The average delegate to an American political convention has a remarkable chameleon-like quality which allows him to turn back from a back-stabbing wheeler dealer into a docile party regular in about as much time as it takes to say "William Scranton." The Republican convention will commence in San Francisco in mid-July and a roseterous imbroglio, even by Democratic Party standards, appears imminent.
But after a few days the combatants will grow nervous as their interaccins squabbles are aired before millions of fascinated television viewers. Someone, perhaps General (and former President) Eisenhowever, may say "William Scranton" (say it soft and it's almost like praying). The sounds of battle will cease. Knives will be cleaned and resheathed. Men of good will, weary now, will link arms in brotherhood and the faithful will chorus "William Scranton." Then they will cry together "Mark Hatfield," and the only man ever to campaign for the vice-presidential nomination for nine years will assume second place on the ticket.
Why Scranton? He served one term in the House (voting for such liberal projects as the enlargement of the Rules Committee) before winning election in 1962 as Governor of Pennsylvania. His record is Harrisburg has been at best unspectacular, although not nearly as disastrous as George Romany's in Michigan. He is a handsome man, young (46) and vigorous and perpetrator of the Republicans' greatest electoral victory in 1962. He has an Ivy League education (Hotchkies and Yale '39), a pretty wife, a prettier teen-age daughter, three young sons, and, according to the New York Times, a subscription to Foreign Affairs Quarterly.
Scranton's unrelieved blandness is precisely the point. He will be nominated by the Republicans not so much for what he has done, but for what he hasn't. He has never been divorced and remarried, although he has a whole city named for his family, not merely a Center. He has never taken as extremist position on anything, except perhaps the Harvard-Yale game, and is thus eminently acceptable to the Eastern, Internationalist, bigmoney wing of the party.
Unlike Romney, Scranton has not failed to put over a workable fiscal program in a chronically bankrupt state. Nor has he provoked the wrath of his own party, as Ronney did, after hinting he might accept a draft for the nomination.
Although Goldwater and Rockfeller are the only two announced candidates, the well-publicized objections to both, will most likely be decisive in their downfalls. At this point the two contenders with the best chance of defeating Scranton are those who can make use of the experience issue, Nixon and Lodge.
The Christian Science Monitor reported last week that Nixon's irrepressible competitive spirit is forcing him closer and closer to declaring his availability. This is hardly a surprise, especially since President Kennedy's death has enhanced the chances of a northern moderate to win both the Republican nomination and the election. The Monitor also offered the somewhat dubious reason that Nixon would be the only other candidate acceptable to the Goldwater forces, those diminished but still significant legions of the sun.
But Scranton has never lost a Presidential election, nor has he run for Governor of California and been defeated by Pat Brown. And he has never been tasteless enough to vent in public whatever paranoic feelings he might harbor about the press or his dog.
Lodge's candidacy is almost entirely the result of General Eisenhower's recent statement urging him to run. If he happens to win it would not at all be inappropriate for his campaign posters to read "I got my job through the New York Times." Lodge thus far has been adamant in his resistance, and his presence in Saigon, so far from the battle, will not help his backers build an organization. Although he is well-known he has a good measure of Scranton-like purity. If foreign affairs appear extremely important in July, Lodge could win the nomination because of his experience, if not his overwhelming success in that realm.
Scranton however, has never been deposed from a Senate seat by a brash young Congressman named Kennedy, nor has he run for vice-President and lost. His greatest asset is that he has not done very much of anything, and rival partisans, therefore, have precious little to hold against him.