America’s oldest president was in the doldrums. Beset by partisan division, surging inflation, record high gas prices, a deadly pandemic, low approval ratings and a midterm backlash, he could have been forgiven for throwing in the towel. He did not. Ronald Reagan, to paraphrase his ideological ally Margaret Thatcher, was not for turning.
After a triumphant first year, having narrowly survived an assassin’s bullet and enacted major tax cuts, Reagan's second year was an annus horribilis. In August 1982 he registered his lowest approval rating of 41%.
Frustrated Republicans and media pundits were united. The president was past his prime and not up to the job. He should not seek reelection. He should bow out gracefully.