Des Moines Register Endorses Richard Nixon


The story of the Des Moines Register’s endorsing Mitt Romney—the first time the newspaper has endorsed a Republican since Richard Nixon in 1972—has been covered with entirely the wrong emphasis.

The point is not Mitt Romney’s potential for success in the office or Barack Obama’s supposed failures.

The point is that the Des Moines Register endorsed Richard Nixon. Yes, that Richard Nixon.

The Register was far from alone among major newspapers endorsing Nixon that year. Unfortunately, no archive has been found with the particular words of praise and support the newspaper used, though the search continues. It would be lovely to read those words—and then to compare them to the actualities of Nixon’s truncated term in office.

Absent that record, it is a good guess that the Des Moines Register did not predict that Nixon would lead a criminal conspiracy from the Oval Office, and that the cover-up of that behavior would include the undermining of the U.S. Constitution. That would not make for a very effective endorsement. Nor did the newspaper likely mention his nickname “Tricky Dick”, an allusion to his reputation for deviousness and ruthlessness.

The well-known moniker began not with his 1968 presidential campaign, nor with his 1962 gubernatorial campaign, nor with his 1960 presidential campaign, nor with his 1952 vice-presidential campaign, but with his 1950 senatorial campaign. By the time of the 1972 campaign, Nixon had been touted by some respectable people as “Tricky Dick” for 22 years.

For whatever reason, the Des Moines Register refused to believe it. They endorsed Nixon, and though we can’t really blame them for the election results—the late George McGovern’s historic loss—they didn’t help, and the rest is history.