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Should Romney appeal to Santorum voters or copy Ford 1976 strategy vs Reagan?

I knew Ronald Reagan, as much as any fan can.  And Rick Santorum, you are no Ronald Reagan.  But you sure are the best we could hope for this year and I thank you for doing for me and for many conservatives, exactly what Reagan did for us in 1976 – as your email to me and supporters today so accurately said, your campaign offered “a way for you to fight for your convictions.”

No, you may not be Ronald Reagan, but Rick Santorum, you said the same thing he did, and as persuasively as he did at that GOP convention after his loss (Reagan convention speech at my “notes” section on Facebook HERE), when he spoke for and to “all of those millions of Democrats and Independents who I know are looking for a cause around which to rally and which I believe we can give them.”

Yes, I knew Ronald Reagan, and although you are no Ronald Reagan you sure sounded like him yesterday when you withdrew as an active candidate for the GOP nomination for President.  Thank you and God bless you Rick Santorum.

Oh I know, those who hate Santorum – who are the same voices raised against Reagan in 1976 – will tell us your guy lost, he was defeated, and its over.

But you know they said that about our guy 2000 years ago too and this past Friday we remember the defeat before the victory.  And Ronald Reagan’s 1976 loss did not elicit any suggestions from any quarters that he would be President just 4 years later.

The cause goes on, said Reagan in defeat.  So did Santorum yesterday.

The issues he raised, still need advocates, today in 2012 just as in 1976 with Reagan.

The defeat is but one battle in a long war, in 1976 just as today.

The 1976 campaign saw many good and popular conservatives whose names we knew very well, out there advocating the choice of the “regular” Republicans, just as today.

The 1976 campaign saw but a very few conservative Republicans in public life endorsing the long shot challenger to the establishment, just as we saw this year for Rick Santorum.

The 1976 campaign saw the declaration by the establishment GOP of the political obituary of Ronald Reagan, just as we no doubt will see done to Rick Santorum today.

The 1976 campaign “proved” that we conservatives cannot win primary elections, just as we will no doubt hear today said about conservatives with Rick Santorum.

They said of us in the 1976 campaign that we weren’t professional enough to win elections, that our candidate wasn’t polished enough, not yet ready for prime time.  And they said it about us again this year.

They had an enormous fundraising advantage and endorsements advantage in 1976 and they had it again against Rick Santorum this year.

They didn’t realize what you could do with 170,000 newly identified, conservative cause donors to Ronald Reagan in 1976 and they don’t realize what a nearly identical list of supporters – 160,000 to be exact – can do for Santorum and for our cause in the next four years.

They forgot in 1976 that issues and what you propose to do about what people are concerned about, is what motivates people to make phone calls, work hard as volunteers and donate money.

They forgot but in 1976 on the floor of the convention Ronald Reagan reminded us in a most memorable speech (click HERE) that the cause goes on, and that the shining city on a hill must be preserved, that America is special, and that we are the last best hope for freedom on earth.

Reagan said it and yesterday, Rick Santorum said it.

It isn’t up to Rick Santorum, you or me or any of us who supported him, to “reach out” to Mitt Romney.  If Romney wants to talk about “the centrality of faith” in his life and about the old fashioned values he can go ahead and it will be lighting a fire to motivate and enlist the Santorum conservative base to jump into the battle and help him.

In 1976 the Gerald Ford establishment Republicans ignored Reagan after they had beaten him.

Perhaps Mitt Romney’s regulars will do that to Santorum and his supporters but, I caution you folks, you might want to check your history and see how that worked out.

To this day, they blame Reagan for making them lose the election, just as you may if you wish.  But it will not diminish the influence of Rick Santorum and his followers nor change what is going to happen to you if you emulate what Ford did in 1976.

The truth is that even in defeat Ronald Reagan remained very popular.

The continuing efforts of Reagan and his supporters to defend the American dream, to preserve the shining city on a hill, grew and prospered, even as the Ford forces created their narrative that Reagan did not “cooperate” and that is why they lost.

The truth is that the still very popular Reagan traveled the country campaigning for conservatives running for Congress, Senate and for Governor.  Many of those he helped won that year and in the next 2 years.

The Ford campaign realized they were in trouble and were not motivating Reaganites and at the last minute started asking him to do campaign speaking engagements for them.  But Reagan refused to cancel the commitments he made to help his supporters running for office and squeezed in the Ford requests where he could.

Reagan and his Reaganites were shut out and Gerald Ford lost to Jimmy Carter.

Reagan and the conservatives continued the fight and it was Ford and the “regulars” who went silent after their defeat.

Four years later, bolstered by their continued fight against the liberals and with larger numbers than before, the conservatives won the nomination battle and the Presidency.

Is that the future for the forces of Rick Santorum after yesterday’s ending of the quest for the GOP nomination for President this year?

It is far too soon to be able to predict the future but I can say this.

