This article first appeared in the Chicago Tribune.
As Republican contenders for the presidential nomination gather for their first debate Thursday night at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, they are caught between a rock and a hard place. The vast majority of Americans have given up on George Bush, the sitting conservative president. But the die-hards who still support him are loyal Republican primary voters that no Republican candidate can afford to offend.
How can the contenders distance themselves from Bush’s failures without alienating their own base? Expect them to invoke the conservative icon Ronald Reagan early and often. They’ll call for a return to the faith, pledge to follow in the footsteps of the Gipper and promise a new “Morning in America.”
But the Gipper can’t save them.