Ah yes... Ronald Reagan... that great man of the working people and the American middle class... or at least he was in the alternative reality that is called Peggy Noonan's brain. After her predictions of "Romney rising" in the polls and that the enthusiasm factor would "carry the day" for his big win, Noonan was asked by This Week host George Stephanopoulos about the fact that the presidential election wasn't even close.
Noonan gave the audience a big dose of revisionist history on Reagan. And like most Republicans since Romney lost the election, seems to believe that Republicans don't really need to do anything differently. They just need to work on their messaging. I hate to break it to you Peggy, but it's not just the rhetoric. It's your policies. And they haven't gotten any better since Reagan did his best to help destroy our middle class.
It does seem impossible for Nooners to have a conversation about anything, without dragging out St. Ronnie's corpse to worship. It's pretty humorous given the fact that their party is so far off the cliff these days that he wouldn't make it through a GOP primary race right now.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And, Peggy Noonan, one of the things they're going to have to absorb is one of the points you've made is that this election in the end actually wasn't all that close, President Obama, 330 electoral votes. They're still counting the popular vote...
NOONAN: Yes, they are.
STEPHANOPOULOS: ... but he's above the -- he has more than a 3 percent lead over Mitt Romney right now.
NOONAN: Yeah. I think -- I mean, from the beginning, it struck me as this is not just the re-election of a president. This is the rebuffing, if that's the right word, of the Republicans.
Look, I think there are many lessons to be learned over this election. There was a not ideal candidate. It was a not ideal campaign, et cetera, et cetera. But, yes, America is -- in America, something's always being born. It's always changing. Demographically it's changing. At the end of the day, elections are actually about ideas. They're about the stands each party takes.
The Republicans do have to sit down and say, what are we doing? And as important, how are we doing it?
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's beginning in some ways. We did see a re-emergence of Mitt Romney, at least in some photos this week, a more smiling Mitt Romney. I want to show it right now out there with his family.
And, Ruth Marcus, as we look at that, I want to bring this to you, because, you know, both Peggy and Matt talking about the kind of re-think the Republicans will have to go through, but there has been a temptation -- and it always happens with the losing party -- just to pile on the candidate and blame it all on him.
MARCUS: "He's the guy. He's the one who lost it for us. It wasn't our fault." That would be the wrong lesson to take. I think there's also a danger for Democrats here in resting on their laurels and taking the lesson that demography is destiny. Demography is not destiny. Yes, the country is becoming browner. Wedge issues are not as wedgy as they used to be. But the Republican Party -- unless you believe it's the congenitally stupid party, which I don't -- is just as capable of changing and modernizing itself for the times as the Democratic Party was in the aftermath of McGovern and Dukakis. We got Bill Clinton.
If the Republican Party updates its message, it's got a very attractive bench of potential candidates for 2016. It could end up surprising Democrats.
KLEIN: Yeah, I disagree with Matt. I think the presidential election is always a choice, always. I think that -- that congressional elections can be referendums. In this case...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Could Mitt Romney have won it?
KLEIN: No, because the Republican Party's message was that we're the party of rich folks, and he, by the very nature of who he was, doubled down on that message. The Republican Party has to go back to being the party of the middle class. There are a lot of young conservatives who are doing some really, really creative thinking about how you do this in a policy sense, but that is the major change that the Republican Party has to make.
If they -- if they had been in favor of some form of revenue increase, and also the most effective thing that Romney did during this campaign was to talk about the need for government reform. When he talked about the fact that there were 45 different job-training programs -- none of which worked, by the way -- you know, that is a place where the Republican Party has traditionally been and where it needs to go now.
DOWD: I just -- one thing -- one thing I want to say on follow up on that. I think the Republican -- the problem the Republican Party has and the -- if you're a choice between big government and big business, big government party is going to win most of the time. And I'm not saying that's totally what the Democratic Party is.
The Republican Party in my view has to go back to a much more populist image, a much more populist brand, and a much more populist candidate, much more like Teddy Roosevelt, where he takes on Wall Street as well as he takes on Washington simultaneously. The part -- part of the problem that Mitt Romney had is he was a creature of Wall Street. He was a creature of big business, is that the American -- the American public does not feel like the Republican Party represents the middle class and represents Main Street. And until they feel they're fighting for those folks, they're not going to vote for them.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You seem troubled by this.
NOONAN: Well, I'm not troubled, but Romney's economic programs reflected the concerns of Wall Street, as opposed to the concerns of regular folk coming up. Look, as I look at the past 30 years of Republican politics, I feel the modern conservative movement come up with Reagan, in the Reagan era. It represented regular, normal, in-the-middle Americas. It was actually not the party of the rich. Everybody thought that was the Democrats who were the party of the rich. There were these limousine liberals, and they were what they were.
The Republican Party didn't use to be that. It's got to be back to what it really is and what it was 30 years ago.
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