The nation mourns the loss of a two-term, popular President. Which is as it should be.
For me, the big lesson about the nation's reaction to the death of President Reagan (which was rather similar to the reaction to his presidency -- gushing, fawning by and large, with a signifincant slice of bilous outrage) is that people react to the person, not to the message. As a conservative, Reagan was only so-so. Big tax increases, larger government, odd foreign adventures, etc. But his rhetoric, and indeed his whole personality, was conservative, and since people liked him, they accepte his message.
I'm sure there are other, probably generational/demographic, forces that underlie Reagan's success. But his agreeable, likable persona is a key reason why he is remembered so fondly, even though he should be one of our least popular presidents based on his policies.
All of which makes me nervous about John Kerry. Haven't seen enough yet to know whether or not he's a likable guy. Nor has Bush shown enough negative traits to turn off enough people. No matter how you cut it, something like 40-45% of all Americans continue to support the President, even though (again) by any reasonable measure his presidency has been a disaster. I think for many of his supporters, it's hard to get past his genial, downhome, plain-speaking, authentic manner.
I continue to worry that our side needs to do a much better job of reaching out to "red-state" repubs and helping them see why we reject so much of the republican credo, and why ours is not only far less scary than they;ve been led to believe, but is actually preferable to what they've got.
And, I think we'll need a "gipper" of our own to do that, and I don't think Senator Kerry is that guy. (I suspect if he loses to Bush he'll become a figure much like Barry Goldwater -- someone on whose shoulders the next generation of pregressives stands).