Political Animal


May 07, 2011 9:55 AM Huckabee: Reagan couldn’t have won GOP nomination

By Steve Benen

About a year ago, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) actually said something insightful when he noted that Ronald Reagan “would have a hard time getting elected as a Republican today.”

This week on Fox News, Mike Huckabee told host Bill Hemmer the same thing.

HUCKABEE: Ronald Reagan would have a very difficult, if not impossible, time being nominated in this atmosphere of the Republican Party.

HEMMER: How come?

HUCKABEE: Because he raises taxes as governor, he made deals with Democrats, he compromised on things in order to move the ball down the field. As president, he gave amnesty to 7 million illegal immigrants. There were many things that would have been anathema.

Some of this is self-serving — Huckabee raised taxes as governor and struck deals with Democrats, too — but I’m glad he made the comments anyway.

As governor, Reagan increased spending, raised taxes, helped create the nation’s first state-based emissions standards, signed an abortion-rights bill, supported unions, and expanded the nation’s largest state-based Medicaid program (socialized medicine).

Reagan “would have a very difficult” time getting nominated as a Republican today”? Reagan would have a hard time not getting laughed off the Republican stage today.

I’ll leave it to GOP officials and activists to ponder what that says about the state of the Republican Party in 2011.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • ManOutOfTime on May 07, 2011 10:15 AM:

    New website is spectacular! Kudos. Took me a minute to make sure I was really at Political Animal.

    Anyway, what? Huckabee. Right. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

  • c u n d gulag on May 07, 2011 10:22 AM:

    Reagan might be a bit too far left for a lot of todays Democrats!

    All hail our last great Liberal President:
    Richard M. Nixon!!! *

    *Seriously - look it up!


  • doyles on May 07, 2011 10:24 AM:

    The state of the Republican party is alternately hilarious and depressing but the real tragedy is that it is the American voter who continue to put them in positions of power.

  • hell's littlest angel on May 07, 2011 10:27 AM:

    Huckabee fails to note that he himself would be one of Reagan's harshest critics. Not that he'd necessarily be sincere, but he'd do it to ingratiate himself with the base\fringe.

  • Daddy Love on May 07, 2011 10:36 AM:

    In all fairness, if Reagan were a Republican politician today, he would never have done any of those things.

  • KadeKo on May 07, 2011 10:52 AM:

    Don't forget that Saint Ronnie talked the talk about the working class. Dogwhistles were apeal everywhere of course (working poor v. welfare queen springs to mind), but a quarter century later, you can't find a Republican who, when pressed, won't fall back on "If your poor, it's your own damn fault. The rich need more so you can have a job".

    The reverse is much easier now: FreedomWorks (sic) will never run out of money trying to sucker the Joes The Plumbers.

  • Anonymous on May 07, 2011 11:00 AM:

    Get rid of the captcha.

  • TD on May 07, 2011 11:02 AM:

    Huckabee, along with any other Republican suddenly uncomfortable with the rhetoric of last 2+ years, needs to soak their head.

    This is the base that Republican *elites* created; that they are suddenly afraid to be seen in public with them only speaks to their previous irresponsibility.

    There are consequences to telling people the President is a secret Muslim; there are consequences to telling people that the ACA is Stalinist; there are consequences to telling people that we need to abolish the Fed, buy crisis garden seed sets, and return to the gold standard; and the consequences were very, very predictable.

    Huckabee and the rest will have to live with it.

  • pluege on May 07, 2011 11:04 AM:

    progressives shouldn't smirk too much, reagan would have been WAY LEFT of obama.

  • Johnny Canuck on May 07, 2011 11:28 AM:

    I know Obama leads the party of Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower. Is he now taking over the party of Reagan?

  • Winkandanod on May 07, 2011 11:50 AM:

    Raygun would be a Blue Dog Democrat.

  • Jose Padilla on May 07, 2011 12:05 PM:

    Reagan when governor also signed what was then the most liberal abortion law in the country.

