Kathryn Lopez

Republicans may need a woman to win the White House -- though nothing as dramatic as enlisting Condoleezza Rice to beat down Hillary Clinton.

Instead, some Grand Old Partygoers are invoking Reagan-era glory by courting former British prime minister and staunch Reagan ally Margaret Thatcher. It's no secret Republicans are searching for the next Ronnie, a point that was reinforced in May, when Nancy invited presidential candidates to debate at The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

Gathering in California at Mrs. Reagan's behest is as close to a photo-op with the late Gipper as candidates are going to get. But if you can't have the man himself, the next best thing is to court one of his closest allies. And across the pond, Lady Thatcher is still taking visits.

Meeting with her can bolster a candidate's stature, showing the American people the candidate is not mired in local political squabbles but is prepared for world-stage events. And having a conservative icon, and strong American supporter make time for you definitely boosts how constituents view your foreign policy.

So there was Fred Thompson, days after all but announcing his run for the presidency, visiting the former prime minister while he was in London for a speech. The two reportedly talked about the special relationship the United States has with the United Kingdom.

And he's not alone in his grab for Brit cred.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney met with Thatcher last fall during her visit to Washington. And, in early March, columnist George Will compared Rudy Giuliani to Thatcher. Here's how Will introduced him to a ballroom of sometimes skeptical conservatives at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference: "Your next speaker's conservatism is the flavor of Margaret Thatcher's, of whom it was said she could not pass a government institution without swatting it with her handbag."

Nile Gardiner, director of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., isn't surprised by Thatcher's presence in the minds and on the travel schedules of the Republican front-runners.

"Giuliani, Romney and Thompson, to their great credit, understand the value of the Anglo-American special relationship and see Thatcher as the embodiment of that," Gardiner says. "In contrast, Clinton and Obama never talk about Britain -- for the Democrats, it's all about winning popularity in 'Europe' (i.e., with the EU, France and Germany). Conservatives understand that Britain is and will remain Washington's most important ally."


Kathryn Lopez

Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor of National Review Online, writes a weekly column of conservative political and social commentary for Newspaper Enterprise Association.