What I get from this short five minute vision of Michigan Governor George Romney speaking at the 1964 Republican National Convention, is that he wasn’t necessarily against Senator Barry Goldwater and his presidential campaign. But he was worried about the Republican Party moving right and even Far-Right.
From 1964-68, the GOP was moving in transition from a center-right moderate conservative party with a solid progressive Northeastern base that Governor Romney was part of, to expanding the base of the party and moving south as well as west. Bringing in Christian-Conservatives from the South and Conservative-Libertarians from the West. Barry Goldwater was one of those Western Conservative-Libertarians.
Governor Romney and Governor Nelson Rockefeller and other Progressive Republicans, were worried that America wasn’t ready for this hardcore what was called back then conservative message, but what today would be a conservative-libertarian message as far as Goldwater that was about individual freedom both economic and personal, as well as limited government and personal responsibility, as well as federalist when it came to government. And as a result the GOP would get wiped out in the 1964 general elections which was exactly what happened. And they were worried that the GOP couldn’t compete with just a small percentage of the electorate.
What Rockefeller and Romney got wrong, was that they were only correct in the short-term. Millions of Southern Democrats who voted for President Lyndon Johnson in 1964, voted for Richard Nixon for President in 1968. Congressional Republicans had a big comeback in 1966 by winning in the South in the House and Senate and winning out west. Richard Nixon was part of the Progressive Republican base in California and New York, but being the great politician that he was, was also able to communicate with Goldwater Conservatives and Christian-Conservatives in the South, while retaining his Northeastern Republican Progressive base, to win the presidency in 1968 and win going way reelection in 1972. But the remaking and renovation of the modern GOP that we see today started in 1964. Romney and Rockefeller, were wrong about the long-term affects that moving right would have on the GOP.