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Ronald Reagan's lasting legacy an asset for GOP

President Ronald Reagan is seen in this undated file photo.

August 28, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Outside of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, Ronald Reagan's name may be the most mentioned at the Republican National Convention. The former president is as important to the Republican Party as any issue or person.

"Ronald Reagan is the last Republican who truly won the presidency on being himself and being well-liked as a candidate," said Dr. Patrick James, director of international relations at USC. "Reagan has this kind of almost legendary Mt. Rushmore thing about him."

James said Reagan's image is an enormous asset to the GOP. The mere mention of his name stirs up a positive feeling. In fact, he's mentioned so often it becomes a habit that's hard to break.

"He is identified with winning the Cold War, he's identified with a very successful period of the American economy," James said. "When he won, he won very positive re-election."

UCLA professor Dr. Lynn Vavreck said Reagan proved you can be re-elected despite a high unemployment rate, which this year plays in President Barack Obama's favor.

"The level of unemployment is not related to presidential outcomes," she said. "What mattered for Reagan in '84 is that unemployment had gone down over the first six months of the year leading up to his election. And what will matter for Barack Obama in 2012 is the same thing, that unemployment is going down over the first six months of the year."

Look for ongoing reports from David Ono at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. Eyewitness News will also be at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., in September.