In my post, Bill Clinton’s Advice to Barack Obama, I said that “the Republicans pretty much use the same strategy in every election: call their opponent a liberal, say the Democrat will raise taxes, bring up some scandals, and repeat all this over and over, such that it becomes a catch-phrase.”
We can think of Republican candidates who have done this: both Bushes, Bob Dole, and now John McCain. But Reagan didn’t do that as much. Sure, he said the Democrats would raise taxes, but they pretty much agreed with that charge. (Mondale practically admitted it at the 1984 Democratic Convention.) But there was also a strong positive component in Reagan’s campaign, as he talked about hope, change, and America.
But Reagan was not just cliche and rhetoric. In fact, he did many of the things that Bill Clinton is advising Barack Obama to do: tell the people specifically what he can do for them, make his policy proposals a catch-phrase, laugh off his opponents’ accusations, and reach out to the other side. People could tell you what Reagan’s general policy of change was: roll back taxes and the size of government, and build up America’s military. He could totally invalidate his opponents’ attacks with a joke. And he managed to get votes from people who weren’t typically Republican. There were unionists who liked him. States that are now solidly blue went for him–in 1980 and 1984. And there’s a whole category of people called “Reagan Democrats.”
Bill Clinton’s not been called the new Ronald Reagan for nothing!