Victor Davis Hanson: Election, 1980-Style





Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author, most recently, of The End of Sparta. You can reach him by e-mailing author@victorhanson.com.

There was only one presidential debate in 1980 between challenger Ronald Reagan and President Jimmy Carter. Just two days before the October 28 debate, Carter was eight points ahead in the Gallup poll. A week after the debate, he lost to Reagan by nearly ten percentage points.

Reagan’s debate quip, “there you go again,” reminded voters of Carter’s chronic crabbiness. Even more devastating was Reagan’s final, direct question to American voters: “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” No one, it seemed, could muster a “Yes!”

Yet there was more to the 1980 campaign than the final game-changing debate rhetoric — and some of the details are relevant to 2012....



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