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GOP Hopes The Donald Can Become The Ronald

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Donald Trump’s ardent followers yearn for their unconventional candidate to “pull a Reagan” — by staying close enough to the front-running Democrat to ride a strong performance in a climactic debate to a shocking landslide victory. Similarities to the pivotal Carter-Reagan contest of 1980 make such an outcome possible. But dramatic contrasts between the Reagan and Trump candidacies make this result supremely improbable.

In terms of the resemblance between The Donald and The Ronald, both qualified as “citizen candidates” and political outsiders who promised a major shake-up, if not outright demolition, of a brittle, discredited Washington establishment. They both achieved world-wide fame outside of politics (in Hollywood for Reagan, on reality TV for Trump) leading skeptical commentators dismissed both of them as celebrity air-heads who knew nothing about policy. In both races, one-time Republican office-holders ran strong third-party campaigns (former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson this year and Illinois Congressman John Anderson in 1980) and, ironically, took more votes from the Democratic nominee than from the Republican insurgent. In fact, Anderson’s 7% of the popular vote (about the same percentage that Johnson polls now) meant that Reagan’s bare majority (51%) delivered a crushing electoral college blowout with 44 states and 489 electoral votes…

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