Richard Nixon and the Quest for a New Majority

By Robert Mason | Go to book overview

FIVE
PRESIDENT
NIXON FOR
PRESIDENT
The Rejection of
the Republican
Party, 1972

In 1972, Nixon concentrated on his reelection to the absolute exclusion of the fortunes of other Republicans. Campaign aides told any candidates who raised objections that their best chance of success was a strong showing by the presi- dent. But Nixon did not believe that Republicans would win elections in large numbers thanks to his coattails. Instead, he worried about the danger to him if he tried to mobilize a new Republican majority as well as his presidential majority. ""T"he moment I do that," he told Theodore White, "I pull myself down to their level, and … part of our problem is that we have a lot of lousy candidates; the good ones will go up with me, the bad ones will go down."1 In pursuit of the new majority, Nixon was eager to win as many votes as possible from self-identified Democrats; his party, still favored by only a minority of Americans, could not help him in this effort. The connection between presi- dent and party was therefore broken. His strategy depended on the rejection of concern for the Republican Party at large.

Nixon's electoral vehicle was not the party but the Committee for the Re- election of the President (CRP). The existence of a personal campaign organi- zation, separate from the national committee, was not a new phenomenon under Nixon. But its significance within the campaign was unprecedented; the administration, according to political scientists Thomas E. Cronin and Michael A. Genovese, achieved "in many ways the ultimate in presidential hostility towards its own party." In some cases, even incumbent Republican senators running for reelection did not benefit from a presidential visit. At

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