After a dramatic bobble, Reagan picks the logical partner for a tough campaign
There was no question who the Republican presidential candidate would be, of course, but there was much uncertainty about what kind of candidate he would be. Would Ronald Reagan insist on a vice-presidential nominee who would appeal only to true-blue conservatives? And in accepting the Republican nomination, would he sound a trumpet call for those same conservatives, relying chiefly on the increasing strength of the right to carry him to the White House—if it could? After four days of flag waving and festivity at the G.O.P. convention in Detroit, the answer was clear. Failing in a dramatic and ill-considered maneuver to get Gerald Ford on the ticket as vice-presidential candidate, Reagan settled for the logical choice, George Bush. And in his warm and well-presented acceptance speech the following night, he cast his appeal to all classes of Americans, to blue-collar workers as well as business executives, to women, to minorities, to immigrants. To them all, he quoted the hero of liberalism, Thomas Paine, when he declared, "We have it in our power to begin the world over again."
Reagan's victory was tarnished by a stunning stumble: his unseemly, eleventh-hour attempt to make a deal with Ford. Convinced that if the former President were his running mate, the ticket would be invincible, Reagan through intermediaries appealed to Ford's loyalty to the party and to the country. The Californian even offered to share his presidential powers with the ex-President. But all to no avail. Ford in the end declined to join the ticket, and the curious episode served only to raise questions about the nominee's judgment—and how far he was willing to go to win election in November.
Despite the Ford episode, the Republicans went home from Detroit more united than they have been since the Eisenhower years. The Reagan-Bush ticket is in some ways an unlikely alliance, one made not to satisfy the hearts of Republican conservatives but to suit their new sense of pragmatism and their determination to capture the White House. Reagan embodies the hardline, return-to-old-values politics of the ideological purists who marched over the cliff with Barry Goldwater in 1964. Bush, though almost equally conservative, is an offspring of the party's Eastern Establishment, which the G.O.P. ideologues repudiated that same year. United, Reagan and Bush have a solid chance of winning in November. Their victory would help restore the Republican Party as a major force in national politics and give it a large voice in setting the direction of American society for years to come. Proclaimed Republican National Chairman Bill Brock from behind the red and white carnations on the convention podium: "This party is a new party—we are on our way up."