Obama is no Jimmy Carter. Despite all the venom from the Radical Right, today’s President is far more popular than the former peanut farmer ever was. In 1980, Democrats deserted him in droves—-among them, Leon Jaworski, the Watergate prosecutor, and Eugene McCarthy, who had challenged LBJ over Vietnam in 1968. He called Carter “the worst president we’ve ever had.”
Romney is no Reagan. Behind in the polls at the time, the former actor demolished a sitting President with folksy charm in the October debates, smiling and sighing at Carter’s attacks, “There you go again.” Can anyone picture Romney out-charming Obama that way? Has anyone ever used “charm” and “Romney” in the same sentence before?
Iran can’t control American voters. In the final weekend of the 1980 campaign, Iranians torpedoed Carter by announcing they wouldn’t release their American hostages, depriving him of an “October surprise.” They waited until Reagan took office to do so, but they have no such leverage today.
Looking back at 1980, the political landscape then would unrecognizable today. John Anderson ran as an Independent moderate Republican and pulled 6.6 percent of the national vote.
The Libertarians had their own slate, drawing one percent, with a vice-presidential candidate, David Koch of the Koch brothers, who now fund the Tea Party in its attempt to take down the U.S. government.
The Communist and Socialists were on the ballot as well.
Such rampant diversity is unthinkable today. With Citizens United, the Supreme Court has unleashed money that will wash away minority candidates, narrowing voters’ choice but hopefully not entirely clouding their vision.
In November, they will pull the levers either for Barack Obama, warts and all, or Mitt Romney, who presumably will still be hiding his tax returns and Bain history.
If nothing unforeseen happens between now and then, there won’t be a Reagan repeat this year.