Richard M. Nixon: Politician, President, Administrator

By Leon Friedman; William F. Levantrosser | Go to book overview

Discussant: Thomas W. Evans

Because Mr. Stans is going to be our final speaker, I am going to speak for only a moment on campaign finance, about which he knows more than anyone. I will say that until we have a meaningful law in which there is full disclosure and until we have an enforcement procedure that would include the ultimate sanction of requiring a new election where there has been a serious breach of campaign finance laws, we will not have meaningful campaign finance laws. I would also urge the British idea of a short, well-defined campaign period as a very meaningful reform, if we could accomplish it. The problem is, of course, that the people who pass those laws are reelected 95 percent of the time. We now learn that this is true in even the branch of government--the House of Representatives--that is supposed to constitutionally reflect the changing will of the people and not have a continuous incumbency. It will be an uphill battle, but I think these brief reforms might make a great difference.

As to the second subject on the agenda, the Southern Strategy, there was none during the 1968 campaign. The Southern Strategy has been appropriately dealt with, I think, by Professor Moore, but it might be enlightening, and provide some insights into the coming presidential campaign, to understand the true Nixon strategy in 1968. We did not think we were going to lose to Vice President Humphrey in the South. We were looking at the large-electoral-vote states. Of course, two of them, Florida and Texas, could fall within the rubric of southern states, but that's where the battle was thought to be, and the result, although a narrow one, proved that this was an effective strategy.

If there was any Southern Strategy in 1968, it occurred in the prenomination period. Of greater importance, perhaps, in the contest for the nomination, was overcoming in the public mind the idea that Richard Nixon was a "loser." I went to the Republican National Committee meeting in January 1967 in New Orleans. I realize in retrospect that my mission there, the reason I was given that mission, was probably, on the one hand, because Mr. Nixon thought I would report accurately and, on the other, that I would be sufficiently obscure that no one would realize that, in fact, he was running for the presidency. It turned out well on both counts. However, I found at that meeting people coming up to me again and again (and many times these were solid Nixon supporters) to say, "You know he is the most able man in America. He is an intelligent man. He is extremely well informed, especially in foreign affairs, but he is a loser." Please remember that George Romney had not only won big for governor of Michigan in 1966, but that Romney's problem electorally was that he supposedly had no coattails. In the 1966 election, however, a Republican senator and a number of new Republican congressmen came in on the wave of the Romney victory. So George Romney was at the time not only ahead of Mr. Nixon in the polls, but was appealing to professional Republicans and delegates all over the country.

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