In 1976, Ronald Reagan lost the Republican presidential nomination to incumbent Gerald Ford. Yet his message during the primary campaign had so inspired the party’s conservative base that he was allowed to address the Republican National Convention anyway. And as he addressed that convention, speaking of the Democrat-led attack on personal rights and economic liberty, many of those who listened could not help but think they were hearing the man who would be the GOP’s presidential candidate in 1980.
On November 2, 2008, Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and presidential candidate John McCain lost the national election to Barack Obama and Joe Biden. Yet throughout the campaign, Palin’s words, rather than McCain’s, jolted the conservative base of the Republican Party from its slumber. From her speech at the Republican National Convention on September 3, 2008, to the “common sense” solutions she’s prescribing for America’s ills while on her book tour, many of the people listening to Palin think they’re hearing the woman who will be a presidential candidate in 2012.
Reagan had been a Hollywood actor in Westerns before entering politics, and the media never allowed him to escape the stigma of being a “dumb cowboy.” To them he was B actor who became a C president in 1980, pushing a domestic agenda based on shrinking the size of government and a foreign policy that supposedly made America the laughingstock of the world. (Remember how pundits gasped when Reagan called the Soviet Union an “evil empire,” and again when he called “Communism a form of insanity”?)
But a funny thing happened on the way to Reagan’s bid for re-election. To the media’s chagrin, it became obvious that the “dumb cowboy” was deeply beloved by the citizens of this nation. He beat Walter Mondale in the greatest landslide victory in American history by taking every state but one on election night.