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13 Feb, 2008 03:06

U.S. candidates battle for Reagan & Eisenhower legacy

The rhetoric from U.S. presidential hopefuls may be all about the future, but many of them are also battling for memories of the past. The names of former presidents Ronald Reagan, John Kennedy and Dwight Eisenhower are being invoked to try and win votes

Hopefuls on both sides name Republican Ronald Reagan for his great influence on America.

Republicans have defied the former President, who they consider to be the father of modern conservatism. Reagan was a proponent of core conservative values such as limited government, strong foreign policy and social conservatism.

Many republicans are now questioning whether Republican frontrunner John McCain meets the criteria.

“He is not always loyal to the Conservatives; he's a kind of maverick. He's worked with Democrats on some key issues. And the big one that divides our Republican party  -immigration – is that he like President Bush is for more comprehensive immigration policy,” said John Fortier, research fellow from the American Enterprise Institute.

A Reagan comparison may also help Obama distance himself from the 'most-liberal-member-of the-Senate' label which the National Magazine has slapped on him based on his voting record.

But many Democrats associate Reagan with hawkish foreign policy and failed economic reforms.

“The reaction of democrats is a philosophical one. They cannot bring themselves to concede to the fact that there could be anything good about a conservative Republican president – like Ronald Reagan,” believes Lee Edwards, Reagan historian, The Heritage Foundation.

But Reagan is not the only republican president Obama has been compared to. Susan Eisenhower – granddaughter of former president Dwight Eisenhower – has recently endorsed Obama. She says he is the candidate who can inspire Americans:

“The most dangerous thing you can have in a democracy is self-censorship. I am always uncomfortable with the difference of what people say at dinner parties and what they say in public. There's been a concern that the political system has become so confrontational, it is difficult to say anything brave,” she said.

Susan Eisenhower has voiced her support of Obama and even compared him to her grandfather.

In 1952, Dwight Eisenhower won the presidency with the help of “Democrats for Eisenhower” movement. Susan says cross-over votes might also play a role in this election.

The race for the White House is on, and many expect it to be on until the end. But both Democratic and Republican racers have something in common – they are both trying to win over conservative voters. One way of doing this is to evoke a former Republican president.