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Ronald Reagan was delusional!

In a recent MuthsTruths.com blog post, I wrote that conservatives in Nevada should put a slate of conservative GOP candidates together to challenge Gov. Brian Sandoval (R&R Partners) and the establishment slate of moderate Republican candidates he’s assembling for the six constitutional offices next year. That elicited this overwrought email from a longtime Republican activist in Las Vegas:

“You are delusional! Your ideas for running someone against Gov. Sandoval will not be successful. If it was we would have a Democrat Gov. elected in 2014.”

Well, I guess conservative Ronald Reagan was delusional, too!

Because if memory serves correctly, it was the Republican icon who challenged moderate, establishment Republican President Gerald Ford in the 1976 GOP primary.

And indeed, that challenge surely contributed to the Democrats’ general election victory of the hapless Jimmy Carter in November. However, it also set the stage for Reagan’s successful campaign in 1980 and his historical economy-saving/commie-defeating eight-year presidency.

So sometimes you have to take one step back to take two steps forward.

It should also be noted that it wasn’t just Reagan who lost and then won big. Modern-day conservatism was born in ’76 and grew during the Reagan years into a national movement that exists to this day in the form of the tea party and liberty movements.

And rather than fading away, despite Harry Reid’s deepest wish to the contrary, conservatives are becoming even more emboldened, if not outright brazen.

About a dozen years ago, frustrated fiscal conservatives launched the Club for Growth, an organization dedicated to running conservative challengers against moderate GOP incumbents in Republican-friendly districts. After a couple of initial stumbles out of the gate, Club for Growth is wildly successful and greatly feared by Gumby Republicans in Congress.

But even relatively dependable conservatives are no longer safe from Reagan-like primary challenges. Indeed, conservative Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo. — ACU Lifetime Rating: 93 — is being challenged by Liz Cheney, the former vice president’s daughter, primarily because he just doesn’t rock the boat enough.

And Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. — ACU Lifetime Rating: 90 — is under political assault from the right and is in serious jeopardy of being tossed overboard in next year’s GOP primary by a Kentucky businessman with no prior electoral experience. You see, conservatives are no longer just looking for someone who will press the right button and go home. They want someone who will raise a bloody stink before pressing the right button, and then go on the road and on TV and on radio and on the Web to fire up the troops. Like Sens. Rand Paul, Mike Lee and Ted Cruz.

And anyone who thinks Brian Sandoval runs with that illustrious conservative crowd is the one who’s delusional.

CLARIFICATION: About last week’s column … yes, I know the Germans did not bomb Pearl Harbor. I was quoting a scene from the movie “Animal House,” starring the late comedian John Belushi. If you want to see it, just Google “Animal House Germans Pearl Harbor” and viola.

Chuck Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, a conservative grass-roots advocacy organization. He can be reached at chuck@citizenoutreach.com.