Tag Archives: reagan

What Trump can learn from Reagan and the ’76 delegate fight

April 11 at 12:08 PM
As we approach what may be the first contested GOP convention since 1976, Donald Trump is complaining that Ted Cruz is using “crooked shenanigans” to win delegates and deny him the Republican presidential nomination. But Cruz is doing exactly what Ronald Reagan did in ’76 in his insurgent campaign for the GOP nomination — running a well-organized ground game designed to win every available delegate at state and local conventions across the country. Trump’s failure to respond with a ground game of his own could cost him the nomination.

Like Trump today, the Ford team complained about Reagan’s tactics. As Craig Shirley recounts in his masterful history of the 1976 campaign, Ford’s chief delegate hunter, James Baker, complained to Time magazine that Ford’s people were being “out hustled” by Reagan, declaring “These Reagan people don’t care; they’re absolutely ruthless. They want all of it.” Reagan traveled across the county addressing state and local conventions, and called uncommitted delegates inviting them to private dinners (adding “By the way, do you mind if I bring along John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart?”).

Marc Thiessen writes a weekly column for The Post on foreign and domestic policy and contributes to the PostPartisan blog. He is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and the former chief speechwriter for President George W. Bush.
Unlike Trump today, Ford responded in kind, inviting unbound delegates to the Oval Office and sending operatives to state conventions to flip Reagan delegates to his side. In a handwritten letter recently released by the Jesse Helms Center, Reagan wrote Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) — who had saved his campaign by delivering North Carolina for Reagan — about his frustrations with the Ford team’s tactics. “I’ve never been so disgusted in all my life,” Reagan told Helms. “In every convention the W.H. gang are there manipulating, trying to get the rules changed, etc. . . . Don’t get me wrong, I still think we’ll take him. But Jesse it almost seems as if they are out to win a convention instead of an election.”

Ted Cruz is out-hustling Trump. On Saturday, Cruz spoke at Colorado’s state GOP convention and shut Trump out, winning all 34 of the state’s pledged delegates. Trump complained: “There was no voting. I didn’t go out there to make a speech or anything.” Well, whose fault is that?

Trump also didn’t give a speech in North Dakota, but Cruz did — and won 18 of 25 delegates. In Louisiana, a state Trump won by just 3.6 percentage points, the Wall Street Journal reports that Cruz “may wind up with as many as 10 more delegates from the state” than Trump. Why? Because Cruz successfully courted the state’s five unbound delegates and won over five Marco Rubio delegates who became free agents after the senator from Florida suspended his campaign.

By picking up handfuls of delegates in these and other states, and beating Trump in key primaries such as Wisconsin, Cruz hopes to deny Trump the 1,237 delegates he needs to win the nomination on the first ballot. Then Cruz is taking another page out of the Reagan playbook. As Shirley notes, in ’76, the Reagan team loaded state delegations with Reagan supporters who “although bound on a first ballot at the national convention . . . would be freed to vote their individual preference on any subsequent ballots.”

Cruz is similarly working to elect delegates who, while bound to support Trump on a first ballot, will support Cruz on subsequent ballots. In Virginia’s 9th Congressional District, for example, two of the three delegates electedtold The Post that “they would vote for Cruz if voting on a GOP nominee goes into multiple rounds.” In Georgia’s Coweta County — which Trump won by 12 percentage points — Cruz supporters won an estimated 90 percent of the county’s delegates to the state and district conventions that will choose Georgia’s delegates at the Republican National Convention. In Michigan, Cruz’s campaign believes it has elected its supporters to at least five of the 25 delegate slots pledged to Trump. It has been a similar story in South Carolina,Indiana, Tennessee, South Dakota and other states.

There is nothing wrong with this. Cruz is fighting for every available delegate according to the rules, just as Reagan did. And who is Trump to complain? Trump defends his businesses’ multiple bankruptcies by saying he had simply “taken advantage of the laws of the country” that are available to all Americans. Well, Cruz is taking advantage of the rules of the state parties that are available to all the candidates.

