Top 10 memorable GOP Convention moments
As Republicans gather in Tampa, Fla. for the 2012 GOP Convention, let’s look back at some highlights from previous gatherings.
1. Barry Goldwater, 1964
By turning back Nelson Rockefeller in the Republican primaries in 1964, Barry Goldwater gave birth to the modern conservative movement, wresting power from the East Coast country-club Republicans by enunciating values of liberty, freedom and limited government. His famous utterance at the convention—“extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice”—was criticized by the East Coast media as a reckless statement and Goldwater/Miller went on to lose in a landslide to Johnson/Humphrey. But conservatives got the last laugh as the seeds of the Reagan Revolution were planted with the rest of Goldwater’s convention admonition, when he said, “And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.”
2. Abraham Lincoln, 1860
The Republican Party held its second nominating convention in 1860 after its first candidate, Gen. John C. Fremont, lost to James Buchanan in 1856. Heading into the convention in Chicago, former New York Gov. William H. Seward was considered the front-runner but Sen. Salmon P. Chase of Ohio, former Rep. Edward Bates of Missouri, and former Rep. Abraham Lincoln of Illinois had enough support to deny Seward a first-ballot victory. Finally on the third ballot, Lincoln gained delegates from the Chase and Bates camps to gain the victory. After winning the election, Lincoln put all his former campaign rivals into his Cabinet.
3. Ronald Reagan, 1992
Ronald Reagan gave Republicans much to cheer about at conventions from the 1960s through the 1980s with his tax-cutting, Communist-opposing, small-government rhetoric. The graceful exit he made when giving his final address to a Republican convention is a fitting remembrance for conservative’s hero. With Alzheimer’s already afflicting the former president, Reagan offered his final message to delegates at the 1992 convention in Houston: “And whatever else history may say about me when I’m gone, I hope it will record that I appealed to your best hopes, not your worst fears, to your confidence rather than your doubts. My dream is that you will travel the road ahead with liberty’s lamp guiding your steps and opportunity’s arm steadying your way.”
4. Jeane Kirkpatrick, 1984
U.N. Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick was a Democrat in the Reagan administration but that didn’t stop her from lambasting her party in the keynote speech at the 1984 Republican convention in Dallas. Her “Blame America First” speech excoriated the party as “San Francisco Democrats,” who turned a blind eye to the dangers of communism and she lamented how the party of Cold War hawks Harry S. Truman and John F. Kennedy had lost its way on foreign policy. Her fiery analysis paved the way for Reagan to lock down the anti-Communists from the neo-conservative movement.
5. Sarah Palin, 2008
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin made her debut on the national stage at the 2008 GOP convention in St. Paul, Minn., days after being named John McCain’s running mate. The hockey mom from Wasilla got the delegates roaring with a speech that hit all the right buttons. She hit back at the media—“Here’s a little news flash for all those reporters and commentators: I’m not going to Washington to seek their good opinion. I’m going to Washington to serve the people of this great country,” and she mocked Barack Obama—“What exactly is our opponent’s plan? What does he actually seek to accomplish, after he’s done turning back the waters and healing the planet?”
6. Pat Buchanan, 1992
Former Nixon speech writer Pat Buchanan challenged President George H.W. Bush in the Republican primaries and his surprising success garnered him a primetime speaking spot at the convention. The columnist and cable TV personality delivered a stem-winder that declared that America was in a culture war. “This election [is]… about what we stand for as Americans. There is a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we will one day be as was the Cold War itself.” The speech received praise by many on the right as a much-needed truth telling but the media portrayed the message as a lesson in hate-mongering and charged the Republicans as being extremists.
7. Zell Miller, 2004
Democratic nominee Sen. John Kerry tried to present himself as a war hero, saluting delegates in Boston and proclaiming himself as “ready to serve.” Republicans countered in New York with Sen. Zell Miller, Georgia Democrat, who went after Kerry’s anti-military voting record in the Senate. “The B-2 bomber, that Sen. Kerry opposed, delivered air strikes against the Taliban in Afghanistan and Hussein’s command post in Iraq. The modernized F-14D, that Sen. Kerry opposed, delivered missile strikes against Tora Bora…This is the man who wants to be the commander in chief of the U.S. Armed Forces? U.S. forces armed with what? Spitballs?”
8. George H.W. Bush, 1988
George H.W. Bush accepted his party’s nomination in New Orleans with a vision of a “thousand points of light” and offered the bold declaration, “Read my lips : No new taxes.” The stance helped Bush win the election against Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis. Four years later, addressing the convention in Houston, Bush admitted he made a mistake when he broke the pledge by caving into a Democratic tax increase. “Two years ago, I made a bad call on the Democrats’ tax increase. I underestimated Congress’s addiction to taxes.” The admission wasn’t enough as Bush lost his re-election bid to Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton.
9. James A. Garfield, 1880
The 1880 Republican convention in Chicago saw 14 names placed into nomination, with the frontrunners Maine Sen. James G. Blaine, Treasury Secretary John Sherman, and former President Ulysses S. Grant, seeking a third term after four years out of office. With so many on the ballot splitting the vote, no one came close to the majority needed to secure the nomination until the 35th ballot when Sherman and Blaine switched their support to former Union general and first-term senator from Ohio, James A. Garfield. Garfield secured the nomination and went on to defeat Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock in a close presidential election.
10. Richard Nixon, 1968
While the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago was rife with violence, Republicans gathered amid relative calm in Miami. GOP nominee Richard Nixon painted a stark contrast between the motley protesters and America’s “silent majority.” Nixon said, “It is another voice. It is the quiet voice in the tumult and the shouting. It is the voice of the great majority of Americans, the forgotten Americans–the non-shouters; the non-demonstrators … They work in America’s factories. They run America’s businesses. They serve in government. They provide most of the soldiers who died to keep us free. They give drive to the spirit of America. They give lift to the American Dream …”