Republican party, a grade B actor with premature orange hair.

In 1980 as he started to break loose and head towards the nomination, the party elders in a panic, you know, ring the fire alarm, break the glass and go see Gerald Ford. Dick Cheney went to see him. Henry Kissinger tried to go see him to get Ford to get back in the race just to stop Ronald Reagan from the nomination…

That was the whole famous Detroit compact, which you covered, of course, in Detroit in 1980. The famous or infamous, depending on your point of view, the Reagan/Ford co-presidency. There was sincere effort, Stu Spencer and others, to try to get Ford back in in March to get Ford to run against Ronald Reagan to stop Reagan from getting the nomination.