If Trump can’t compete, he has no one to blame but himself. Back in February, after losing Iowa to Cruz, Trump admitted he “never realized” the importance of building a field organization. But instead of going out and building that field organization, he has done the opposite. Politico reportsthat “Since March, [Trump] has been laying off field staff en masse around the country.” Trump brags about how rich he is, but he has run his campaign on the cheap, relying on provocative tweets and his massive advantage in free media to win primaries. He’s now learning that Twitter and free media can’t win delegates.

Trump likes to compare himself to Ronald Reagan. Well, if he doesn’t stop complaining and start campaigning, he may end up as Reagan did in ’76 — the runner-up.

How far can you go to win support from a Republican Delegate?

By Matea Gold and Ed O’Keefe The Washington Post

Posted Apr. 11, 2016 at 9:54 AM

Imagine this: Donald Trump wooing delegates with rides on his gold-plated private jet. A wealthy Ted Cruz supporter wining and dining them at the Cleveland convention. Welcome bags stocked with expensive swag awaiting party activists in their hotel rooms, courtesy of a well-funded super PAC.

The already freewheeling Republican presidential contest is fast turning into a personal persuasion game as the candidates pursue a no-holds-barred effort to lock up delegates – and there are relatively few limits on how far they can go.

The jockeying has already led to accusations of unfair play. On Sunday, Trump accused Cruz of luring delegates with unspecified “goodies” and “crooked shenanigans,” a charge that the Cruz campaign dismissed as “falsehoods.”

Under regulations established in the 1980s, delegates cannot take money from corporations, labor unions, federal contractors or foreign nationals. But an individual donor is permitted to give a delegate unlimited sums to support his or her efforts to get selected to go to the convention, including money to defray the costs of travel and lodging.

A candidate’s campaign committee can also pay for delegate expenses. Some legal experts believe a campaign could even cover an all-expense-paid weekend prior to the convention to meet with senior staff at, say, a Trump-owned luxury golf resort in Florida.

Given that the last contested Republican convention was 40 years ago – Gerald Ford vs. Ronald Reagan in 1976 – many of Washington’s top campaign-finance experts are furiously paging through old Federal Election Commission opinions, trying to discern what delegates can accept.

“We’re in uncharted territory,” said Kenneth Gross, a former associate general counsel at the Federal Election Commission. “And when you get into the heat of battle and the stakes are as high as they possibly can be in terms of who will be the nominee, people are going to push the envelope.”

Trump and Cruz, who have shown their relentlessness in this season’s rough-and-tumble campaign, are expected to look for every legal edge possible if neither is able to secure 1,237 delegates before the July convention. Also in the mix is Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who forged an alliance with Trump Saturday in a delegate fight in Michigan.

The candidates “will be in a bidding war for delegates,” said Brett Kappel, a veteran campaign-finance lawyer who has represented Democrats and Republicans. “They’ll live like kings at the convention.”

The FEC delegate rules were established long before super PACs came on the scene and offers little guidance about how such groups can lobby delegates. One possibility floated by strategists in recent days: a super PAC-financed war room that collects reams of personal data – political background, hobbies, family details – that can be used to target the nearly 200 activists and elected officials who are not bound to a specific candidate.

The lack of clear guardrails has left party activists feeling unsettled.

“It’s almost like we need a campaign-finance system for delegates,” Gregory Carlson, 27, who ran unsuccessfully to be a delegate in Colorado over the weekend. “This is why we need to put serious thought into this and who are immune to being paid off with below-board messages.”

Since most delegates are expected to cover their own travel and stay in Cleveland, they could be offered thousands of dollars in assistance. Just how far those payments can go has not been tested.

“If they decide to go to Cleveland via Cabo, that might be a problem,” said Anthony Herman, a former FEC general counsel.

But it’s unclear that such a perk would be made public if it was provided by a single donor. Under FEC rules, a contribution from an individual to a delegate does not have to be disclosed, as long as it was not made in coordination with a campaign or as an independent effort to boost a candidate. That means gifts could flow to delegates unseen.

“Beyond subsistence expenses, in the weeks ahead, are there cash and items of value given to these delegates?” asked Republican election law attorney Michael Toner. “Is someone going to show up in the Cayman Islands in January with a three-week paid trip? That’s not going to be readily apparent before the election.”

