There are several 2016 Republican presidential candidates who share traits with Ronald Reagan, according to a leading Reagan biographer.
“Ultimately, what made Reagan a great leader was that he believed in himself,” Craig Shirley told The Daily Caller. “He believed in the American people, and he believed in God.”
“I discern Reagan in several candidates, except for Jeb Bush,” the president of Shirley and Bannister Public Affairs laughed.
“I think Rand Paul embraces the intellectual Reagan,” Shirley said. “I think [Ted] Cruz is the principled Reagan. And Scott Walker embraces the blue collar Midwestern Reagan.”
Shirley then compared Reagan’s popularity to these Republican candidates.
“When Reagan was at the point that Paul, Cruz, and Walker are now, he did not enjoy tremendous popularity,” he told TheDC. “In the ’60s and ’70s, the Republican establishment and Wall Street hated Reagan. He was a threat to their power. Anytime there is a threat like that, they will seek to destroy it.”
Shirley mentioned Walker’s battles with public sector unions in Wisconsin.
“When Reagan went out and fired the air traffic controllers he was pissed off,” Shirley added. “But never once did he ask a policy consultant how to act. Like Walker, he had the will to act on his own.”
“We cannot compare labor-management relations in the private sector with government,” Reagan said. “Government cannot close down the assembly line. It has to provide without interruption, the protective services which are government’s reason for being.”
Shirley said there is no clear frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination.
“This is the most wide open race since 1940, and the most impressive since 1980,” he said. “I think there is a chance for a dark horse to catch fire, but who knows. It’s still early.”
Why hasn’t there been a candidate like Reagan since 1984? Shirley cited Reagan’s honesty, political skills and other intangibles. “I don’t think that is something you can teach somebody,” he said.
“All great leaders are really actors,” Shirley told TheDC. “Shakespeare was right. All the world is a stage. Leaders like Lincoln, Kennedy, FDR all understood this and crafted an image to fit their personalities.”
“Today’s Republicans need to get away from base elections,” he continued. “Reagan won in 1980 and again in 1984 by asking Democrats and moderates to join the conservative platform. He openly called for everyone to join together on the basis of shared values.”
“I think the 2016 election might be the most important presidential election of our lifetime,” he concluded. “This is the first time since 1980 that I regard it as a national emergency.”
Shirley’s latest book “Last Act,” focusing on Reagan’s final years, is due out in September.