Tag Archives: republicans

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.

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.

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.

How Nancy Reagan helped save her husband’s career in NC

Charlotte Observer

MARCH 8, 2016 6:59 PM


The late Nancy Reagan played a lot of roles during her 94 years: Hollywood actress, first lady, presidential confidante.

But it was her small role in North Carolina political history that had major consequences for her husband, and later for the nation.

Reagan, who died Sunday, will be buried Friday alongside the former president at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif.

Her footnote to N.C. history came 40 years ago this month.

It was in 1976, the last time North Carolina held a March presidential primary. That contest, like this year’s, featured a populist outsider against an establishment candidate backed by Washington and by most political insiders.

President Gerald Ford, who’d assumed office two years earlier after the resignation of Richard Nixon, was fighting for the Republican nomination.

He faced a strong challenge from Ronald Reagan, the former California governor backed by the party’s conservative wing.

With the advantage of incumbency, Ford had defeated Reagan in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary and gone on to win the next four primaries.

Reagan’s campaign was on the ropes. According to “Reagan’s Revolution,” Craig Shirley’s account of the 1976 campaign, Ford started March with $1 million in the bank. Reagan had a six-figure debt. His campaign was laying off staff. Aides were talking about a graceful exit.

Ford’s allies tried to pressure Reagan into withdrawing. N.C. Gov. Jim Holshouser, a Republican, went on TV and read a letter from fellow governors calling on Reagan to quit.

Reagan wanted none of that. Neither did U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms and Tom Ellis, a Helms operative and founder of the National Congressional Club, a conservative political machine.

“The people in the White House seem to think I should be withdrawing,” Reagan told a crowd of supporters at Raleigh’s airport. When people shouted “No” and “Stay in,” Reagan said, “You took the words right out of my mouth.”

Ellis, who feuded with Reagan’s advisers on issues and tactics, took over the Californian’s campaign in the state and sought to mount an aggressive media campaign.

Believing Reagan was his own best salesman, he badly wanted a video of a 30-minute speech the former governor had made in Miami. If N.C. voters could hear the candidate himself, Ellis thought, they’d pull the lever for him.

But back in the days before email and streaming, Reagan’s advisers balked. They thought nobody would watch a 30-minute video. Ellis disagreed.

So Helms intervened. He called Nancy Reagan. A copy of the 30-minute speech soon arrived.

Ellis watched it at a Raleigh TV studio with two colleagues, including Carter Wrenn. The campaign raised the money to air it on TV stations across the state.

“The Reagan national campaign said 30 minutes (of air time) was a waste of money,” Wrenn recalls. “Ellis stuck to his guns. And at the end of the day we raised the money to air it.”

Helms was a vocal advocate for Reagan. He touted his status as an anti-Washington outsider, just like a Democratic governor that year, Jimmy Carter. Ellis mounted an aggressive ground game. But he always considered Reagan’s 30-minute speech instrumental in winning support.

Reagan himself spent the entire week before the primary campaigning in North Carolina, often with friends like actor Jimmy Stewart. He hit Ford on foreign policy issues such as a budding detente with the Soviet Union and threats of relinquishing control of the Panama Canal.

On March 23, Reagan beat Ford 53 percent to 47 percent. That was enough to jump start his campaign and take it all the way to that summer’s convention in Kansas City.

“Had Reagan lost North Carolina … his revolutionary challenge to Ford, along with his political career, would have ended unceremoniously,” Shirley wrote. “He would have made a graceful exit speech … and faded into oblivion.”

This month The Jesse Helms Center in Wingate is marking the 40th anniversary of the primary. On March 23, it will release newly found video as well as excerpts from the 30-minute speech.

The speech that might not have been seen in North Carolina had it not been for Nancy Reagan.

Nancy Reagan: The Portrait of a First Lady

Conservative Review

By: Craig Shirley | March 07, 2016

During the 1980 campaign, Washington Star columnist Judy Bacharach tore into Nancy Reagan for, among other things, handing out chocolates to the traveling press.

The next day Nancy appeared again on the plane, handing out chocolates, only this time with a sign around her neck with read, “Take One! Or Else!” That was Nancy Reagan. A sharp sense of humor and a sharper sense of irony.

She was always a fighter, especially where her husband was concerned. She usually concerned herself to the East Wing and her various charitable works but sometimes, when she felt someone wasn’t doing their best for Ronnie, she spoke up.

For example in 1980, Nancy had liked campaign manager John Sears, who’d run Reagan’s near miss campaign in 1976. Four years later, however, she believed Sears had changed and was no longer an asset to her husband’s faltering efforts. She played a discrete but influential role in Sears’s ouster.

Seven years later, she again exerted her rare but powerful authority by helping to have fired Don Reagan, her husband’s Chief of Staff, who again was hurting and not helping her husband.

But Nancy’s greatest role was out of the spotlight, away from the crowds, in the tender care and love she gave to Reagan as he slipped into the long goodnight of Alzheimer’s. While he took it in stride, Nancy Reagan took it upon herself.

She also concerned herself with his legacy and much of what we understand and celebrate about Ronald Reagan is because of Nancy Reagan. From the Library to the presidential debates to books, authors, lectures, courses and his 100th birthday, each bears the light but firm touch of Nancy Reagan.

Nancy Reagan is already a part of history, not only for what she did, but for who she was and for who she helped. She understood the role of a supportive spouse and helpful First Lady was to ensure the President was good and healthy. If the President is strong and healthy, then the nation is likewise.

Nancy Reagan will be known for what she did and who she was, but she will also be known for what she wasn’t and what she did not do. She did not attend Cabinet meetings, she did not involve herself in national policy but she was very good at being Mrs. Ronald Reagan. In this role and the responsibilities that came with it, she was truly an Academy Award winning star.

Nancy Davis Reagan, RIP.