Still, Toner added, “I think the vast majority of the deals are going to be political deals. People want attention, a seat at the table.”

That was the case in 1976, when Ford leveraged the prestige and trappings of his office to try to bring uncommitted delegates over to his side. He invited entire state delegations to lunch and dinner at the White House, and even hosted a group on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal to watch the July 4 bicentennial celebration in New York harbor, according to Jules Witcover’s 1977 book, “Marathon.”

Reagan tried to match him with his Hollywood connections, recruiting entertainers such as John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart and Pat Boone to call wavering delegates.

“It was hand-to-hand combat,” said Reagan biographer Craig Shirley, who detailed the fight in his book “Reagan’s Revolution: The Untold Story of the Campaign That Started It All.” “When it comes to getting delegates, it is the wild, wild West. Anything goes.”

Well, not absolutely anything. State and federal anti-bribery laws would probably forbid delegates from outright selling their votes, although it is unclear how those statutes apply to those who are private citizens rather than elected officials. Election law lawyers noted that the Justice Department has recently stepped up its focus on campaign-finance violations and could scrutinize suspicious transactions.

And most experts doubt there will be systematic efforts to try to win over delegates with cash.

“I think it’s a pretty dangerous game to play,” Herman said. “The optics are just so bad. Putting aside FEC exposure or even criminal exposure, I think the political exposure if it were disclosed and the public knew about it – it would just seem so unseemly.”

The campaigns declined to offer specifics on how they plan to woo delegates.

“Well, there’s the law, and then there’s ethics, and then there’s getting votes,” Trump convention manager Paul Manafort told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “I’m not going to get into what tactics are used. I happen to think the best way we’re going to get delegates is to have Donald Trump be exposed to delegates, let the delegates hear what he says.”

Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier said the senator from Texas has been “building an organization that will allow us to secure the delegates we need to win should this race be determined at convention.”

Several delegates interviewed this week said they would not be swayed by inducements, and were exasperated by the suggestion that their support could be bought with money or gifts.

Wendy Day – a 43-year-old mother of four in Michigan who was elected to be a delegate for Cruz – said her delegation is looking for ways to keep their Cleveland travel costs down, perhaps by renting homes outside the city so they will not have to depend on a benefactor to cover their expenses.

“We wouldn’t want to feel like we were being bought off,” she said, adding: “I don’t think Cruz supporters would be swayed by gifts and money. We are in this to save our country.”

Joy Hoffman, chairwoman of the Arapahoe County Republican Party in Colorado, said she would view any kind of monetary gift or offer to pay for expenses as a bribe.

The candidates can “call me and talk to me,” said Hoffman, who will be an unpledged alternate delegate to the convention. But she warned that she will not be easily dazzled.

“I already know these people,” Hoffman said. “They’ve been bugging me for months. I had breakfast with Kasich not long ago and I’ve had conversations with the Trumps. At the end of the day, that’s nice. They put their pants on the same way, they eat the same kind of food we eat.”

O’Keefe reported from Colorado Springs, Colo. The Washington Post’s David Weigel, reporting from Rochester, N.Y., and Katie Zezima contributed to this report.

Newt Gingrich and Craig Shirley: Reaganism is Alive and Well

Gingrich is former Speaker of the House. Shirley is a Reagan biographer.

We understand the frustration some members of the GOP establishment must be feeling over the rise of Donald Trump. Trump’s success (compounded by Ted Cruz’s success) is putting the old order on trial. But just because the establishment class is feeling the heat today doesn’t mean that the Party of Reagan Is No More, as Peter Wehner contended in an essay for TIME.

In fact, the good news is that Reaganism is alive and well in America and in the GOP. It remains the dominant philosophy among center-right Americans.

It is the old, Washington-centered GOP establishment that is threatened with diminution at best and extinction at worst.

Very few people call themselves a “Nixon Republican” or a “Bush Republican,” but many if not most in the GOP call themselves “Reagan Republicans.” Just last month, hundreds of Republican organizations celebrated their annual “Reagan Day Dinners” or “Lincoln-Reagan Day Dinners.” To the best of our knowledge, no one celebrated dinners named for other GOP presidents. This is not going to change.

