10-28-15 – A quick history of Republican successes and failures

by Rob Roper

As the Republicans gear up for their debate tonight, many national pundits are wondering when the party will come to its senses and get behind a moderate, establishment candidate who can win. Well, here’s a brief look at the history of Republican successes and failures over my near-half-century of lifetime….

After Nixon resigned the presidency, the party had a choice between the “radical” outsider conservative, Reagan, and the moderate, establishment candidate, Ford, in 1976. They picked Ford, and he lost to a largely unknown Georgia peanut farmer who went on to become the second worst president in modern history.

In the next cycle, the Republicans went with the radical right-winger, running on a platform of dramatic tax rate cuts, deregulation, and restoring the strength and prestige of our military. Reagan won 44 states, crushing incumbent Jimmy Carter. Four years later, the conservative Reagan ran again, on a conservative record, this time winning 49 states.

In 1988, George H. W. Bush ran essentially on the promise of bringing a Reagan “third term,” famously pledging “No new taxes.” He won 40 states. However, in 1992, after having reneged on his no new taxes pledge and pushing his own “kinder, gentler nation” theme, Bush lost 32 states to an obscure Arkansas governor with a somewhat checkered past.

Two years later, Republicans got their mojo back with the Contract with America. The “Republican Revolution” was led by the firebrand conservative Newt Gingrich. With bold promises to do things like balance the budget and reform the welfare state, Republicans won sweeping victories across the country, regaining a majority in the House for the first time in time in over forty years.

Unfortunately, when it came time to choose a president in 1996, the nod went not to a Republican Revolutionary, but to the moderate, establishment figure, Bob Dole. Dole got shellacked 379-159 electoral votes.

In 2000, George W. Bush ran as a Texas conservative, promising Reagan-like to cut taxes, but tempering this image with rhetoric similar to his dad’s about being a “compassionate conservative.” He won – but by the skin of his teeth. Over the next four years he followed a similarly mixed ideological path, passing two tax relief bills, but also the big-government programs of No Child Left Behind and Medicare Part D. Bush won 31 states, but his policies also helped to set up two years later in 2006 a Democratic wave in with Republicans lost control of the House, Senate and a majority of governorships.

In 2008, the Republicans put the moderate, establishment, John McCain, up against a community organizer with just two years experience in the Senate, Barack Obama. McCain not only embarrassed himself, his lack of coattails (not helped by Bush’s support of the big government stimulus and bank bailout policies) led to more Republican losses in the house and senate. (Note, the only time McCain ever inched ahead of Obama in the polls was right after he nominated conservative Sarah Palin as his vice presidential nominee.

In 2012, with Obama’s popularity reeling and Republicans coming off of sweeping mid-term congressional victories in 2010 due to the rise of the unapologetically conservative, small government TEA Party movement, the moderate establishment succeeded in getting Mitt Romney the nomination for president…. Are we detecting the pattern here yet? The moderate lost a race virtually nobody could lose.

Here we are again four years later. Patrick Henry said, “I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience.” I have experienced Ford, Bush I, Dole, McCain and Romney. And I have experienced Reagan, the Gingrich Revolution, and the TEA Party waves. Which were more fun?

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