There has been a great deal of talk that the GOP lacks a “main person” who speaks for it. (Google the words “leaderless” and “Republican” and you get more than 30,000 hits.) Whatever the party’s troubles, the lack of a “main person” is not one of them. The United States is not a parliamentary system with a “leader of the opposition.” In our system of federalism, bicameralism, and the separation of powers, the out-party seldom has a single identifiable leader. Nevertheless, as I have pointed out elsewhere, the “leaderless out-party” story is a hardy perennial in the press. Consider a New York Times editorial on July 27, 1965. Governor Nelson Rockefeller had just announced that he would not run for president in 1968. (He eventually did.) The Times lamented:
Even after admitting all the Rockefeller political liabilities, the question persists whether the Republican Party will really be better off now. Can Gov. William W. Scranton of Pennsylvania, Gov. George Romney of Michigan or former Vice President Richard M. Nixon do better? They did not distinguish themselves the last time around and the party remains embarrassingly leaderless. Time may remedy the present deficit, or new faces may appear. The Rockefeller departure could remove an irritant. But it also removes, or largely immobilizes, a chief spokesman for the forward-looking Republicanism that alone as a political philosophy can compete against the Democrats.
The next year, the GOP made a big comeback in the midterm election, including a dramatic victory in the race for governor of California. Readers of this blog know what happened in the 1968 presidential race.