I still say Reagan won’t make it to the nomination, but right now I’m only about 60 percent confident of that outcome, rather than the 99 percent confidence level I had last summer. I remain confident that Reagan would make a terrible nominee and almost surely lose the election to Carter, despite the polls showing him ahead right now. But having been wrong already, it is conceivable that he could brazen it out and indeed upset the media and party establishment and win next November, which does offer some satisfactions.
But I remain 100 percent confident he’d be a terrible president who would devastate the Republican Party in subsequent elections. The times call for someone who understands the crisis of our time in considerable depth. Reagan shows no signs of the depth required. I look forward to the first time President Reagan tries to say “You’re fired!” to a recalcitrant bureaucrat, or to the federal judge who issues an injunction against his emergency gas price deregulation. If he was proposing serious civil service and administrative reform I might think otherwise, but when the best he can say is that having a registry for Communists in America is simply a problem of “good management,” I know he is not serious. The idea that Washington can be fixed by “good management” and better “deal-making” is somewhere below the 8th grade level.
It should be observed, however, that Reagan’s staying power owes to two circumstances that the rest of the Republican field (with the partial exceptions of Crane and Ben Fernandez) do not clearly understand. First, more than Reagan’s celebrity is the fact that most Republicans, and a large number of independents, simply have no confidence in our political class any more, and that includes even the very good Republican candidates such as Connolley, Baker, and Dole who are already goners before a single primary vote has been cast….
Enter Reagan, Fernandez, and Borman…Second, the unseriousness of President Carter about Communism and Iran plays in to the hands of a large personality like Reagan. Absent Carter’s utter failure as a national leader at an obvious moment of international crisis, I suspect Reagan’s fade of a few weeks ago would have continued. Instead he has rebounded in the aftermath of Tehran. One or two more successful Communist aggressions (especially if there is one here at home) and Reagan’s “no more nonsense” persona could put him over the top.