OTD in history… July 16, 1964, Conservative Barry Goldwater accepts Republican presidential nomination

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

Source: Getty Images

On this day in history July 16, 1964, the Republican Party nominates Conservative Barry Goldwater, a Senator from Arizona for president; Goldwater ushered in the Republican Party’s association with conservatism. The 1964 campaign was the first time in twelve years the Republican field was open; New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller represented the party’s Eastern moderates, while Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater represented the conservative wing of the party, with Goldwater emerging with enough support for the nomination, however, throughout the campaign the two factions of the party remained fractured.

Conservatives no longer wanted a Republican Presidential candidate that supported the New Deal. In 1961, a group led by F. Clifton White, former national chairman of the Young Republicans, met in Chicago set on nominating a conservative in 1964, their candidate of choice was Barry Goldwater. In 1963, Texas state party chairman Peter O’Donnell formed the National Draft Goldwater Committee. In May 1963, Rockefeller remarried to a divorcee, which upset public support for him as a candidate; in the next Gallup poll, Goldwater led by 5 points. Henry Cabot Lodge won the New Hampshire primary over Rockefeller and Goldwater as a write-in, but he lost Oregon to Rockefeller, and then withdrew from the campaign, supporting Rockefeller for the nomination prior to the California primary. Goldwater won the California primary by 51 to 49 percent, three days after Rockefeller’s wife gave birth, reminding Republican voters of the adultery issues that plagued the Rockefeller campaign in 1963.

As the Republican National Convention opened in Daly City, California on July 13, there was a bitter, animosity between the moderate and conservative factions. Goldwater conservatives dominated the convention, with the conservatives attacking the moderates especially Nelson Rockefeller during his speech. In his nomination acceptance speech, Goldwater claimed, “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” Goldwater chose William Miller, New York Congressman, who shared a similar viewpoint, “One reason I chose Miller is that he drives Johnson nuts.” Miller was the first Catholic nominated on the Republican ticket. The moderate and liberal factions defected to the Democrats for the fall election, weakening Goldwater’s chance at election.

The Democrats led by incumbent Lyndon B. Johnson portrayed Goldwater as an extremist, notably depicting that to the public with their Daisy commercial, claimed Goldwater would start a nuclear war. Johnson would go on to win the election with a landslide and the largest share of the popular vote in modern American history. Despite his loss, Goldwater’s nomination realigned the Republican Party geographically, with the Sunbelt and the South turning Republican red after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The real star of the Republican presidential campaign in 1964 was former actor Ronald Reagan, who delivered his televised Time for Choosing speech in October, launching his political career. Goldwater’s nomination started the Republican Party’s alignment with the modern conservative movement, leading to Reagan’s election in 1980 and has remained a driving force in Republican politics.


Boller, Paul F. Presidential Campaigns: From George Washington to George W. Bush. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2004.

Perlstein, Rick. Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus. New York: Nation Books, 2009.

Bonnie K. Goodman has a BA and MLIS from McGill University and has done graduate work in religion at Concordia University. She is a journalist, librarian, historian & editor, and a former Features Editor at the History News Network & reporter at Examiner.com where she covered politics, universities, religion and news. She has a dozen years experience in education & political journalism.

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University) is a Professional Librarian (CBPQ) & historian. Former editor @ History News Network & reporter @ Examiner.com.

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