In a stroke of PR genius, President Obama’s re-election team is aping the “Morning in America” line used to re-elect Ronald Reagan in 1984. That Hal Riney-inspired campaign ad remains one of the all time political masterpieces. It also was pure hype.
On the communications front, Obama’s reincarnation of the Gipper makes a lot of sense. He’s much more in line with the image of the “Great Communicator” than rivals Mitt Romney and Rick Santorium.
The New York Times noted today that Obama in his State of the Union address even used the Gipper’s “America is Back” phrase. That upbeat U.S. comeback theme stands in sharp contrast to the doom and gloom positions of the GOP candidates.
There is an element of risk for the Obama as Reagan strategy. Reagan’s eight-year rule meant “Mourning in America” for millions of needy and working class Americas who lost federal benefits. The `80s marked the beginning of the great hollowing out of the U.S. manufacturing heartland. While Wall Street feasted on the industrial carcasses, thousands of blue-collar workers lost jobs sending host communities into economic freefall.
Reagan’s massive defense build-up served the dual purpose of bankrupting the Soviet Union and increasing debt here from $700B to $3T.
The patron saint of conservatives was forced to use the second term to increase taxes that were cut when he first got into office.
Most notably, Reagan’s second-term was embroiled in the Iran-Contra scandal involving the covert scheme to sell arms to Iran for money to free American hostages in Lebanon and to bankroll Nicaraguan Contras who were battling the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. It was America at its worst. Iran-Contra did not soil the image of Teflon-president Reagan because the public did not believe the "Great Delegator" was personally involved with the matter.
Reagan left office with an approval rating equal to FDR’s.
Obama might not be so lucky.