Miller Center

Riding The Tiger

“I discovered that being a President is like riding a tiger. A man has to keep on riding or be swallowed.” Harry S. Truman

Romney Ahead in Split Contests on Super Tuesday

The results of the Super Tuesday contests were a mixed bag, though former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney emerged the victor in seven of the eleven races. Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum won three contests, including North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Tennessee, while former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich captured the vote in his home state of Georgia.

In the much anticipated Ohio primary, Romney appears to have narrowly defeated Santorum by just one percentage point.

Click "Read More" for full Super Tuesday results.

Super Tuesday: Will Romney Make It or Break It?

Super Tuesday map, 2012

States holding March 6 Super Tuesday contests

Today's guest post is from Lara M. Brown, an assistant professor of political science at Villanova University and the author of "Jockeying for the American Presidency: The Political Opportunism of Aspirants."

Today, the contest either reopens or begins closing. With 422 pledged delegates at stake, Super Tuesday’s ten contests are an opportunity for former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. Should he amass, as Nate Silver forecasts, a majority of the day’s available delegates and come out on top in Ohio, he would again be headed towards winning the Republican nomination. Should he underperform in these races, talk of a brokered convention would again abound.

“Can’t Afford to Lose Tennessee”

President Johnson Talks with Frank Ahlgren

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With the Tennessee Republican primary set to take place tomorrow as part of Super Tuesday, Republican candidates have stepped up their efforts to woo voters in the state. The Commercial Appeal in Memphis reported that:


“The three leading Republican candidates ramped up their efforts in Tennessee last week with TV and radio ads, phone banks, direct mail, a swarm of surrogate campaigners -- Gov. Bill Haslam leading the way for Romney -- plus some personal campaigning.”


And in their Super Tuesday Preview, Politico pointed to Tennessee's importance:


"A Romney win in Tennessee would be second only to Ohio in symbolic importance. He was down 4 percentage points to Santorum in an ARG poll released over the weekend, but closing. Victory in Tennessee would demonstrate that the former Massachusetts governor can win in a culturally Southern state."


Listen to this telephone conversation (embedded above) from 1964 as President Lyndon Johnson declares that he “can’t afford to lose Tennessee.”


No Presidential Primary for Washington

Washington Republican Presidential Caucuses

The Washington caucus results by county were: Mitt Romney (orange), Ron Paul (yellow), and Rick Santorum (green).

On March 3, 2012, the Washington State Republican Party Caucus was held at precincts across the state with registered voters (although not necessarily Republicans—you do not have to be a registered Republican to participate in the caucus although you do sign a pledge that you consider yourself a Republican). Like most caucuses, this one involved participants gathering together to pick delegates pledged to a candidate to go on to the county convention (and then the state convention). The Republican Party also held a presidential straw poll which was won by Mitt Romney, but those results do not affect the caucus delegates in any way.

Friday Feature: President Ford Not Riding a Tiger

President Ford on a snowmobile, with his dog Liberty nearby.

President Ford at Camp David, 1975. His dog, Liberty, plays nearby.

President Gerald Ford is seen here riding a snowmobile at Camp David in 1975. 

Stay tuned! Every Friday we'll highlight a whimsical item from presidential history.

Romney’s Winning Hand?

Portrait of Governor Romney

Portrait of Governor Romney, painted by Richard Whitney, reused under the GFDL license.

Today's guest post is from Saladin M. Ambar, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Lehigh University and fomer Miller Center National fellow.

Now that we have some distance from Mitt Romney’s less than spectacular victory in Michigan Tuesday night, perhaps it is worth considering just what Romney has that the rest of the Republican field can’t seem to acquire or destroy. Romney’s got money, organization, and the support of the professionals in the Party, to be sure. But he also has something that has been the only elixir to taking down a sitting president since Benjamin Harrison defeated Grover Cleveland in 1888. He has a governor’s resume.

A Brokered Convention?

President Ford’s Acceptance Speech at the Republican National Convention, 1976 (Excerpt)

Over the last few weeks, there has been lots of media chatter about the possibility of a brokered convention for the Republican Party. Sean Trende in Real Clear Politics wrote about how a brokered convention could be dangerous for the Republicans, while The Week looked back on the 1976 Republican convention as the last time the party flirted with a brokered convention. And Nate Silver pointed to the 1976 Republican nomination contest as the primary battle most resembling today’s.

A brokered convention would happen if no candidate won a majority of delegates during the first round of voting at the convention. After the first ballot if no candidate had a majority, the delegates would be released to vote for another choice, and the backroom dealing could begin.

The last time the Republicans had a true brokered convention was in 1948, but in 1976 the Republican Party had a strong primary fight between President Gerald Ford and Governor Ronald Reagan of California. Ford and Reagan engaged in a bitter and close fight for the nomination in 1976, trading victories in a series of state Republican primaries. Ford entered the Republican National Convention in Kansas City with a slight lead in delegates over Reagan.

As the incumbent, President Ford had courted wavering Republican delegates in key states by inviting them to the White House, by offering to speak in their states, and by rewarding delegates with patronage positions. Ford won the nomination on the first ballot but only by a mere sixty delegate votes.

