The 2016 Presidential election, arguably the most important of our lifetime, has also been one of the most unpredictable. On the Republican side, the chance of the leading contenders arriving in Cleveland without one having enough delegates on the first ballot is a real possibility.
As Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and John Kasich look to Cleveland, each of them and their campaigns can learn much from two American giants, each of whom had to head to GOP presidential conventions of their own without having sewn up the nomination.
Yes, we can learn much by the examples of Ronald Reagan in 1976 and of Dwight Eisenhower in 1952. Trump, Cruz, and Kasich can each learn from the tactics that Reagan and Eisenhower employed to try and secure a first ballot victory.
And, perhaps more importantly, each can learn by the character of these two statesmen who believed there was something bigger than themselves, and showed Republicans how to come together as a party to put America first.
As Ronald Reagan headed to Kansas City in 1976, he needed to do something dramatic to close the gap with then President Gerald Ford. He stunned the electorate and the media by announcing before the convention that moderate Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Richard Schweiker would be his vice presidential running mate.
Even though some conservatives were upset, the move was sheer brilliance and caught Ford by surprise with the possibility of Pennsylvania delegates defecting to Reagan in a very tight race. In fact, one major network was forced to scrap a story they were about to run saying that Ford had the nomination locked up.
While Reagan came up barely short in a nail-biter, his “off the cuff” speech at the end of the convention is still remembered as one of the best unifying speeches of all time. It also left many delegates believing they had nominated the wrong man and paved the way for Reagan’s subsequent nomination and election in 1980.
Likewise, Dwight Eisenhower was locked in a tight race in 1952, with fewer than 100 delegates separating him and “Mr. Republican,” Ohio U.S. Senator Bob Taft.
During the first ballot, another candidate released his delegates and asked them to support Eisenhower. Yes, perennial candidate Minnesota Governor Harold Stassen, who back in the day was a contender, was the “kingmaker” as his delegates went to Ike and helped propel the World War II hero to a first ballot victory.