He said, “Reagan didn’t talk like that. He didn’t say ‘vermin’ or ‘scum.’”
For Scott, it was a level of combativeness and vitriol he couldn’t break through, never mastering the art of the beef, a senior Scott adviser told POLITICO.
“Donald Trump is always fighting with somebody,” said the adviser, granted anonymity to speak freely about the dynamics of the race. “[Ron] DeSantis has done a good job of always picking fights with folks, too. But when you look on the other side with Tim Scott and Mike Pence, both of those guys said, ‘Alright, let’s have a policy conversation.’ Mike Pence and Tim Scott rolled out more policy plans than anybody else. But those are not the things that draw coverage. It’s the fighting that does. If Scott put DeSantis’ name in his mouth, he got coverage. If he put Donald Trump’s name in his mouth, he got even more coverage.”
Absent a grudge to burnish, it was slim pickings for the nice-guy candidates. Even for Pence, who namechecked Reagan 34 times in his political memoir So Help Me God, it was hard to keep from breaking Reagan’s commandment. On his last day on the campaign trail in Iowa, he assailed DeSantis, Trump and Ramaswamy as “voices of appeasement” when it came to international relations.
“In order to keep Reagan’s vision for the country alive, that commandment may be one that needs to be broken,” said Pence adviser Devin O’Malley. “I think we need to be able to have frank conversations on policy and to be critical of policy positions, especially when it means departing so drastically from conservative principles and values like some candidates are.”
The death of Reaganism — at least in the 2024 campaign — will surprise few. It had been in hospice for a long time. At the GOP’s very first debate, Ramaswamy tore into it directly.
“It is not morning in America,” Ramaswamy scolded Pence, burying the old Reagan line. “We live in a dark moment, and we have to confront the fact that we’re in an internal sort of cold cultural civil war and we have to recognize that.”
Not morning at all — but dusk, as Shirley said.
Against the darkening backdrop, there is still Burgum, the candidate who may have delivered the sunniest announcement speech and cuts the figure of the protagonist in a Norman Rockwell painting.