It’s true that Reagan’s philosophy of less government and more freedom combined with a muscular but careful foreign policy went through a dismemberment during the later Republican presidencies, but Reaganism is staging a strong comeback. Even today, many of the candidates for the 2016 nomination have invoked Reagan’s policies in detail and with fondness, and talk of bringing the party back to Reaganism.

Most understand the difference between Reagan’s conservatism based in the American Revolution—a conservatism that puts its faith in individuals—and the old Washington establishment’s more European brand of conservatism, which puts it trust in big systems. The division within the Republican Party about bailouts is just one example of this fault line.

Reagan was faced with his own “Black Monday” in 1987, but refused to panic, believing in the marketplace. Reagan knew that presidents, as Harry Truman said, had to say “no” more often than “yes.” Within months, the markets settled down and returned to their vigor, without new bureaucracies and unaccountable bailouts.

We’ve heard before that Reaganism is over. After narrowly losing the nomination to Gerald Ford in 1976, the GOP political class and their supplicants in the media wrote off Reagan. The New York Times opined, “the battle will be carried on with new leadership…”

We heard it again in 1980, after Reagan lost the Iowa caucuses to George Bush. We heard it again in 1982, after the GOP lost House races. We heard it again in 1988, when the GOP nominee, George H. W. Bush, rebuked Reaganism, calling for a “kinder, gentler,” political philosophy. And we heard it in 2000 when “compassionate conservatism” was pushed to replace limited government conservatism.

Meanwhile, we have to remember the shape of the party in 1976. It had 18 percent approval, controlled only one legislature and governorship (Kansas), and had no elected officials in some parts of the south. The national Republican Party was so broke that it closed the offices for three weeks in December just to save on the electricity. The Republican Party had 140 House members and only 38 Senators, meaning the Democrats could ram through the Congress anything they wanted to—and that’s what they did.

Reagan led the GOP to a stunning victory in 1980. He trailed Carter by 25 points in March but his message resonated with the American people and he won a stunning victory. He carried in twelve senators with him (shocking Washington Republicans none of whom thought they could win the Senate) and gained 34 seats in the House along with hundreds of state legislators.

Unfortunately, the Bush 41 presidency was a detour into tax increases and cooperation with liberal Democrats. It lasted one term.

The party only began to stage a comeback in 1994 when it made the election a referendum on Clinton’s liberalism in contrast to Reagan conservatism. The GOP won in a landslide and long-shots like Joe Scarborough in Florida won because they ran as pure Reaganites. No one in the Washington establishment thought the GOP could win the House in 1994, but the Reaganite GOP forced Bill Clinton to say, “The era of Big Government is over.”

What Wehner is missing is that this perennial competition between Reaganism and the old Washington based GOP establishment is not going away. It is a semi-permanent split in the GOP. The GOP establishment argues over how fast or slowly to grow government, rather than how fast or slowly to grow personal freedom, which is the view of Reaganism.

It may be lamentable to Wehner, but Reaganism is not dead. It’s just that millions of Republican voters who identify with Reaganism believe that, at a time when the bureaucratic state is stretching the limits of its powers everywhere we look, the Trump-Cruz outsiders are far more likely than the comfortable Washington establishment in achieving Reagan’s vision of a freer, stronger and more prosperous America.

Newt Gingrich is the former speaker of the US House and the author of 27 books. Craig Shirley is a Reagan biographer and presidential historian and the author of the newly released Last Act: The Final Years and Emerging Legacy of Ronald Reagan.



By Craig Shirley | March 11, 2016

Nancy Reagan did sacrifice herself for Ronald Reagan, but it was willing and loving. She devoted herself to his career and his legacy, but also set the tone for the modern First Lady. She was pretty, dignified but also modern in her views and charitable works. She took a more direct interest in his well being after the assassination attempt and she worried more, but also loved more and cried more when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

“On behalf of a grateful nation.” With those measured words, the commander of the USS Reagan, Admiral James Symonds, handed the flag, which had covered the casket of Ronald Reagan to Nancy Reagan in early June of 2004.

Only then, did she begin weeping. She’s been strong and stoic the entire week of the funeral but now, at the last, she was just another lonely widow, surrounded by her small family, the picture of acute sadness.

