Trump supporters seem all too excited that their candidate has decided to pull out of the final GOP primary debate before the Iowa caucuses. They are likening this to the time Ronald Reagan skipped the 1980 Iowa debate. The only problem? Reagan went on to lose in Iowa.
There are so many things different about Trump’s and Reagan’s campaigns that it’s almost hard to make comparisons. For all of the things we can criticize Reagan for, he really did run a very optimistic campaign in 1980. I don’t think anyone would characterize Trump’s run as such. Reagan filled people with a sense of hope and excitement about a “shining city on a hill.” Trump incites hatred and fear and talks of building walls and banning Muslims.
But one thing they do have in common is that they both decided to pull out of the debate heading into Iowa.
Their reasons are very different of course.
Reagan’s decision to pull out of the Iowa debate was not because of some petty squabble with the 1980’s version of Megyn Kelly and Fox News. At the time, Reagan’s campaign manager felt that because his candidate was the front-runner, there was no need to participate in the debate.
Only five of the nine Republicans in the race that year ended up taking part in that debate. It was also the first Republican primary debate since 1948 and was not planned to be televised until later.
After Reagan skipped that debate, he lost in Iowa. And after that first caucus he immediately knew that he had made a mistake. Following the loss in Iowa, Reagan ignored the advice of his campaign manager and didn’t miss another debate.
So while they both may have pulled out of the Iowa debate…Trump is surely no Ronald Reagan.