XI: The Third Term Bid
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CHAPTER XI The Third Term Bid oward the end of WR's second term it began to seem that he wanted his staff to insist on his running again. He was troubled by the idea of breaking his word and seemed to want whatever reinforcement he could get for doingit. Because his Statement ofBeliefs had promised that he wouldn't seek a third term, WRwas uncomfortable . He had not broken his word on anything of importance before, at least not to anybody'sknowledge. But as the time for making a decision neared, WR'sassociates became uneasy. Those who opposed the third term bid became more nervous, and those who were for it became more nervous, too—trying to rationalize their job-protecting interests by convincing themselves that the party needed WR for this third term. The GOP was in difficulty at the time and WR seemed the most likely healer. If he won, there would be two more years during which the party wouldhave a chance tobuild. If he lost,however, the party's problems would be worse than if he had chosen to retire gracefully. Facing the dilemma, some of WR's staff prepared a memorandum on October 31, 1969.l It sought to put the situation in perspective and was the culmination of many weeks of private agonizing and several hours of spirited debate, with not all ofus agreeing on many of the points in the memo. When the memo was presented to Rockefeller, he read over it slowly, for what seemed like hours. Finally, he closed the document, which was almost six pages long, and said, "There's a lot here." He put the memo aside, and T 180 The Arkansas Rockefeller a general discussion about politics followed. We talked about who the probable Democratic nominee would be (most thought Faubus); but we never really got into a debate about the big question, the third term. Clearly WRhad decided to make his own decision. Although the memo recognized some personal problems that might influence the outcome of the election—marital difficulties between the Rockefellers and WR's drinking, for example—the consensus was that he should seek reelection. The memo asserted that "the best interests of Arkansas and the Republican Party would be served ifyou do seek a third term." This was what Rockefeller wanted to hear. Recognizing that Rockefeller's reform image had worn off and that there was less fervor among Rockefeller supporters , the memo asserted that the 1970 contest would not be easy. WR's aides believed that he should seek a third term but that he should enter the race with "at best a cautious optimism." When Faubus and Rockefellerhad locked horns in 1964, it had been a confrontation between the old and the new. Faubus was trying to continue the policies of the previous ten years—with the oldguard, the inside guys, the cronies. Rockefeller was the indignant candidate against the machine , against a Democratic party that had become merely an instrument that operated to the advantage of Orval Faubus. But Faubus won. In 1966, Rockefeller came back with determination, hoping and expecting that his opponent would again be Orval Faubus. He was ready for the six-term governor; he had files of data that could be used effectively. WR's own organization was ready to defeat this man who had come to represent the epitome of old guardism, of regressiveness, of self-serving government. But instead, Rockefeller faced Jim Johnson, a passionate segregationist, as articulate as Faubus but not the classic opponent Rockefellerwas ready The Third Term Bid 181 for. WR changed his tactics and defeated the new opponent . As governor Rockefeller set about to root out the old guard and establish the kind of administration he had dreamed and talked of. After the first term, WR faced Marion Crank in his bid for a second term. Rockefellerwas running against the old guard again, and he loved it. He was enthusiastic and disciplined. He inspired his organization with surprising performances—the campaign opener at Winthrop, the television debate, his determination to win in spite of governmental footdragging and legislative opposition. And he did win again. In these four years he had made marks that the oldguard couldn't erase. His programs were good, and some were tested, at least in part. The "Era of Excellence" was on its way—late, halting at times, but on the way. Members of the old guard had either dispersed or acknowledged that it was possible...