Now, twelve years later, she has joined her beloved “Ronnie” in eternal bliss. Their marriage was not supernatural but it was a true American romance. It certainly was one for the history books of White House marriages. Some White House marriages were more business deals than undying love. The marriage of FDR and Eleanor comes to mind, as does the betrothal of Bill and Hillary Clinton. There was never any doubt about the love and devotion of Ronnie and Mommy for each other.

She was once described as a “Metternich in Adolpho dresses.” Metternich was, of course, the famous and successful Austrian diplomat who got things done. Nancy certainly got things done. She did not, as has been erroneously reported, end the Cold War or make Reagan, somehow, more moderate. But she had keen political insights, as she demonstrated during the now famous Nashua debate in 1980, when her husband followed her advice and won the day, won the primary and won the election.

She did sacrifice herself for him, but it was willing and loving. She devoted herself to his career and his legacy, but also set the tone for the modern First Lady. She was pretty, dignified but also modern in her views and charitable works. She took a more direct interest in his well being after the assassination attempt and she worried more, but also loved more and cried more when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

She took his pain and suffering upon herself but is now free of that, just as he is also free of earthly pains.

In the end, the two were greater than the sum of the parts and now, in eternity, they are with a greater power.

Nancy Davis Reagan, RIP.

Craig Shirley is a Reagan biographer and presidential historian. His latest book is Last Act: The Final Years and Emerging Legacy of Ronald Reagan. Mr. Shirley is also a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis.

Nancy Reagan, Guardian of a Legacy

Last Act: The Final Years and Emerging Legacy of Ronald Reagan” is the latest Reagan book written by Craig Shirley, a Republican political consultant-turned-historian. His previous two Reagan books were detailed accounts of the 1976 and 1980 campaigns. In this one, the star of the show is mostly off-stage: Aside from occasional flashbacks, the action takes place in the week after Reagan’s 2004 death.

Its main theme is the disconnect between how elites saw Reagan and how the man and his presidency were viewed by rank-and-file Americans. I interviewed Shirley, an occasional contributor to RealClearPolitics, on his way to California for Nancy Reagan’s funeral.

Craig, let’s get this question out of the way: The preface to this book was written by Reagan biographer and RCP West Coast columnist Lou Cannon. Why?

Simple. Lou is first among equals. Your dad set a standard no one will meet, but all celebrate. Plus, I deeply admire Lou. We’ve been friends for more years than we like to think, but over time, that friendship and mutual respect has only deepened. One hundred years from now, when historians want to know about Ronald Reagan, they will go first to Lou’s books. Then, hopefully, mine too. Other books, like Bill O’Reilly’s, will be used to start fires.

The opening of this book is hair-raising: I’m not talking about Reagan’s death. I mean when you reprise some of the ugly things said by many Democrats—and even a few Republicans—when Reagan died. You name names. Who offended you the most?

Where do I begin? The Washington establishment, led by the Style section and editorial pages of The Washington Post, were awful to Reagan. So was the New York Times, to the point of being unprofessional. Paul Krugman was especially despicable, going so far as to making things up about Reagan. David Broder was magnificent—as were Ted Kennedy and Nancy Pelosi. Surprisingly, the Wall Street Journal was also reserved in some of its commentary and editorials about Reagan. But that is easily explained; the barons of Wall Street were always chary about the populist Reagan and he was equally standoffish about them. They’d supported Ford over Reagan in 1976 and, take your pick: George Bush, John Connally and Howard Baker over Reagan in 1980. Reagan never bailed out Wall Street.

Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter were gracious, as was the entire Bush clan, the Fords, the Cheneys and the many children of presidents and first ladies. Bill Clinton nodded off during the ceremonies and Hillary Clinton had a scowl on her face the entire time.

Al Felzenberg, in a tribute to Nancy Reagan in the Weekly Standard this week, recalled Nancy saying, “My life did not begin until I met Ronnie.” And that Reagan himself once said of Nancy: “I cannot imagine life without her.” So it was a real love story. In researching this book what surprised you most about how Nancy handled Reagan’s death?

