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Reagan’s New York strategy was genius. Trump is on track to make lightening strike again

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According to a recent poll conducted by Emerson College, President Joe Biden has only a seven-point lead over rival and former President Donald Trump in the blue state of New York. Biden is also well under a 50 percent approval rating. Combined with the candidacy of independent Robert F. Kennedy Jr., this potentially makes the state ripe for picking by Trump in this fall’s election.

The Empire State has changed over the years since Ronald Reagan won it in 1980 and again in 1984, but not so much that it is a slam dunk for Biden. He will have to expend tremendous resources to hold on to it.

When Reagan won New York in 1980, there was the third-party candidacy of John Anderson, the liberal Republican representative from Illinois. Post election, pollsters said he took proportionally from both Carter and Reagan. Liberals saw him as one of their own and some Republicans saw him as one of their own.

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As I wrote in my bestselling book about the 1980 campaign, “Rendezvous with Destiny,” Reagan wanted to expand the map to achieve a mandate from the American people and not just a narrow win based on votes from the West and the South.

Reagan wanted his election to mean something. 

Anderson was able to run on the Liberal Party Line in 1980, denying Carter these votes. And while Anderson’s presence on the ballot did not cost Carter individual states, in may have helped cost him New York. And, the psychological impact on the Carter campaign was not good.

The same is true for Trump in 2024. The former president wants this election to mean something. “Make America Great Again,” has renewed power since it was first introduced in 2016. Plus, after the weaponization of the justice system against him, even some Democrats want to send a message to Biden and his team. They are shifting their loyalty to Trump. Just look at the record amount of money that has poured in over just one week since the guilty verdict in the New York trial. 

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How did Reagan do it? 

First, Reagan was not your typical Republican. He’d been a registered Democrat since 1932 up until the early 60s. Thus, he spoke differently than your typical Republican, favoring the pronouns “we” and “’us” and “ours” rather than “me” or “my.”

Thus, his appeal cut across party lines to cultural Democrats and many Slavic Americans who remembered the horrors of Hilter’s left-wing Nazism and had experienced Stalinism. They were receptive to Reagan’s strong anti-communist message. Plus, the Carter presidency had been terrible for America.

In 1980, we had a terrible economy including high inflation, high interest rates, giant debts and most especially high unemployment.

Sound familiar? The world was equally bleak.  We had 50 odd American hostages in Iran. Again, sound familiar? The Soviets were on the march and just a year before invaded Afghanistan shortly after Carter gave an interview in which he stated categorically Afghanistan was not in America’s defensive perimeter. Again, sound familiar? Several years ago, Biden foolishly said Ukraine was not in American’s defensive perimeter, giving carte blanche to President Vladmir Putin to invade Ukraine.

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Reagan was not passive about winning New York. Indeed, the weekend before the November election in 1980, he was campaigning in New York City. Previously, he’d been to Syracuse and Buffalo. And, in a now famous move, he campaigned in the South Bronx. He was there to highlight the failures of Carter, who had gone there in 1977 promising all sorts of relief and federal aid, none of it forthcoming.

The appearance by Reagan did not go according to plan though, as he was rudely heckled and jeered by a crowd of about one hundred Blacks and Hispanics. Reagan lost his famous composure. Perhaps it was the sweltering heat of the month of August. Here’s how I explained it in my book, “Rendevous with Destiny:” 

“This is an example of how the federal government can fail,” he said to the mob. 

Reagan tried to reason with the interrupters, asking them to look at his record of job growth in California. But they just kept heckling him. A Chicano woman kept heckling him, ‘What are you going to do for us?’” 

Some of the crown tried to listen but others wouldn’t have it.

Finally, Reagan exploded and shouted, ‘I can’t do a damn thing for you if I am not elected!” 

He then retired to his motorcade along with his entourage and the media. But the incident was not a washout. Reagan was showing his compassion to more moderate. wavering voters and thus scored a lot of points. And he truly felt bad about the dispossessed there, saying, “There we were, driving away and you think of them back there in all that ugliness and they have no place to go.”

Only several months later did Reagan go on to a transformative election, one that revived Americans and saved the country.

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Perhaps the memory of his own poverty in the depths of the Great Depression had scarred him as it had others. But he wasn’t cruel about it like Spiro Agnew, who once coldly said that if you’d seen one ghetto, you’d seen them all.

Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan shake hands.

President Jimmy Carter and his Republican challenger, Ronald Reagan, shake hands as they greet one another before their debate on the stage of the Music Hall in Cleveland, Ohio. (Getty Images)

Carter’s weakness (there were 50 odd American hostages in Iran), the terrible economy, Reagan’s cultural and political appeal and the presence of Anderson all combined to produce a Reagan victory in the 1980 campaign. Plus, New Yorkers were repulsed by the Carter corruption, just as they now are by Biden’s corruption.

There have been two historic elections pitting the corrupt elites against the people. In 1828, Andrew Jackson scored a revolutionary victory over the corrupt establishment, just as Reagan did again in 1980. The Washington Post, the New York Times and the corrupt broadcast networks all hated Reagan, but the American people loved him.

Five U.S. Presidents stand next to each other.

FILE – Five Presidents at the Reagan Library opening. (L-R) President George H. W. Bush, former presidents Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, and Richard Nixon in Simi Valley, California at the dedication of the Ronald Reagan Library, November 4, 1991. It was the first time five presidents had been together in one place.  (Photo by David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images)

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Once again, the corruption of the liberal elites is on display for everyone to see, what with these phony circuses some call trials against Trump. They are political theater, nothing more. But they are only helping Trump as we’ve all had bad experiences with corrupt government, local school boards, the IRS, the post office and local police. The people empathize with Trump and are lining up against Biden.

Now Trump is wisely taking a page out of the Reagan playbook, campaigning in non-traditional areas, staying on offense, keeping Biden on defense, making new news, raising the morale of his campaign, lowering the morale of Biden’s campaign and paving the way to an historic win in this fall’s election. 

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