In 1952, the more liberal element among the Republicans was able to deny the conservatives' choice, Robert A. Taft, choosing instead the popular war hero, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower as their presidential nominee. Campaigning against the domestic policy of the Truman administration and its prosecution of the war in Korea, Eisenhower swept to a landslide victory over the Democratic candidate, Adlai E. Stevenson. The domestic program of the Eisenhower adminstration was moderately conservative, and in foreign policy the internationalist approach of the previous Democratic administration was continued. Despite the President's overwhelming personal popularity and his landslide reelection over Stevenson in 1956, a feat that included carrying several Southern states for the second consecutive time, the Democrats retained control of Congress through the 1960 elections.
In 1960, an incumbent Vice President, Richard M. Nixon was nominated for president for the first time since 1836. Although the Republican party had become a minority in registration, Nixon failed by fewer than 200,000 votes to defeat John F. Kennedy. In 1964 the conservative wing of the party engineered the nomination of Senator Barry Goldwater, who was, however, defeated in a landslide by Lyndon B. Johnson. In 1968 the party rebounded and won a narrow victory with party stalwart Richard Nixon over Democratic candidate Hubert Humphrey, who was handicapped by disaffection over the Vietnam War. In 1972, President Nixon was triumphantly reelected, defeating George McGovern on a record of favoring a strong defense with a limited détente with the Soviet Union and China, and a conservative domestic program featuring a decentralization of political power.
The party, however, suffered a series of massive setbacks with the resignation of Vice President Spiro Agnew upon his conviction for tax evasion and revelations of major White House involvement in the Watergate affair, which led finally to the resignation of President Nixon. Nixon's successor, Gerald R. Ford, attempted to disassociate the party from the scandals, but Watergate appeared to be a major factor in the substantial Republican losses in the 1974 elections and in the subsequent defeat of Ford by the Democrat Jimmy Carter.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.