1968 was a year of surprises – nothing was as it seemed. The year started with a protracted, and in fact escalating War in Vietnam; a Tet Offensive. A growing tide against the war – the assassinations – and the Political conventions. It was, after all, an election year.
From a historic standpoint, most of the attention has been focused on the charged atmosphere in Chicago with the Democratic Convention and the near-anarchy which enveloped an already fractured and divided party and the chaotic violence that overtook the streets outside the Convention Center.
That was Chicago, and that would be later in the month. The first of the two parties’ conventions would be the Republican’s. When August began, and the convention was just about to start, the candidacy of Richard Nixon for President wasn’t quite a done-deal. Although he was ahead in delegates, Nixon wasn’t assured a victory on a first ballot. Gaining on him were Nelson Rockefeller, who represented the pretty-much-last-gasp of the Liberal wing of the Party. And California Governor Ronald Reagan who, with his vigorous support of Barry Goldwater in the 1964 campaign, represented the Conservative wing of the party – the wing that was growing in number, but still not considered by insiders enough of an immediate threat to completely dislodge a Nixon final victory in Miami. However, during the week leading up to the convention, the number of delegates pledged to Nixon went from 740 down to 700, with those 40 going to Reagan. Despite appearances, it was looking like a horse race.
This broadcast, the Convention Eve preview-of-coming-attractions from Miami, focuses on the events coming up over the following four days. What changes were afoot – such as Mike Wallace’s report of the Alabama delegation going into caucus, which was heavily leaning to Reagan, and the wrangling taking place before the convention started.
Certainly, as 1968 went, this convention was comparatively without incident. And perhaps that was the reason it hasn’t taken up much space in the dramatic pages of history. But it’s interesting to listen to, to hear the players as they would come into prominence later on. Head of the Maryland delegation Spiro Agnew, who was projected to be the one to put Nixon’s name over the top to assure a first-ballot nomination. And Gerald Ford, who was the Convention’s permanent Chairman. All names which would show up in the coming weeks and months.
Here is that one-hour special, as broadcast over CBS on August 4, 1968, hosted by Walter Cronkite.