THE RACE: Romney, Obama both claim Reagan legacy

April 18, 2012 - 2:07 PM
Obama

President Barack Obama waves as he walks from the Oval Office to Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, April 18, 2012. Obama is heading to Ohio and Michigan. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

There they go again. President Barack Obama and Republican rival Mitt Romney both like to channel Ronald Reagan. Neither one should probably push it too far.

Obama frequently mentions the conservative icon and hints at parallels between now and 1984.

Then, President Reagan also was seeking a second term after a severe recession that sent unemployment soaring into double digits. His approval ratings that April were in the low 50s. Obama's now are just below 50 percent.

But as Election Day neared, Reagan benefited from a surging recovery and swamped Democrat Walter Mondale. Obama still faces stubbornly high joblessness and anemic growth.

Obama was campaigning Wednesday in Ohio and Michigan — battleground states hard hit by the recession and home in the 1980s to blue-collar "Reagan Democrats."

Obama even tried renaming his "Buffett Rule" proposal for higher taxes on millionaires to "the Reagan Rule" because Reagan supported closing tax loopholes.

But Reagan only favored closing certain ones and never advocated raising taxes on the wealthy as have Obama and billionaire investor Warren Buffett. Republicans fumed, with House Speaker John Boehner calling Obama's gambit "pathetic."

Romney claims the president is trying to hide his identity as a liberal who promotes government programs instead of individual opportunity — the antithesis of Reagan.

Romney portrays himself as a Reagan-like advocate for smaller government and lower taxes, although he's yet to persuade many Republicans that he's truly a conservative. .

He recently suggested the possible elimination of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and dramatically scaling back the Education Department.

Reagan once proposed abolishing the Departments of Education and Energy and criticized the housing department.

But as president, he did little to scale back these agencies.

Romney also reprises the hawkish, sometimes unilateral, foreign policy doctrine that Reagan sounded.

But Reagan served during the Cold War — and global geopolitics were different then.

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