En las primarias republicanas de 1968 tenemos una de las más sorprendentes y ejemplares historias de superación que ha presenciado la política en las últimas décadas. La resurrección del hasta entonces "eterno perdedor" Richard Nixon para convertirse en uno de los más destacados estadistas del Siglo XX.
A los votantes nunca les gustó Dick Nixon. Un hombre tímido, de una personalidad insegura y atormentada que le hacía parecer moralmente dudoso y falto de principios ante el público. Muchos lo aborrecían pero nadie ponía en cuestión su talento político, ni su experiencia y preparación para asumir la Presidencia. Cada campaña de Nixon desencadenaba percepciones contradictorias entre los electores. Debemos entender su ascenso en 1968 como un voto de censura del pueblo a un Partido Demócrata dividido y alejado de la realidad.
Por fin Nixon encontró la manera de destacar en campaña sus cualidades presidenciables por encima de los sentimentos generales que su personalidad pudiera desatar. Pero el gran factor que lo llevó a cosneguir la nominación y después la Presidencia, fue su capacidad de sobrevivir, de perdurar. Aquel año también asistimos a la sorprendente selección de Spiro Agnew como candidato a la Vicepresidencia. Una selección inesperada que resultó muy acertada en el corto plazo, pero que se convirtió en una pesada carga con el paso del tiempo.
Los más destacados candidatos que optaron a la nominación republicana fueron: el Senador Clifford Case, de New Jersey; el ex Vicepresidente Richard Nixon; el Gobernador Ronald Reagan, de California; el Gobernador Jim Rhodes, de Ohio; el Gobernador Nelson Rockefeller, de Nueva York; el Gobernador George Romney, de Michigan; y el ex Gobernador Harold Stassen, de Minnesota.
Fuentes: Wikipedia, Union Leader y Time.
(...) Tired in Los Angeles and seeking a fresh start after the 1962 gubernatorial debacle, Nixon moved to New York City, where he became a senior partner in the leading law firm Nixon, Mudge, Rose, Guthrie & Alexander. During the 1966 Congressional elections, he stumped the country in support of Republican candidates, rebuilding his base in the party and preparing his remarkable political comeback. He was the front-runner for the Republican nomination in 1968, and to a great extent the story of the Republican primary campaign and nomination is the story of one Nixon opponent entering the race and then dropping out.
Polling done for Nixon in 1967 told him that while the voters sampled considered the former vice president experienced, intelligent and able to deal with foreign policy matters and leaders, he was also perceived as a loser always running for the Presidency but unable to achieve it, someone similar to Harold Stassen.
Nixon had not won a general election in his own right since 1950, when he defeated Helen Gahagan Douglas for a United States Senate seat in California. Nixon had to overcome not only his loss to John Kennedy in 1960, but also his humiliating defeat by Edmund G. "Pat" Brown for the governorship of the Golden State in 1962.
Nixon's first challenger was Michigan Governor George W. Romney. A Gallup poll in mid-1967 showed Nixon with 39%, followed by Romney with 25%. However, in a slip of the tongue, Romney told a news reporter that he had been "brainwashed" by the military and the diplomatic corps into supporting the Vietnam War; the remark led to weeks of ridicule in the national news media. As the year 1968 opened, Romney was opposed to further American intervention in Vietnam and had decided to run as the Republican version of Eugene McCarthy (New York Times 2/18/1968).
George Romney was advised not to challenge Nixon in New Hampshire, and instead await the Wisconsin primary on April 2. It was believed by some advisers that the conservative nature of New Hampshire's Republicans and Nixon's popularity among its leaders and rank-and-file were too strong for Romney to overcome, and he should begin his quest for the nomination in a state closer in both ideology and geography. Although Romney's campaign was technically proficient, had adequate funding, operated hundreds of home headquarters in operation and mounted an elaborate media blitz, it never caught on. Romney's support faded slowly, and he withdrew from the race on February 28, 1968. (New York Times 2/29/1968).
Nixon won a resounding victory in the important New Hampshire primary on March 12, winning 78% of the vote. Antiwar Republicans wrote in the name of New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, the leader of the GOP's liberal wing, who received 11% of the vote and became Nixon's new challenger. Nixon led Rockefeller in the polls throughout the primary campaign. Rockefeller defeated Nixon in the Massachusetts primary on April 30 but otherwise fared poorly in the state primaries and conventions. Nelson Rockefeller, while a strong and attractive candidate in many ways, never fully understood the differences between the politics of nomination and the politics of election.
En la imagen: Nelson Rockefeller, George Romney y Ronald Reagan, 1968.
