SMILING BUT SERIOUS … Republican candidate for governor Richard M. Nixon greeted his San Luis Obispo audience with smiles and humor Thursday, 2 p.m. when speaking at the courthouse. He then launched a heated attack on incumbent governor Edmund G. Brown. Nixon was introduced by San Luis Obispo attorney Peter Andre (seated right). A group of Cal Poly Coeds, calling themselves Nixonettes, greeted the candidate and his wife Pat with a parade of antique automobiles.
May 31, 1962
Richard Nixon had a rollercoaster political career. In 1962, still stinging from a painfully close loss to John F. Kennedy in the presidential election of 1960 he picked up the pieces and ran for governor of his native California.
He came to San Luis Obispo a few days before the primary election, which had pitted Nixon against an even more conservative Republican Joseph Shell.
Nixon spoke to a crowd estimated in the hundreds from the steps of the courthouse; afterward there was a reception at the Fremont theater.
The California 1962 gubernatorial race ended in victory for Democrat Pat Brown, and a spectacular meltdown by Nixon in his final press conference of the race.
The book “Nixonland” by Rick Perlstein outlines someone more complex than the cartoon crook Nixon detractors draw.
- Accepted to Harvard, his family was too poor to send him, a life-long resentment
- Nixon was bright, second in his Whittier College class, third at Duke’s law school.
- Won enough money playing poker in the Navy during World War II to largely finance his first congressional race.
- Hired a 26-year-old Roger Ailes to join his media team, Ailes now runs Fox news
One of the myths forged in the 1962 campaign was Nixon never got fair coverage from the media. Nixon and others use this mantra to garner sympathy when they don’t like stories.
In fact in Nixon’s first congressional race in 1947 he had the support of the Los Angeles Times.
He made his national reputation as a stern anti-communist with the assistance of a New York Herald Tribune reporter who fed him information in exchange for scoops.
A year or so after an election failure there would be stories in the media, unable to resist a redemption story, about “The New Nixon.”
Nixon’s internalized list of enemies was long.
His gutter fighting style meant that when times were tough he had no allies. In this way he was completely unlike the later Californian president, Ronald Reagan.
Nixon would come back from his California defeat to win the presidency in 1968.
Though many observers thought his re-election bid in 1972 was a given, paranoia lead to a bungled burglary into Democratic Headquarters at the Watergate.
Nixon had lost too many elections.
He would win the 1972 election in a landslide and two years later, disgraced under threat of impeachment, become the only president to resign.