‘Give that man a chance’
In 1982, concerns about medium-term losses and disagreements over economic policy led to division and finger-pointing within the Republican Party. Still, the party urged voters to “give the man a chance.”
Nancy Dwight, who led the Republicans’ House campaign at the time, warns against reading too much into the 1982 example, but sees Biden take a page out of Reagan’s playbook and insist on patience as he tries to get the economy back on track. to get on the right track. “He wouldn’t dare use that line, but he’s staying on track,” Dwight told us.
Reagan was determined to push through with his economic plans, even as the public lost confidence. Given the circumstances, Dwight recalled that she was relieved that Republicans didn’t lose more seats in the House. “I knew it could have been a lot worse,” she says.
Joe Gaylord, who worked with Dwight on the House campaign committee in 1982, said Reagan’s economic crisis ran deeper than Biden’s — with interest rates, inflation and unemployment all stalling the recovery.
But he said the basic outlines of the problem Biden faced were all too similar. Combine Reagan’s low rating with a country that believes it’s on the wrong track, and one thing happens: He said, “You’re getting change.”
A “big problem that Biden has right now is that none of the things he’s done are working,” Gaylord added.
When the unemployment rate hit 10 percent in September 1982, Gaylord said, “Republican candidates just flew by,” as voters’ patience with the Reagan administration evaporated. He recalled hearing frustrated Republicans argue that the problem was simply a lack of communication with voters — that if Republicans had been clearer about their achievements, voters would have backed them.