I appreciate Rick Santorum’s giving voice to my views on many of the issues of concern to me as a conservative and especially as a values voter.  I’ll continue on exactly as he said right now, as Reagan asked in 1976.

Oh yes I know – despite his actually leading in the polls at one point, despite his emerging as the final, leading alternative to Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum didn’t come as close as Ronald Reagan did in 1976.

But you ‘ll notice the people who will say that to attempt to diminish the future role of Rick Santorum and those of us who supported him, ignores the truth: Reagan first ran for the GOP nomination not in 1976 but earlier in 1968.  And no, he didn’t even come close that time.

Santorum did FAR better in his first try for the Presidency, than Ronald Reagan did in his first try in 1976, despite being an incumbent Governor of the very sizeable state of California.

Remember the guy the liberals hated more than anyone else was Ronald Reagan in 1976 and without a doubt, it is Rick Santorum today.

Whether you are old enough to have experienced the Reagan campaign of 1976 firsthand or you are smart enough today to learn the lessons of that campaign, there’s no such thing as another Ronald Reagan but Rick Santorum can certainly follow the success story, and Mitt Romney can avoid the disaster of Gerald Ford.  All of us can learn from history, and not repeat the mistakes.

But for the future of our conservative cause, it doesn’t matter what Mitt Romney does.  One way or the other we have to defeat Barack Obama.

One way or the other we who rallied to the Rick Santorum banner must be involved in leadership roles in our cause, for our candidates, on the ramparts facing and defeating those who would “transform” this country with a wrecking ball.

Since when did we allow the liberal left and their water carriers within our ranks to dictate to us who our leaders will be in the battles of the future?  If Rick Santorum will lead as he did in the past few months I’ll be one of the many who will rally to his banner in the days, weeks, months and years ahead.

If Rick Santorum decides to use his name recognition and his following across America to campaign for Mitt Romney, for U.S. Senate and House candidates and for Governor candidates he will truly be following in the footsteps of Ronald Reagan and who knows, he may have the same outcome four years from now as Reagan did in 1980.

No other candidate has spoken as eloquently for the faith of the values voters, from American exceptionalism to the centrality of faith in our lives.

One Fox news commentator said that of course Mitt Romney’s “favorable” ratings will now increase since he no longer has a serious primary opponent.  Wrong.

Mitt’s troubles are only now beginning, and will get worse unless he enlists the Santorum supporters to his cause by having Rick Santorum out in front for him.

Or he may choose the Gerald Ford strategy of freezing him out thinking to destroy his former rival.  Won’t work Mitt, didn’t work against Reagan and won’t against Santorum, but will only keep your “favorable” ratings low, contrary to that Fox News commentator.

They said of Reagan in 1968 and again in 1976 “he isn’t ready for prime time.”  But he was ready in 1977 through 1979 as he continued to lead our cause in many battles we fought, and he was ready in 1980.

Rick Santorum may not have been “ready for prime time” but the war goes on and it is entirely possible that we will see and hear a lot more from him in the future.

One of the liberal commentators on Fox said that now at last, with Santorum out, Mitt Romney can “appeal” to women and independents, ie. “swing to the left” with Santorum out.

Won’t work Mitt – you’ll be on your own if you don’t bring in the conservatives.

The conservative path of the light, is the way to appeal to women and independents, as Reagan did and as Santorum could have done.

Appealing to women and independents by copying the language, rhetoric and proposals of the left has never been a good strategy for Republicans but has been offered again and again anway.

I’m against Obama, will vote for the Republican nominee against him but I’ve been enough of a student of history to know that how much money and how many volunteers the GOP candidate will have in this battle against a better funded and better organized Barack Obama, is strictly a matter of whether he listens and learns from history – realizes that shutting out conservatives didn’t for Gerald Ford.

Will Romney copy the losing strategy being suggested to him by those who hate conservatives and either don’t want him to win or simply overlook reality and history’s lessons?

In any event, and no matter what Mitt Romney decides, I do believe we will see and hear a lot more about Rick Santorum in the future, who is much younger at this stage of his career than Ronald Reagan was when he lost in 1976 and who just like Reagan, gives voice to people who will otherwise have none.

America is exceptional, the values voters are still here, and we still look for leadership on the national level.  Thank you Rick Santorum, we are grateful for your giving voice to our views, hope you will take a brief rest and then pick up that sword once again, hold up the light, to banish the dark.

HanoverHenry of RED STATE is Pat Henry on Facebook, and I’m on the lookout for new friends there. You can also communicate via private mail at Facebook, and I welcome new sources for my articles focusing on the conservative-Christian viewpoint in Pennsylvania.  I appreciate your sharing this article elsewhere and only ask that you include this “disclaimer” in any reprints or sharing you do.  And I thank those whose information have helped me with some of my reports, including those who do not wish to be quoted by name.

Links to articles I wrote at RED STATE at my Facebook Notes section. 

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