lunes, 30 de enero de 2012

¿Newt '12 = Reagan '76?

Walter Shapiro, desde la experiencia de quien ha cubierto como periodista nueve campañas presidenciales, ve paralelismos entre la campaña de Gingrich y la de Reagan, pero no la del 80, sino la del 76:
Obviously, Gingrich is no Reagan even if Callista is channeling her Inner Nancy. But there are surprising affinities between Newt’s political situation today and the 65-year-old Reagan’s outsider status during his 1976 challenge to Jerry Ford. Declaring his candidacy in November 1975 at the National Press Club in Washington, the former two-term California governor declared in words that have a contemporary ring, “Our nation’s capital has become the seat of a buddy system that functions for its own benefit—increasingly insensitive to the needs of the American worker who supports it in taxes.”

But after losing the New Hampshire primary to Ford by 1,317 votes (in an echo of this year’s Iowa caucuses, the tally was later disputed), Reagan was on the ropes as he (another echo) trailed in the polls leading up to the Florida primary. As Jules Witcover recounts in Marathon, his chronicle of the 1976 campaign, Ford told reporters aboard Air Force One, “Florida is really the key. If we win and win very well in Florida, they ought to know that they can’t win.” Not only did Reagan lose Florida, but he also was walloped by 19 percentage points in Illinois, the state of his birth. After Illinois, according to Witcover, Reagan aides discussed among themselves (without consulting the candidate) whether “to make contact with the Ford people and let them know that Reagan was ready to withdraw gracefully.”

But Reagan, with his campaign $2-million in debt and his plane about to be grounded because of non-payment of bills, found his issue (the Panama Canal), as he pulled off a stunning upset in the North Carolina primary. That victory and follow-up wins in other southern primaries fueled Reagan as he carried his fight against Ford and the GOP establishment to the floor of the Kansas City convention. Something tells me that Gingrich remembered that Reagan story line as he boldly declared during a Saturday press conference that—regardless of the Florida outcome—“I will go all the way to the convention.”

None of this guarantees that political history will repeat itself as either tragedy or farce. But again and again, the largely youthful campaign press corps has sold Gingrich short. Maybe Florida is indeed the end of the line for Gingrich’s frail hopes to be the GOP nominee. But all it takes for Gingrich to prove that he is not yesterday’s man is a GOP primary electorate that remembers yesterday—and the day before.

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