Ronald Reagan suffered a surprise defeat by George H. W. Bush in the 1980 Iowa caucus, but the Gipper soon set about re-engineering his campaign and he pulled off a landslide victory just weeks later in New Hampshire.
"The 35 days between the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary during the 1980 presidential campaign were the most important time in Ronald Reagan’s political life," biographer Craig Shirley proclaimed
in his book, "Rendezvous with Destiny: Ronald Reagan and the Campaign That Changed America."
The New Hampshire victory landed Reagan on the cover of Time magazine underneath the headline "Ronnie's Romp!"
These days, presidential candidates like Ted Cruz are promising Granite Staters that he, too, has the power to rebuild the "Reagan Coalition" in their state and beyond.
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"When was the last time we broke the Washington cartel? 1980," Cruz said at a town hall in Windham, New Hampshire, on Tuesday, USA Today reported
Gathered below are six things the former California governor did to win the New Hampshire primary, as well as the presidency.
1. He laid the foundation with his Goldwater speech
— According to the New Hampshire Union Leader
, "Reagan's landslide victory here was built upon the conservative constituency that had rallied to his anti-federalism philosophy and 'The Speech' Reagan gave for Senator Barry Goldwater in 1964, which placed him in the national political spotlight."
2. He ambushed Bush at the Nashua debate
— George H. W. Bush wanted a one-on-one debate with Reagan heading into the primary, and Reagan also liked the idea. The Nashua Telegraph newspaper stepped forward to sponsor the event, but when the Federal Election Commission said the other candidates must be included, Reagan offered to foot the bill in order to maintain the head-to-head matchup. At the last minute, Reagan conspired with the other candidates, and they stormed the stage, insisting they be given a fair shot. Reagan looked magnanimous, while Bush looked like a coward.
3. He demanded his microphone
— When the editor of the Nashua Telegraph saw Reagan and the other candidates storm onto the stage, he tried to silence them by having their microphones cut off. Turning to executive editor Jon Breen, Reagan thundered, "I am paying for this microphone, Mr. Green! (sic)" winning him huge applause from the 2,400 people packed into the Nashua High School Gymnasium. Even though he got the name wrong, he got the tone and the message dead right.
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4. He got fired up
— According to biographer Craig Shirley, "Reagan volunteers Jim Roberts and his wife, Patti, also noticed Reagan’s mood" on the night of the Nashua debate. "Patti turned to her husband and said, 'He’s going to be great tonight because he is just furious.'"
5. He assumed the role of the "outsider"
— Much like Donald Trump and Cruz are doing during the 2016 election cycle, Reagan — a former Hollywood actor and former governor of California — painted his rival, Bush — a Washington, D.C., diplomat — as part of the self-interested "establishment." On February 7, 1980, the publisher of the New Hampshire Union Leader William Loeb wrote that
, "If Bush, who is an oil man from Texas, is able to be nominated by the Republicans, then you see David Rockefeller and the Trilateral Commission will have it . . . As this newspaper has said before, what you are seeing in New Hampshire is an attempt by the entire Eastern Establishment, the Rockefellers and all the other power interests in the East, to snow New Hampshire voters under with so much propaganda that they will fall for this phony candidate called George Bush."
6. He learned from his 1976 loss in New Hampshire
— Reagan lost New Hampshire during his first bid for the presidency. He had styled himself as a very conservative candidate, while Gerald Ford took a more moderate approach that played well in the Granite State. Learning from that defeat, Reagan approached 1980 with a mind for more coalition building, appealing to conservatives, evangelicals, defense hawks, and moderates who would eventually be dubbed "Reagan Democrats."
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