By early spring, California Governor Ronald Reagan, the moral leader of the GOP's conservative wing, had become Nixon's chief rival. In the Nebraska primary on May 14, Nixon won with 70% of the vote to 21% for Reagan and 5% for Rockefeller. While this was a wide margin for Nixon, Reagan remained Nixon's leading challenger. Nixon won the next primary of importance, Oregon, on May 15 with 65% of the vote and won all the following primaries except for California (June 4), where only Reagan appeared on the ballot. Reagan's margin in California gave him a plurality of the nationwide primary vote, but when the Republican National Convention assembled, Nixon had 656 delegates according to a UPI poll (with 667 needed for the nomination).
Logistical plans for the 1968 Republican National Convention were already being made by Nixon in Miami Beach, Florida. Nixon established a virtual colony in Miami Beach populated by 500 staffers and roughly 1,000 volunteers. An elaborate telephone and radio communications system was created. Besides command posts in Nixon's hotel and in a trailer outside Convention Hall, branch operations were maintained in 35 hotels housing delegates. Nixon had assembled a talented crew of old and new aides from in and out of politics and from varying ideological backgrounds.
En la imagen: Richard Nixon en campaña, 1968
During the three convention days leading up to the balloting, the main maneuvering centered on three elements: 1) a handful of uncommitted delegations, of which Maryland, Ohio, Michigan, New Jersey and Pennsylvania were the most important; 2) the South, which was largely in Nixon's camp already but vulnerable to Reagan; and 3) Nixon's choice of a running mate. Reagan and Rockefeller planned to unite their forces in a stop-Nixon movement, but the strategy fell apart when neither man agreed to support the other for the nomination. Rumors that Nixon was going to pick a liberal as a running mate were everywhere. When a Miami paper printed a front-page story that it would be Oregon Senator Mark Hatfield, Rockefeller's and Reagan's men distributed 3,000 copies on the convention floor to make sure that no one missed the point.
Nixon backers denied the report, but the most effective disclaimer came from Nixon in private meetings with Southerners. "I won't do anything that would hurt development of the two-party system in the South," Nixon told them. "I won't take anybody that I have to shove down the throats of any section of the country." Thus such Nixon loyalists as Party Chairman Harry Dent of South Carolina were able to tell skeptics on the floor: "I've got it written in blood."
Nixon was also artfully placating Southerners on certain sensitive issues. The Miami Herald managed to get a tape recorder into one of the private sessions. In the transcript it printed later, which Nixon's spokesmen did not knock down, he explained his public support of this year's open-housing civil rights bill as a matter of political tactics rather than conviction. "I felt then and I feel now," said the transcript, "that conditions are different in different parts of the country." But he wanted the issue "out of sight" so as not to divide the party and risk a platform fight. The Southerners also remembered Nixon's criticism of Johnson's Supreme Court appointments. While Nixon did not quarrel with Abe Fortas' designation on personal grounds, the Southerners who did looked kindly on Nixon's position.
Vote projections by the networks and the wire services bounced about a bit between Monday and Wednesday, while Rockefeller men insisted on talking about the "erosion" of Nixon's strength. The most accurate count, as it turned out, was by the Nixon organization, which earlier had talked about 700 and privately refined its calculations to 702. Needed to be nominated: 667. As the nominating speech droned on, Nixon visited his command trailer outside the hall and got word that a first- ballot victory was assured. As the roll call progressed, it was obvious that Nixon was faring exactly as he had expected. He won the nomination on the first ballot.
En la imagen: Richard Nixon y Spiro Agnew en la portada de Time.
With scarcely time out for a round of congratulations, the candidate plunged into a round robin of meetings with advisers, aides and party leaders about the vice-presidential nomination. New York Mayor John Lindsay, probably the most discussed possibility up to that point, was dismissed early as too unpopular among conservatives. John Gardner was briefly mentioned, soon dropped. Among others considered were Reagan and Texas Senator John Tower, both of whom would have antagonized liberals. Hatfield, Romney and Keynoter Dan Evans were mentioned, then Tennessee Senator Howard Baker.
The possibilities had been reduced to five: Senator Charles Percy of Illinois; Lieutenant Governor Robert Finch of California, a longtime Nixon friend and associate; Congressman Rogers Morton of Maryland; Governor John Volpe of Massachusetts ("It might be nice," Nixon observed, "to have an Italian Catholic on the ticket"); and, of course, Governor Spiro Agnew of Maryland.
It was past noon when Nixon ended the talks by observing: "Well, I think the meeting has accomplished about all that it can accomplish." Morton put in a call to Agnew. "Are you sitting down?" Morton inquired. Nixon got on the phone and broke the news. "I'm overwhelmed," said Agnew, whose stoic expression rarely admits of such a condition. (...)