As James Hohmann writes for Politico, any comparisons between Republican Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign and the successful 1980 presidential campaign of Ronald Reagan may appear to be apt superficially, but might not stand up under closer scrutiny.
A handsome former governor faced a vulnerable incumbent, a weak economy and a crisis in the Middle East.
The description is of the 1980 presidential race between President Jimmy Carter and challenger Ronald Reagan. And it’s become the Mitt Romney campaign’s go-to analogy as he struggles in the polls in the final stretch of the campaign, insisting to donors and strategists that the election is still winnable in the final weeks.
But 2012 is not 1980, when Carter lost to Reagan in a landslide.
The 32-year-old comparison just doesn’t hold up well under scrutiny: the electoral map for Reagan was friendlier, the 1980 economy feebler, the incumbent more vulnerable, the crisis overseas worse and Reagan’s campaign skills were simply better.
Or as Reagan biographer Craig Shirly summed things up, “You have to look at it like a French impressionist painting. “If you stand way back, you say, ‘There are maybe some similarities between 1980 and 2012.’ But the closer you get to the painting the more it separates.”
While I’m certainly no fan of Ronald Reagan, he was most certainly a skilled campaigner, and Mitt Romney most certainly isn’t.