With grace, terrible grieving, but the knowledge that he was no longer in pain. She was with him at the very end, as his breathing shallowed, his pulse grew fainter, his eyes suddenly opened wide. They’d been closed for three weeks. He opened them and they were clear and blue and sharp, not hazy. He looked right at her, with recognition. And he then passed away. Weeping, Mrs. Reagan said, “That’s the greatest gift you could have given me.”

She was stoic and strong the entire week of the funeral, only crying in public at the end, at the graveside in Simi [Valley] as the commander of the USS Reagan, Adm. James Symonds, handed her the flag which had been placed over his coffin and whispered the words so many other widows of fallen heroes had heard, “Mrs. Reagan, on behalf of a grateful nation…”

There has been a lengthy reevaluation of Nancy Reagan. Excoriated by much of the media in Sacramento and in Washington, she won over her former critics with how bravely she handled her husband’s long death struggle with Alzheimer’s. Revisionist historians, some of them feminists, have in recent years lauded Nancy for having a moderating influence on the Reagan presidency, too, in areas ranging from dealing with the AIDS crisis to Soviet relations. Is there a consensus forming among presidency scholars about her tenure as first lady?

Not yet. Some are foolishly saying she somehow won the Cold War. She had a deft hand, but confined it mostly to politics and personnel, not policy. She had a simple rule. You were there to help Ronnie and if you weren’t, changes had to be made.

How about Reagan himself? In the light of the records of his successors, have the academics who so relentlessly criticized Reagan relented in their judgments?

Some have, but many haven’t. And some have become harsher and more biased. I’ve noticed an uptick in the past several years of inaccurate stories and columns about the Reagans. We push back when we can, but it takes a lot of time. What’s that old adage: “A lie can make its way around the world while the truth is still putting its boots on”? Still, as Shakespeare said, the truth will come to light. And the truth about Ronald and Nancy Reagan is coming to light.

Why did you decide to write this book?

Because we can no longer trust liberals and hacks to record history accurately. Can you imagine Bill O’Reilly or Evan Thomas or Kitty Kelley writing this book? We can’t trust the books editors at the Weekly Standard or The Washington Post to determine what is important and what is not important.

It’s your third Reagan book; what was the biggest surprise?

How kind many liberals were and how harsh some conservatives were. Ralph Reed was especially hard on the Reagan legacy. But some liberals, such as Harry Reid, were very kind. Many people turned out in Simi Valley, along California Highway 101, in Washington— hundreds of thousands of people viewed the bier and wept. Even Mikhail Gorbachev cried!

How will you remember Nancy Reagan?

With great fondness. She took a real interest in my books. From the beginning, she told the Reagan Library to open up sealed files and boxes for me to go through exclusively, even though they had not yet been catalogued. I would send her flowers for her birthday and she’d write me a note. I’d speak at the library and she’d send me a note. I’d send her books and she’d send me a note.

My wife, Zorine, and I saw her at the 10th anniversary of Reagan’s passing. Lou and I had participated in a panel with several other Reagan scholars and then there was a wreath-laying at Reagan’s tomb. Afterwards, Zorine and I were invited to see Mrs. Reagan off. She was in a wheelchair, but the eyes were blue and bright, there was a joy in her smile and when I bent down to wish her well, she patted my hand and said, “Thank you for all you are doing for Ronnie’s legacy.” Then she was wheeled onto the elevator and was gone. I think Zorine and I choked up a bit.

The Reagans’ friend Jimmy Stewart once ruminated that if Ronald Reagan had met Nancy Davis before he married Jane Wyman, Reagan never would have gone into politics. “She would have seen to it that he got all the best parts,” he said, “won three or four Oscars and been a real star.” It’s a nice line, but I wonder if Stewart was kidding on the square.

Oh, I don’t know. The arc of his career generally went up after he met her. After Hollywood, there was the General Electric speaking tour, his columns and radio broadcasts, the California governorship and the presidency. Now, he is beloved and historians regard him as one of America’s greatest presidents. I doubt he would have reached such heights without her. One thing is for sure: Reagan himself believed he never would have done all that he did without Nancy.

Carl M. Cannon is the Washington Bureau Chief for RealClearPolitics. Reach him on Twitter @CarlCannon.