President Reagan's "Welfare Queen" is still shaping U.S. politics, but did she exist and why has her story remained so potent?

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Reagan's "Welfare Queen" re-emerges in presidential race

Was story of infamous welfare cheater true?

Surprising discovery about the actual Welfare Queen

Scholar: "The ghost of the Welfare Queen is still lurking"

CNN  — 

She’s out there, lurking in the 2012 presidential race like a horror movie villain who refuses to die.

She has 12 Social Security cards, mooches on benefits from four fake dead husbands, and collects food stamps while driving a Cadillac. She rakes in about $150,000 a year in welfare benefits and, of course, people assume she must be African-American.

President Ronald Reagan gave America a sunny “Morning in America” optimism, but he also gave it the “Welfare Queen,” an infamous character who has re-emerged in this year’s presidential race.

Critics have accused the three leading Republican presidential candidates of resurrecting Reagan’s Welfare Queen by calling President Obama the “food stamp president,” implying that blacks live off other people’s money, and by declaring that America is moving toward an “entitlement society.”

Yet few people have examined the story behind the birth of the Welfare Queen. Did she really exist? Why do people still talk about her when welfare ended 15 years ago? Can her story still swing voters at a time when the great recessi