Nixon’s solution to the problem of being thought a loser was to prove he was a winner. He decided to enter the most important contested Republican primaries and win them. The first, and therefore the most important, would be in New Hampshire on March 12th.
When Nixon announced his candidacy at a press conference on February 2nd, he put his solution right out front: He would test himself in “the fires of the primaries.”
Similarly, in order to create the element of surprise by arriving at his New Hampshire announcement press conference in Concord on February 2nd while everyone was wondering where he was, Nixon flew in surreptitiously the night before with Pat Buchanan, Dwight Chapin, and Ray Price. They checked him into a hotel in Nashua under the name “Benjamin Chapman.”
At the Nixon Library in 2014, Pat Buchanan recalled Benjamin Chapman’s arrival in New Hampshire:
The Reasons Why
In a film prepared by the Nixon campaign, the candidate informally explained his reasons for running for President.
A Time To Begin
The film — titled A Time To Begin — conveys a sense of the immediacy and intensity of the Nixon campaign in the Granite State.
It runs about 29 minutes; it is worth watching.
Meeting The Press
The Nixon 1968 campaign’s kick-off press conference was held at Manchester on February 2nd.
The questioning was wide-ranging and free-wheeling; always respectful but often skeptical. Many of the questions dealt with –and tried to stoke—the Nixon-Romney rivalry.
Of particular interest are the questions dealing with Vietnam. Describing himself as “a member of the loyal opposition,” Nixon said:
…we may be divided on many issues, but that the enemy in North Vietnam and the Vietcong in South Vietnam cannot and should not count on American division to gain politically in the United States what they cannot gain militarily in Vietnam.
Our disagreement on the war in Vietnam is not about the goal; our disagreement is about the means to achieve that goal. I believe that better diplomacy, more effective use of our military and economic strength, can bring this war to a quicker conclusion.
The complete transcript of the Manchester press conference may be read at Appendix B.
Morning to Midnight
Nixon was an experienced and accomplished campaigner. Although it was totally exhausting, he enjoyed it, and even appeared to draw strength from meeting and talking with people. He had a widely-remarked and admired ability to remember not only the names, but personal details, of people he had only briefly met years before. In New Hampshire he often surprised people by recalling the circumstances in which they had met eight years earlier when he was campaigning for the presidency in 1960.
As a campaigner, Nixon combined stamina and self-discipline – as his schedule for February 3rd and 4th indicates.
To read the full schedule scroll down below (or click Fullscreen, lower right, for easier reading).
Nixon '68 campaign aide and White House speechwriter Ken Khachigian, now a member of the Nixon Foundation's Board of Directors, has written about the night of the New Hampshire primary. The Nixons had returned to New York, and went to the campaign office to share the victory with the staff.
Former Congressman James Rogan, a judge of the Superior Court of California since 2006, has written a book about the 1968 presidential campaign. On January 31st 2018, the 50th anniversary of RN’s letter to New Hampshire voters, Rogan published an excerpt from his book about Nixon’s New Hampshire efforts: “Richard Nixon: Wholly American”