"Nixon's the One," brags a faded 1968 campaign poster in the political museum that is my basement. Scoffers mocked the boast, but he turned out to be the one, vindicating my vote for him that year (the first I ever cast) and making possible my later service on his White House staff. Talking by chance today with two friends from that era, Raymond Price of New York and Clark Durant of Detroit, I got to comparing 2008 with 1968. That sense of logical inevitability, of the right fit between the man and the times, which Nixon's self-assured slogan ultimately put across to party faithful and voters at large, so far has not come close to settling upon any of this year's Republican hopefuls.
The widespread GOP preference for none of the above is what fueled the Fred Thompson boom -- now losing its boominess, it seems to me -- and what may still lure Newt Gingrich into the race. His American Solutions webcast starts today at 5pm MDT. It can be viewed online at AmericanSolutions.com, or on Channel 219 of the DISH Network and Channel 577 of Direct TV.
The conservative commentariat is talking up his flirtation with a candidacy in pieces like this one by Matt Lewis or this one by Cal Thomas. A little matter of $30 million in pledges now seems to be the fulcrum of decision for Newt.
Of course, inevitability is more often clear with hindsight. In fall 1967, Nixon's name was just one of a dozen being bandied in Republican circles. Others plausibly bidding to be "the One" included Reagan and Rockefeller (an eventual president and VP) as well as George Romney, Mitt's dad. Gingrich, historian that he is, must be heartened by remembering how much baggage Nixon was able to overcome -- high negatives and well-publicized defeats.
While nominations are settled earlier now than they were 40 years ago, September of the odd year is still not quite the 11th hour. Lots can still happen. In comparison with the Broncos watching time expire a couple of Sundays ago in Buffalo, or the Rockies left for dead earlier this month, it remains way-way early for all the Republican contenders, announced and unannounced.
[Cross-posted on PoliticsWest.com]