By Walter C. Jones & Louie Hunter –
Michael Reagan, President Ronald Reagan’s son and the former talk-show host, dismissed on Wednesday the political savvy of Donald Trump’s newly promoted convention manager Paul Manafort.
In an interview with InsiderAdvantage, Reagan recounted how Manafort was one of the campaign aides in 1980 fired for giving poor advice by the candidate at his son’s recommendation.
Ronald Reagan initially planned not to campaign in Iowa but changed his mind after a phone conversation with his son who had been on the ground there and kept running into the other major Republican candidate.
“Ronald Reagan flew over the top of Iowa because Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, John Sears and Charlie Black said, ‘You don’t have to land. They love you here. You’ll never have to worry about losing here. You’re their favorite son.’ Mike Reagan picked up the phone and calls his dad and says, ‘You know something, I’m going all over the state of Iowa. I’m chasing George H.W. Bush. He’s here. You’re not. You’re going to get beat.'”
He did get beat. Bush won, although by a slight margin. And he then won the Puerto Rico primary that Reagan skipped to spend more time in New Hampshire, letting Bush brag of the momentum he called “the Big Mo.”
Michael Reagan recalled how he received an early morning call the day of the New Hampshire primary from his father announcing that he planned to fire Manafort, Sears, Stone and Black.
Reagan noted that Trump announced last week that he had promoted Manafort to head up his campaign’s effort to wrangle delegates at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
“The same people Trump is hiring are the people who told Ronald Reagan to fly over Iowa, not pay in attention to it, that it was a done deal,” Reagan said.
Besides, Trump is late in filling that job, according to Reagan. The reality-television star had expected to win the nomination based on the force of his popularity without having to do the organizational work months before the first primary, Reagan said.
“Popularity does not win nominations. What wins nominations is hard, grunt work,” he said.
Trump has complained about the process in various states that has led to the selection of delegates who feel no loyalty to him even though they may be bound to him on the convention’s first ballot because he won their state primary. And most recently, Colorado selected delegates who aren’t bound to any candidate because there was no primary, but Cruz recruited most of them and expects their support.
Trump has called that cheating, a charge Reagan disputes since both candidates knew the rules all along.
To get better control of the delegates, Trump is counting on Manafort. The billionaire businessman praised Manafort as being among the few working political operatives involved in the last contested nominating convention in 1976. That was when Ronald Reagan mounted a challenge to President Gerald Ford because he had been appointed instead of elected. When the delegates met that August in Kansas City, Missouri, Ford had more delegates pledged to him than Reagan but not a majority.
Both candidates worked feverously to woo delegates into their camp before and during the convention. Reagan was strongest among southern conservatives, and Ford’s strength was among moderates.
Reagan sought to appeal to the Mid-Atlantic States populated with more liberal delegates, like New York and Pennsylvania.
Vice President Nelson Rockefeller headed the New York delegation as a former governor. Earlier in the year, he had announced he would not run for another term as Veep, which angered many New York delegates who blamed Ford for dumping him. That encouraged Reagan that the delegation might be in play.
“We could not break the New York delegation,” Michael Reagan said. “We kept calling and calling and calling. And finally, Rockefeller just took the phone and ripped it out and threw it across the convention hall. He said, ‘Quit calling the delegation. They’re not going anywhere.’”
The Reagan team gambled that naming in advance his vice presidential choice, then-Sen. Richard Schweiker, R-Penn., would win him liberal votes. Instead, it alienated the conservative southerners and infuriated Reagan’s strongest ally, Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C. It ultimately backfired when Ford won the nomination.
The son described that convention as hard-ball politics where both candidates had what athletes call sharp elbows. Yet, everyone reconciled in the end.
One thing that made reconciliation possible is what Ronald Reagan termed The Eleventh Commandment, speak no ill of a fellow Republican. By confining the debate to issues instead of personal comments, it was easier for the Reagan and Ford supporters to unite after the convention and back the nominee.
Michael Reagan said that’s the logical order: scrapping before the convention and cooperating afterward.
“Everyone wants to unite now. You don’t unite in the field of battle. You wait until someone has won the battle,” he said.