Stan Evans, about whom a certain new book is just days away, was an early fan of Ronald Reagan, arguing as early as March of 1968 that Reagan—rather than Nixon (whom Evans disliked)—should be the GOP nominee.

But it wasn’t simply Reagan’s conservatism that attracted his favor. He noticed Reagan’s broad appeal in California, and thought it could be extended to new constituencies on the national level, as indeed it did in the fullness of time when Reagan attracted the votes of millions of “Reagan Democrats” in the 1980s.

Here’s what he wrote in March 1968:

The rise of California Governor Ronald Reagan as a major national figure constitutes one of the most remarkable stories in the annals of American politics. . . The evidence suggests that, more than any other public figure, he expresses and embodies a powerful new tendency in our politics. . . The evidence further shows that the currents running beneath the surface could rejuvenate the Republican Party and change the shape of American politics. It suggests that, if Ronald Reagan or someone like him were to be the GOP nominee in 1968, powerful new forces could be brought into the Republican fold, reviving a party which has long needed a fresh infusion of strength.

This went hand-in-glove with Evans’s view that conservatism ought to have greater appeal to the Democratic-leaning “working class.” In this respect Evans anticipated Trump’s breakthrough in 2016, though Trump’s success can also be seen partly as a return of the “Reagan Democrat.” But that begs the question: why did the Reagan Democrats disappear after Reagan, and only return with Trump? Evans would have said it was the return of pre-Reagan establishment-type Republicans with names that rhyme with Tush.

Reminder that I’ll be live online today at 2 pm eastern at AEI to talk about the book.

P.S. Richard Reinsch’s fine review of the book is noted in our Picks section, but if it rotates off you can find it here.

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