BY Richard Nixon's stop watch, it was time to end the qualifying heat and prepare for the marathon ahead. As odds-on favorite for the Republican presidental nomination, he had to give serious consideration to the choice of a running mate. He also set out to polish position papers for the G.O.P. Platform Committee, and write an acceptance speech. For his retreat, he borrowed a white bungalow at California's Newport Beach that resounded all week to pounding waves from the West.

From the East came sounds of persistent pounding at Nixon's delegate support. Some of...

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