In 1968, a moderate Republican governor named George Romney was running for president against a vulnerable Democratic incumbent, and Romney's main argument was that he was electable, say Paul Goldman and Mark J. Rozell in USA Today. In the Michigan governor's way were the "Goldwaterites," a group of conservative insurgents who seemed destined to lose — and Richard Nixon, once "the party's premier political thinker" whose "rising star had crashed." What happened next should make Romney's son, Mitt, very nervous. Here, an excerpt:
Despite all the electability hype, one Republican instinctively knew Romney couldn't win the GOP nomination: Richard Nixon. Dwight Eisenhower's former veep knew that the Goldwaterites didn't consider him sufficiently conservative.... So during the run-up to the New Hampshire primary, Nixon plotted his comeback, mending conservative fences in private, content to let the Michigan governor have the spotlight. By the time the candidate whom conservatives always wanted to run — California Gov. Ronald Reagan — entered the race, the clever Nixon had the nomination sewn up....
Fast forward to the 2012 GOP nomination cycle. Once again, a Romney is running as Mr. Electable, stuck at 20-30 percent in the polls.... Enter the Richard Nixon of his era, the old warhorse, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. The Georgian, like Nixon, was a back-bencher in Congress until shrewd conservative politics and good luck propelled them on to the national stage. Each, in turn, became a shooting star, a mixture of personal and political foibles seemingly smashing forever his dreams of becoming president.
Until a Romney showed up.