Watch President Ford acknowledged the hard-fought primary contest in this excerpt of his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention on August 19, 1976.

Watch President Ford's full acceptance speech.
Watch Ronald Reagan’s speech at the 1976 Republican Convention

Honoring Troops at the White House

Nixon hosts a White House dinner for U.S. troops in 1973.

President Obama’s Leap Day gala for 200 veterans of the Iraq War has invited comparisons to one held nearly 40 years ago at the end of what used to be America’s longest war. 

The black tie dinner Richard Nixon gave 600 newly freed prisoners of North Vietnam remains the biggest one held in White House history. Technically, it was outside the White House beneath an enormous red and gold tent within whose folds glowed chandeliers. The White House had to borrow two refrigerator vans from the army to keep the first course (Supreme of Seafood Neptune) and dessert (strawberry mousse) at precisely 36 degrees. Nixon also served the POWs the biggest names in entertainment. Jimmy Stewart. Bob Hope. John Wayne. 

Nothing was too good for the men he had used so cruelly. 

Romney Wins Arizona and Michigan Primaries

In the last two big primary contests before Super Tuesday, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney won handily in Arizona while edging out a narrow victory in Michigan.

Romney won 47% of the vote in Arizona; Santorum trailed with 27%.  The race in Michigan was especially tight, with tentative reports of Romney capturing 41% of the vote compared to Santorum's 38% . Both candidates spent a significant amount of time and money in the state in the lead up to the primary.

A win in Michigan was critical to Mitt Romney's campaign.  Romney was born and raised in Detroit, and a victory -- however small -- in the state helps to put a damper on Santorum's momentum following his sweep of the February 7 contests, as well as quiet some of the criticism from within the GOP that Romney is not a viable candidate.

Prior Experience and the Presidency

Ronald Reagan celebrates gubernatorial win in 1966.  Courtesy of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

Reagan celebrates his gubernatorial win in 1966.  He also served as Captain in the U.S. Army Reserve before becoming president.

Presidential elections are a gamble. Which candidate, once in the Oval Office, will perform better than the rest? Which will best steward the economy? Which will best protect us from foreign enemies? There is no crystal ball that can predict presidential performance with any certainty. Unfortunately, voters are left to their best guesses. 

Or, are they?

“A Man who Runs for Vice President is a Very Foolish Man”

Click "listen," then "play" above to hear the clip. Launch full screen player.

Is it too early to be talking about VP candidates in the waning days of February? Apparently not. On February 1st, 1964 (just over two months after the assassination of JFK) President Johnson openly discusses the the VP spot with Sargent Shriver. This discussion is part of a larger conversation between Johnson and Shriver wherein Johnson discusses a number of policy issues including the conflict in Vietnam. Specifically, Johnson admits that the United States government was responsible for the assassination of South Vietnamese leader Ngo Dinh Diem. The discussion of Vice Presidential selection occurs at about the halfway mark in this secretly recorded phone call.

Santorum on JFK: “That Makes Me Throw Up…”

President John F. Kennedy

President John F. Kennedy

As recounted yesterday in Politico, the Washington Post, and the New York Times, Rick Santorum made a strong statement about John F. Kennedy's speech from September 12, 1960, in which Kennedy stressed the importance of the separation of church and state.

Kennedy famously said, "I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute."

Santorum vehemently disagreed: “I don’t believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.” And he noted that the idea made him want to throw up.

In the Miller Center’s Presidential Speech Archive, we feature transcripts, audio, and video of many famous presidential speeches, including the full speech that President Kennedy gave in 1960 (the excerpt Santorum referred to begins at 1:47).

Friday Feature: President Taft Not Riding a Tiger

Taft riding a water buffalo

William Howard Taft riding a carabao (water buffalo) in the Phillipines, c. 1904.

William Howard Taft is seen here riding a water buffalo in the Philippines in 1904. He was appointed to be the first American civilian Governor-General of the Philippines, serving from 1901-1903. 

Stay tuned! Every Friday we'll highlight a whimsical item from presidential history.

The Economic Crisis and the (Political) Revival of Manufacturing

Obama at Master-Lock plant in Milwaukee on Feb. 15, 2012

President Obama visits Milwaukee’s Master-Lock plant on Feb. 15.  Photo by

Since his January State of the Union address, President Obama has emphasized the centrality of manufacturing for the U.S. economy. In a rare example of shared cross-partisan priorities, Obama’s Republican rivals have also emphasized manufacturing in recent months. This is a significant and surprising departure from the economic focus of most recent presidential campaigns.

Making the Case for History: Using Historical Analogies in Policy Analysis

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a January 2012 visit to Ecuador. Photo by Miguel Ángel Romero/Presidencia de la República del Ecuador.

The conflict between Iran and Israel, which has escalated steeply in recent weeks, is likely to be a critical campaign issue for both President Obama and the Republican candidates. What can history tell us about this conflict? How useful is history as a tool for understanding the present?