Some things never change. I was recently interviewed by a reporter asking questions about Governor Perry, and the line of questioning inferred that Perry is too conservative to win in the general election. There were also questions about the “Republican Establishment” opposing Perry and arguing that Mitt Romney is much more electable and more moderate.
These questions all bring back memories of the late 1970s when exactly the same arguments were leveled against Ronald Reagan, then governor of California. The Republican Establishment opposed him as well and said he was too conservative to win a general election for president.
In fact, I remember watching John Chancellor of NBC at the Republican National Convention in 1980 as he said that Republicans could not win the election that year because Reagan was too far out of the mainstream of politics. Of course, Reagan went on to win in a landslide victory over incumbent Democratic President Jimmy Carter.
Today’s discussion seems very much like we’ve been here before. Reagan was pilloried for being too conservative in part because of his opposition to abortion, a stance that the moderate establishment believed was extreme. Jimmy Carter was a supporter of abortion and presided over the worst economy in the US until today.
Today pundits and consultants say that Perry is too conservative to win the presidency. The Republican Establishment opposes him and continues to make the case that Romney is the one who is electable. There are those who seek to undermine the influence of conservatives and who argue that social issues are divisive and a detriment to the election of Republicans and should be avoided. These same things were happening in the Republican Party in the 1980s.
As this election plays out, it will be interesting to see if history repeats itself in the Republican nomination process. I do know that it is not unusual for people to underestimate Rick Perry. In fact, it was only two years ago that the conventional wisdom was that Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison would defeat Perry in the Republican primary for governor because Perry was too conservative. That didn’t work out too well for her.
Having said all of that, I have heard that Jimmy Carter has said he would be very pleased to see Romney win the nomination. I wonder if that will help Romney…