  • Mark-NC on May 07, 2011 12:17 PM:

    @hell's littlest angel on May 07, 2011 10:27 AM:

    Huckabee fails to note that he himself would be one of Reagan's harshest critics. Not that he'd necessarily be sincere, but he'd do it to ingratiate himself with the base\fringe.


  • Old Uncle Dave on May 07, 2011 12:32 PM:

    Today's Republicans would call Goldwater a leftist. They have moved so far out on the right wing they're about to completely fall off the bird.

  • The Ancient Randonneur on May 07, 2011 12:52 PM:

    The DC media allows them to get away it because--as Jay Rosen noted back in 2007--it allows the DC media to admire the "savviness" of the GOP and cast condescending glances at the "nitpicking" of the liberals and Democrats.

    It's Karl Rove world, we're just living in it.

  • john f on May 07, 2011 5:19 PM:

    Also, I might add , he signed into law the Mulford Act which prohibited the open carry of loaded firearms, something the Tea Party and the open carry movement have been protesting the last few years. The Black Panthers in 1967 marched on the California state capitol to protest the bill when it was signed.

  • PQuincy on May 07, 2011 5:33 PM:

    One more website comment: why does Washington Monthly have global problems with left margins (as in, absence of same). Text on the old site except the Political Animal blog was always scrunched up against the left edge of the window, making it hard to read. Now, Political Animal is that way too :-(

  • mfw13 on May 07, 2011 10:41 PM:

    I think saying that Reagan couldn't get elected in today's GOP is an oversimplification. In a head-to-head contest with a single candidate who is more conservative than he is, probably not. But against a splinted field such is likely to exist in the 2012 primaries, he'd still stand a good chance.

    Because most of the Republican primaries are winner-take-all, not proportional, winning states, especially the big ones, becomes supremely important. If Romney (the candidate closest to Reagan politically) is smart, he'll let everyone else fight over the Tea Party votes, and instead focus on winning relatively moderate states with a lot of delegates, such as California (170), New York (98), New Jersey (52), Illinois (67), Michgigan (60), Pennsylvania (71), Ohio (85), Florida (114), Washington (37), Oregon (30), Massachusetts (40), Maryland (37), etc.

    If he wins just these twelve states, and no others, he'd have roughly 70% of the delegates needed to win the nomination, and almost certainly be the front-runner heading into what would would likely be a brokered convention without winning a single state south of the Ohio River, west of the Appalachias, or east of the Sierras.

  • dsimon on May 07, 2011 11:16 PM:

    Let's not forget that Reagan was for the elimination of nuclear weapons too, a position now excoriated by most Republicans. And he negotiated with terrorists (Iran) and talked with our biggest enemy (USSR) without preconditions.

    Oh yeah, and he "cut and ran" when attacked in Lebanon.

    No way would he survive today's Republican party.

  • Rip on May 08, 2011 4:30 AM:

    Reagan could get nominated today. With the Republicans it's not what you said or did before, or the positions you held just a few short years ago, it's what you say now, and how well you obfuscate about your past, something Reagan had no problem with.

  • HMDK on May 08, 2011 9:26 AM:

    "Iíll leave it to GOP officials and activists to ponder what that says about the state of the Republican Party in 2011."

    And I'll leave it to you to realize what this has done to the Democrats, chasing the Republicans further and further right. If someone as ultra-right-wing as Reagan couldn't be elected now, where does that put Obama since he WAS elected?
    Maybe a lot of people should stop pretending that the Democrats are leftists and even that the Republicans are Rightists.
    There's insane psycho-rightwing, the Republicans, and somewhat stable if greedy, weak and pro-biz Democrats.

  • Anonymous on May 08, 2011 7:31 PM:

    @c u n d gulag,
    Why do you perpetuate lies? I don't have to look it up; I lived under Nixon. No where was he more Liberal than Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and, especially, Baraka Obama. I am so sick of so called progressives who have joined the right wingers in re-writing history!