John and I have both noted Obama’s steadily weakening poll numbers, and the new polls showing Obama essentially tied with Romney or Perry, and leading Ron Paul by only 2 points—Ron Paul!!—should be setting off alarm bells in the White House situation room campaign office. [UPDATE: Rasmussen this afternoon has Obama ahead by only one point over Ron Paul. That calls for three exclamation points!!!] At this point in 1979, even with Jimmy Carter’s dismal poll numbers heading below 30 percent approval, Republican front runner Ronald Reagan still trailed Carter in a hypothetical matchup by a large margin. Just as people then were urging Ted Kennedy to save the Democratic Party from Carter, more and more today you hear liberals muttering “Hillary” under their breath.
Then, as now, the conventional wisdom of the media is that the GOP would surely blow its chance of taking down Carter if it nominated an “extremist” candidate like Reagan. A moderate was the way to go. The media loved John Anderson in 1980, just as they love Jon Huntsman today. Here’s how Time magazine analyzed it in March of 1980:
National opinion polls continue to show Carter leading Reagan by an apparently comfortable margin of about 25%. They also show that more moderate Republicans like Ford would run better against the President. This suggests that Reagan is not the strongest G.O.P. choice for the November election and that he clearly faces an uphill battle. . .
Carter, for all his problems, has the power of incumbency. As President, he can react to challenges by changing the direction of the whole Government, which he has done recently by attempting to balance the budget in the coming fiscal year, a course urged by all Republican candidates. Carter is an undeniably deft—and extremely lucky—politician. He also is a relatively known quantity in the White House, whereas the inexperienced Reagan would require a definite leap of faith by voters supporting him. Says Northwestern University Political Scientist Louis Masotti: “There’s a variation on the old cliché: you don’t change horses’ asses in midstream. You’ve got one, and at least you know its contours.”
I don’t know why Time even bothers paying the new horses’ asses it calls reporters right now, since they can just recycle old copy and merely switch out the names with a computer keystroke. So today we are told that Rick Perry is unacceptable because he says crazy things about climate change and evolution. Hmmm, who does that remind me of? Oh yes, the candidate in 1980 who, when asked about evolution, said: “I think that recent discoveries down through the years pointed [out] great flaws in it.” Reagan also said that he thought “creationist theory” should be taught side-by-side with evolution in schools. OMG!
We weren’t kvetching about climate change in 1980, but there was Reagan’s gamey insistence that trees cause pollution. “I’m not a scientist, and I don’t know the figures,” Reagan said, “but I have a suspicion that one little mountain out there [Mt. St. Helens] in these last several months released more sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere of the world than has been released in the last ten years of auto driving or things of that kind.” Reagan wasn’t even close to being right on this, but who cares really. He was generally right that what the EPA today calls “biogenic emissions” are a significant factor in ground level ozone in some parts of the country, which Reagan noted with his additional comment that “growing and decaying vegetation in this land are responsible for 93 percent of the oxides of nitrogen.”
So Gov. Perry, Michele Bachmann, Sarah Palin (whether she runs or not) and the rest of the field should go right on saying what they think, especially since it annoys the media so much. It doesn’t get any better than this.