Nixon 1968 and 7 of 10
We wait for the voters to decide the 2018 midterm elections. In the meantime, let's remember the election of 1968, or the first GOP victory in a long line of presidential victories.
I was a sophomore in high school and very interested in the election. Our family had arrived in the U.S. in September 1964, and I don't remember too much about that election. I do recall that my father said it was a landslide for President Lyndon B. Johnson. I think my father would have voted for Senator Barry Goldwater, but we were not citizens at the time.
In 1968, our family was with Richard Nixon. My father always spoke highly of Nixon and explained that it'd be better for the U.S. to replace the Democrats. My parents used to say the Democrats were soft on national security. It was an opinion largely shaped by the Bay of Pigs in 1961.
As you may recall, Richard Nixon lost the election of 1960 by 114,000 votes out of 76 million cast that day. In 1962, he failed to become governor of California and gave his famous "last press conference." After that, Nixon "retired" from politics and spent the next five years helping GOP candidates and hoping for another shot. In his memoir, RN, he wrote that he felt better about his chances after seeing the good results of the 1966 midterms.
In 1968, Nixon jumped in again and battled Governor Ronald Reagan of California and Governor Nelson Rockefeller of New York. He easily won the nomination on the first ballot in Miami.
It turned out to be a strange campaign. The Democrats self-destructed in Chicago. The George Wallace factor divided the Democrats in the South. Vietnam was the issue of the day, but "law and order" was in the conversation. We remember that Reverend Martin Luther King and Senator Robert F. Kennedy were killed that year.
On election night, Nixon got 43.4%, and V.P. Humphrey was right behind, with 42.73% of the 74 million votes cast. Governor Wallace got 13.5% and carried five Southern states. As I recall, it was not until the next morning that the election was called.
In the end, Nixon got the electoral votes and became the 37th president.
The 1968 election started an interesting trend. The GOP won in 1972, 1980, 1984, 1988, 2000, and 2004. It was 7 of the next 10, a remarkable streak.