Craig Shirley: Why Reagan Lost Iowa & Won NH

Matt Lewis
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Posted: Jan 03, 2008 11:18 AM

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I asked Craig Shirley, author of the terrific book about the 1976 primary, Reagan's Revolution -- and also the author of the upcoming new book about the 1980 campaign, Rendezvoius with Destiny -- to share some insight into why Ronald Reagan lost Iowa and won New Hampshire.

Here are his thoughts:

Whoever comes in second, especially on the Republican side, needs to remember that Ronald Reagan lost Iowa to Gerald Ford in 1976 and again to George Bush in 1980 because he relied too heavily on his advisors. After losing to Bush, Reagan, who had traveled the length and breadth of America for forty years speaking to and meeting with thousands upon thousands of his fellow citizens, decided to stop listening to his consultants, whose view of America rarely extended beyond a saloon in Washington, and to instead listen to himself and follow his own instincts.

Defying those consultants, he went to New Hampshire and essentially stayed there, campaigning high and low, day and night, and beat Bush decisively through the sheer force of his own will. No one is saying that candidates don’t need these political minions but too often, they think it is about themselves instead of the candidates.

All the candidates need to remember that these exercises are not about the pollster pimps, the self-promoters and the focus group frauds but about themselves, their ideas and their ability to convey those ideas to the America people.