Saturday, December 10, 2011

Different take on Reagan’s transition to conservatism and Kuchel’s reasons for bowing out of the 1966 gubernatorial race.

In an article largely focused on the then-emerging trend of actors seeking political office  James Bacon not only mentioned Reagan’s obvious-yet-still-undeclared campaign for CA Governor, he matter-of-factly dropped two other comments that I’ve not heard before and that may supply fodder for future research/writing.  

The first was that:
Public opinion polls among Republicans have put [Reagan ] out in front as a GOP candidate for governor.  A poor second in the polls was GOP Sen. Thomas Kuchel who since has announced he’s content to stay in the U.S. Senate.
If memory serves me correctly, I thought all the “smart money” was prognosticating that Kuchel would “surely” defeat Reagan if only he would run.  This makes it sound suspiciously like Kuchel may have decided not to run precisely because he already knew there was a good chance he couldn’t beat Reagan.  If that’s right, it’s got to make you wonder even more about all the Republican big wigs talking about how people like Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum “can’t” beat Obama…about how we’ve just got to run Gingrich or Romney because they’ve got that elusive quality of “electability, a trait which--curiously enough--often inheres in Republicans who fail to get elected (e.g., John McCain)

The second interesting insight from Bacon was his suggestion that Reagan credited actor-turned-senator George Murphy for his conversion to the Republican party.

The rise of Ronald Reagan in politics reads like a movie script.  First he was a liberal Democrat and a militant leader during his long tenure as head of the Screen Actors Guild.  Then he switched to Republicanism.  “George Murphy made me see the light,” he says.

I’ve heard some speculation that Loyal Davis, adoptive father of Reagan’s second wife Nancy, was instrumental in pulling Reagan into the conservative political fold…but I’ve never heard Murphy mentioned in this regard.  This might be an interesting rabbit trail to pursue.  Can anyone else out there shed light on the Murphy-Reagan connection?

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