Part I: Memories of Kansas City.
“The morning of the convention got off to a rocky start. I remember flying in that morning, checking into my hotel, and running into Nofingzer in the lobby. And I remember him saying to me “gee, Pat, this thing isn’t locked up.” I asked what I could do to help. He said “Pat, keep the conservative’s morale up.” So I set out to do that. It was hard on that first day to do it, to be honest. Governor Reagan was going into the convention behind President Ford, and most people were expecting that Ford would probably squeak by in the end. To make matters worse, the giant…they had this giant inflatable balloon….an elephant balloon that was fifty feet tall welcoming delegates to the city. Well, the winds were so bad that they blew the elephant right into the telephone wires! We knew right away that this one was going to be tough!”
“We worked for the NCPAC, which was the National Conservative Political Action Committee. The morning of the convention’s opening, things didn’t look good for Governor Reagan. Things looked quite bad, actually. We were at that point when a lot of the big Ford folks who controlled the party were calling on Reagan to drop out. They didn’t want the mess on the convention floor. But finks that. We had worked hard on his behalf and weren’t going to give up easily. ”
“The Reagan folks didn’t have the numbers, and I reported that. They were absolutely furious with me. I saw the Reagan people denouncing me on every television program they could the night before. But they’re sure glad I did now, because when Mike Deaver saw that report he began to count. And he realized that he was indeed short, and he realized that he was going to have to either fight Helms and dump the Schweiker idea once and for all or look elsewhere for swing delegates. They decided to give into Helms.”
“We had the biggest bunch of unpledged delegates. Everyone wanted in on Mississippi’s 30 delegates. And naturally there was a lot of tension, a lot of backslapping and hand shaking and so forth. Reagan met with the delegates. Lots of our delegates were invited to the White House, while some got calls from the President himself. A lot of people got calls from Jimmy Stewart and Eddie Arnold and Pat Boone. There were a lot of people from Hollywood for Reagan. Our people were getting courted very actively. When we had the convention, I kind of sketched out on a notepad, “Here are the 30 delegates that were chosen: I thought 24 were for Reagan and six were for Ford.”
“Reagan emotionally had a hold on our delegates, which was quite frightening when you were trying to stop him. It was hard to paint him as the enemy. It was hard to say, “hey, that’s the guy to beat.” They liked him. And so, we thought we had an 86 delegate lead. We thought we were ahead. And then the rules vote happened.”
“That first day, we had to vote on the unit rules. The initial plan was to force a vote that would tie Gerald Fords hands down. He’d have only a day to find a running mate under that scenario. The plan was to humiliate him while we worked on Schweiker. Helms and Buckley had made it clear that he was unacceptable to them. We not only had to find a way to get rid of him, but then we had to find someone who was acceptable to them. It was a very ugly mess.”
“The vote was unexpectedly close, and to our horror, we lost. We came short by just four votes. Four votes out of two thousand something delegates. And then the panic set in-Reagan could easily sway our delegates, and we had to hold them in line. We had to find someone acceptable and fast. Fortunately, the rule that Reagan pushed forced an open vote on the Vice Presidential nomination first. This gave us a unique advantage, because we were convinced that the conservatives would split. And so we went forward with the nomination of Bob Dole for Vice President.”
“The first result was very, very, very tense. I remember watching from my hotel room on the television while Mike Wallace and Walter Cronkite interviewed delegates on the floor. It was so very tense, I remember. It seemed so ugly. Rockefeller, the Vice President, got into a scuffle after one of our own got a little too fired up and pulled away the Ford people’s telephone. He just ripped it out of the wall and the Vice President of the United States had to step in and stop him!"
“The President didn’t come to me after the first ballot to run, no. He asked me to dip my finger into the Texas delegation and get a sense of whether or not Dole had strong support. My name was not entered into nomination by own accord. That was due to Anne Armstrong, God love her, and her folks efforts to turn the entire Texas delegation over to me. That infuriated the President, and I realized that I’d soon be without a job if I didn’t get the situation settled. And that’s when the other folks approached me.”