[Posted by Karl]
I probably should be finding some hot-button topic to blog, but my attention keeps drifting to what Erick Erickson calls his “Matt Lewis inspired ‘get off my lawn’ screed” about young pundits having no sense of history. RTWT for some skewering of Juicebox Mafioso Matt Yglesias and others. However, I would not limit the point to young pundits. Older pundits and journos tend to have their own historical gaps and convenient memories, especially when it furthers their storylines (likely for reasons both ideological and dramatic). Indeed, this — and the similar tendency to discount the economic fundamentals, campaign organization, campaign rules and calendars, etc., for similar reasons — is one of my motivations to blog in the first instance.
So I want to nitpick a later part of Erickson’s piece:
A few weeks ago I talked to a young conservative pundit who will go nameless (no offense for bringing this back up) who mouthed off the standard pablum that Ronald Reagain in 1980 was a shoo-in, everyone knew he would be the nominee, and it was nothing like this year’s primary. He did not know that there was an effort to get Gerald Ford to run in 1980. He did not know that Republican leaders in Washington pushed George H. W. Bush aggressively as a way to stop Reagan. He did not even know that John Anderson had been a Republican before bolting to run as an independent.
Mostly true, but not entirely accurate. It is true that some in the GOP apparat urged Ford to run in 1980 — but after he declined, Reagan was the consensus choice of Republican voters. Reagan collected almost 60% of the votes leading to his nomination. He narrowly lost Iowa because he did not campaign there. He then lost Puerto Rico, which people cared about then about as much as they care about it now. In New Hampshire, Reagan collected as many votes as his six rivals combined. On March 10, 1980, TIME would report (in language familiar and yet Bizarro to anyone watching recent campaigns):
There is always a chance that the many Republicans who consider Reagan too conservative and simply too old to win the presidency will coalesce behind an alternative candidate. That could be Bush, Senate minority Leader Howard Baker, 54, or even ex-President Gerald Ford, 66, who appears sorely tempted to enter the race in an attempt to head off Reagan, his old nemesis from 1976. [Wishful thinking from the Left hasn’t changed much, has it? -K]
But Reagan at least deflated the balloon of Bush, his highest-flying early challenger…
Indeed he did. Bush would go on to win in Massachusetts (narrowly), Connecticut (a Bush home), Pennsylvania, DC, Michigan and Maine (another Bush home). The combined NotRomney vote — assuming it all went against Reagan — would have added only Vermont, Wisconsin, and Maryland. Most of Reagan’s wins were in that overwhelming New Hampshire fashion. In 1980, despite the liberal distaste for Reagan in both parties, he was indeed a shoo-in for the nomination.
To his credit, Erickson acknowledges he is guilty as any pundit when it comes to making mistakes. But he ought to work extra-hard to avoid them when delivering the “get off my lawn” message.