January 12, 2015

1968. An Analysis of the 1968 Presidential Race

Battling for the Nomination
Bill Downs interviewing Richard Nixon in the 1950s
Bill Downs

ABC Washington

April 15, 1968

These are the Ides of April, and Washington's political "pros" are making spring book on next November's presidential elections. And as of right now, even the most skilled Democratic and Republican prognosticators are so confused by the mixed up primary races for the White House that they'll give only 10 to one odds against Harold Stassen ending up with the job.

So, with only six months of campaigning left, here's how some of these professionals see the presidential race developing.

Former Vice President Richard Nixon is still the front-running Republican, but now Nixon must watch for flanking attacks from both the right and the GOP left. After flubbing the candidacy of Michigan's George Romney, the Republican liberals are now regrouping and building a powerful drive to nominate New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller to head the ticket. It's no secret that the Republican right is viewing this in dismay. The GOP conservatives have accepted Nixon thus far with ideological reservations, so if the June and July political polls show that Nixon cannot win decisively against the Democrats, then some of the Washington pros are saying to watch out for conservative Governor Ronald Reagan of California at the GOP Convention in Miami.

The Democratic race this Spring is just as unpredictable. The entry of New York Senator Robert Kennedy into the primary lists have prompted the backers of Minnesota's Senator Eugene McCarthy to say that "Bobby has the courage of McCarthy's convictions." But like Nixon, Kennedy right now must be considered the front runner in the Democratic race.

However, both senators are campaigning, looking always over their shoulders. Because waiting in the wings is Vice President Hubert Humphrey, the most durable and experienced campaigner of them all. And strangely enough, Hubert might just be tapped by the Democratic convention in Chicago, for the irony is that Humphrey, an original populist liberal, has built himself a reputation for honest and party loyalty in the thankless Vice Presidency that his image has changed. Also the primary campaigning of Senator Kennedy and McCarthy seems to be making Hubert look a lot like a starch-collared conservative.

This is Bill Downs in Washington.