RONALD REAGAN REDUX

October 14, 2011

Alright, I confess. I have all but endorsed Herman Cain for the GOP nomination. I still don't care which of the nine candidates wins the nomination, he (or she) will get my vote, without any thought, over Barack Obama.

That said, Herman Cain -- in my book -- has arisen to the occasion. You see, Mitt Romney is about as far to the left of any other the other eight contestants in the race and that is too far to the left for any conservative mantra.

Speaking of conservatives, the most recent Rasmussen poll says that 93 percent of likely voters who identify themselves as "conservative" line up behind anyone other than Romney. So that pretty much says that Romney is the center-right candidate (traditional Republican) while all the others are further to the right. This also means that in the mind of conservative voters Mitt Romney is no Ronald Reagan.

This also accounts for why Romney has held steady with 23 to 24 percent in the polls since, at least December of 2008.

There was bad news that greeted Romney on Thursday. The headline at the top of page one in the Wall Street Journal shouted what Mitt Romney didn't want to hear: “Cain Vaults to Lead in Poll.” Once again, Yogi got it right: It ain’t over til it’s over.

Twenty-seven percent of GOP primary voters picked Herman Cain as their first choice for the Republican nomination while Mitt Romney held firm at 23 percent, according to the NBC News/Wall Street Journal Poll.

We should have seen this coming.

Conservatives never took a liking to Mitt Romney. Rush Limbaugh says he’s not a “principled conservative.” A caller on his show said that Romney was “the white Obama.” Another was hoping Sarah Palin would re-consider and run against President Obama. Never mind all those polls that polls showed most Republicans didn’t want her to run. This kind of thing means nothing to the most passionate conservatives who won’t be happy until Ronald Reagan rises from the dead and hits the campaign trail. Anything is possible, but I’m guessing it’s not going to happen.

That’s where Herman Cain comes in. He’s no Reagan but to conservatives he comes a lot closer than anybody else, especially Mitt Romney.

Rush and his callers are right about one thing: Romney isn’t a principled conservative. In fact, you could make the case that he’s not a principled politician at all. He was pro-choice. Now he’s pro-life. He was for gay rights. Now he defends marriage between a man and a woman as “critical for the well-being of civilization.” He was for gun control. Now he’s a member of the National Rifle Association.

Yes, running in liberal Massachusetts is one thing; running in Republican primaries for president is something else altogether.

And the other night at the debate, Newt Gingrich asked Romney why his capital gains tax cuts only benefit Americans whose incomes are below $200,000. Romney replied that the “rich can take care of themselves,” and that he’s concerned about “the middle class.” Barack Obama couldn’t have said it any better.

Conservatives bristle when they hear liberal journalists say there’s a civil war raging in the Republican Party. But there is, or at least there’s a great big schism between the “realists” and the “purists.” 

The realists say Romney is the only Republican who can beat Obama because he’s the one who can win the crucial independent vote.

The purists say McCain was a moderate, like Romney, and how did that turn out. Besides – and this is their go-to point – Reagan, a real conservative who never apologized for his conservatism, carried 49 states in one election, and that includes a lot of really, really blue states where liberals almost always win. There’s the proof, they say, that a real conservative can win. So why settle for Romney?

It’s a fair question, but what Rush and the other purists don’t get is that Ronald Reagan didn’t win simply because he was a real conservative. He won because he was Ronald Reagan. His personality, as much as his politics, won over blue collar Democrats and other lower-income voters who normally don’t vote for Republicans. And there’s no Ronald Reagan out there today. Not Palin. Not Bachmann. Not Perry. Not Santorum. But Herman Cain, the plain speaking guy who, in his words. was "po before he was poor,  grew up and made something of himself because he believes in personal responsibility? Maybe.

Here’s a question for my purist friends: Name a second conservative American president in the last 80 years? You can’t. Reagan’s the only one. 

If conservatives were so popular with the general electorate you’d think they’d have won a few more elections. Sure, all the Republican presidents since FDR were more conservative than their Democratic opponents, but that doesn’t make Eisenhower, Nixon, Bush the Elder or Bush the Younger real conservatives. And if the GOP had nominated more conservative candidates than the ones they did, the Democrat might very well have won.

The fat lady hasn’t sung yet. And that fat guy from New Jersey’s endorsement of Romney before the debate the other night may not put him over the top. Not a single real vote has been cast. But if Ronald Reagan pops into the minds of voters every time Herman Cain speaks Romney may get smoked.

He is already starting to remind me of the Gipper. Time will soon tell.


We believe that the Constitution of the United States speaks for itself. There is no need to rewrite, change or reinterpret it to suit the fancies of special interest groups or protected classes.