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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with James E. Holshouser Jr., January 31, 1998. Interview C-0328-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Moderate Holshouser and conservative Helms balance the Republican ticket in 1972

Holshouser believes that the contentious Republican primary battles in 1972 divided the party. Once Holshouser, a self-identified moderate Republican, won the nomination, he campaigned with the conservative Jesse Helms, offering a reason to vote to Republican voters from different ends of the ideological spectrum.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with James E. Holshouser Jr., January 31, 1998. Interview C-0328-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

JACK FLEER:
I remember during this time there was a lot of discussion about whether it was desirable to have in the Republican party an intensely fought primary like the one that you and Mr. Gardner did in fact experience. How would you assess that issue now?
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
Well it was very hard on the two candidates and it left some scares. At the same time, by the end of the second primary the next poll we did my personal name identification was 52%. So it more than doubled because of the primary.
JACK FLEER:
The first primary.
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
By the time of the second primary. And we probably would not have won in 1972 had it had not been for the primary because almost all of the major newspapers endorsed me in the primary. They viewed Gardner and Jesse Helms as the right wing. We don't have a left wing in the Republican Party. I was more in the middle, but moderate conservative. And so it got some of them at least thinking toward me. I got the endorsement of the NCAE in the primary. They endorsed Pat Taylor who lost. So they chose not to endorse anybody in the fall, so we got a lot of teachers' support. When you start looking how small the margin was in November, there were just a lot of places you can say made a difference. But that was, the primary definitely made a difference and it got us acquainted with some people whom at that level were for us. A lot of them couldn't vote in the Republican primary. But it meant that it was a little easier for people to be for us in the fall. We got some major newspaper endorsements that the Republicans had never gotten before in the fall.
JACK FLEER:
In the fall election. Now, it could have caused serious wounds within the Republican Party.
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
Yes and I think it did.
JACK FLEER:
Did it?
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
But at the same time, Jesse Helms had won the primary and that was three way primary as I recall. So you had, everybody had somebody to be for. There were a lot of joint rallies along the way and the party pulled together once that state executive committee was out of the way in June. The party pulled together for the fall campaign really well. We had a meeting every Sunday afternoon, the presidential campaign staff and the Helms campaign staff and the governor's campaign staff. Everybody merged the staffs for field people out there. So that the Helms and Holshouser people really sort of really piggy backed back on Nixon's campaign's surplus money which got them in all that trouble. But we benefited from that significantly, I think.
JACK FLEER:
Was that unusual to have that kind of coordination, when those three do occur at the same time or even two of them, like a presidential and a gubernatorial campaign? Was that an unusual level of cooperation?
JAMES E. HOLSHOUSER, JR.:
I think it was. You probably wouldn't have that much going on today. Of course before that time, we just never had an occasion when you had those three races up with viable campaigns going on at the same time. See North Carolina hadn't carried the state for president for the Republican since 1928, I believe.