Where did the super-majority of votes gathered by Ronald Reagan in his presidential campaigns go in 2008? Can they be reclaimed by future Republican candidates?
Reagan's 1980 and 1984 victories were based on a coalition of three different groups. He attracted the fiscal-integrity/limited-government conservatives who had not given up since Barry Goldwater's campaign, the social conservatives who newly came into the political process to be active against the Equal Rights Amendment and abortion, and the Reagan Democrats (mostly blue-collar, Catholic and-or Irish) who sought a change from the stagflation of the Jimmy Carter years.
In 2008, the first two groups shrank because of lessened enthusiasm for the Republican candidate. Sarah Palin brought new life to the party, but it wasn't enough.
The Reagan Democrats were the biggest loss to Republicans when the No. 1 issue turned out to be the economy and the loss of good jobs. A New York Times headline gleefully proclaimed, "Goodbye Reagan Democrats."
That's why Barack Obama carried Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Indiana. John McCain got 300,000 fewer votes in Ohio than George W. Bush in 2004.
The marriage amendment in Ohio won big in 2004, carrying Bush to victory in what turned out to be the crucial state. In 2008, there was no overriding social issue, so the Reagan Democrats returned to their comfort zone in the Democratic Party.
Neither Democrats nor Republicans offered any good solution to the challenge of a depressed economy, but John McCain was particularly insensitive. In the presidential TV debates before the Michigan primary, he brushed off economic questions by pontificating that manufacturing jobs are gone forever and workers should go to a community college and get retrained.
He repeatedly reminded voters that he is the "biggest free-trader" they'll ever meet, a line that may resonate with a few libertarian think tanks but is a poke in the eye to blue-collar guys whose jobs have gone overseas to Chinese working for 30 cents an hour.
McCain could have called for a level playing field for international trade, such as by changing the discriminatory trade agreements that allow foreign countries to replace their tariffs with a value added tax of a comparable percentage, or by repudiating the World Trade Organization, which has ruled against the United States in 40 out of 47 cases. But he didn't.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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