Reagan’s 1968 Dress Rehearsal: Ike, RFK, and Reagan’s Emergence as a World Statesman

Back to Top

Reagan’s 1968 Dress Rehearsal: Ike, RFK, and Reagan’s Emergence as a World Statesman

Gene Kopelson


This ground-breaking book weaves an exciting, never-before-told story of Ronald Reagan’s first quest for the presidency in the late 1960s. Reagan’s goal was to prevent a first-ballot Nixon victory, as many delegates couldn’t wait to vote for Reagan on the second ballot. Yet Reagan favored the broad political tent of the Republican Party and said he would support whomever was the nominee.

Behind the scenes, Reagan’s private political mentor was Dwight Eisenhower, and Reagan’s public political foe was Robert Kennedy. Reagan scholar Kopelson’s analysis relies on newly uncovered audiotapes from candidate Reagan’s days as governor of California, the Eisenhower-Reagan correspondence and files, Ike’s post-presidential diary, and interviews with 35 grassroots Reagan activists from 1968.
Many of the major triumphs of Reagan’s subsequent tenure as president originated during that first campaign: Tearing down the Berlin Wall. Lessening nuclear weapons. The peaceful defeat of communism. Creating a missile defense shield for America. Bringing freedom to Eastern Europe. And dealing with hostage crises.
During 1968, Reagan emerged as a world statesman and shaped his crusade to restore pride in America. Kopelson further demonstrates why for Reagan, Ike’s tutelage was critical. This political mentorship changed America’s national priorities through the end of Reagan’s presidency, whose effects are still very much with us today.
Publication DateApril 4, 2016 ISBN: 9780182198849 Number of Pages 939
Author Biography
About the Author: Gene Kopelson is president of the New England chapter, and on the Board of Trustees, of the Theodore Roosevelt Association, an active Churchillian, and a holocaust educator. As a historian, he has published works on Theodore Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet, Ronald Reagan’s 1966 campaign and Mexican American voters, the 1968 Nebraska and Oregon Republican primaries, and Washington State Republican politics in the 1960s. The Robert F. Kennedy Memorial featured his research on Robert F. Kennedy as an inspiration to Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal. His research on Reagan and Eisenhower was featured in 2015 at the 125th Commemoration of the Birth of Dwight Eisenhower at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library. Kopelson has organized and spoken at lectures about: the 2008 Centennial Celebration of the Seattle arrival of Theodore Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet; Theodore Roosevelt’s navy and the 21st Century, at the Naval War College; the Roosevelt-Rondon Expedition as well as the renovations of Sagamore Hill, at Harvard; holocaust righteous gentile and rescuer, Chiune Sugihara; the leader of the revolt at the Sobibor death camp, Toivi Blatt; and Jewish partisans. He and his wife Mindy educate about the resistance and update teacher-student book and video teaching trunks at the Holocaust Center for Humanity in Seattle. When not researching and writing history, Dr. Gene Kopelson is a cancer physician. He has published over forty medical articles, contributed chapters in medical textbooks, and lectured in the U.S. and abroad on radiation oncology. He graduated Princeton University with an A.B. Cum Laude in Biochemistry, obtained his M.D. at Columbia University, and completed his internship and residency at Harvard University’s Department of Radiation Oncology at the Massachusetts General Hospital. For two decades he was the director of a cancer center affiliated with the Yale University School of Medicine and was a practice accreditor for the American College of Radiation Oncology.
Reviews (3)

3 reviews for Reagan’s 1968 Dress Rehearsal: Ike, RFK, and Reagan’s Emergence as a World Statesman

  1. Figueroa Press

    5.0 out of 5 starsAn Excellent Look Back at Reagan’s First Presidential Campaign
    By James Strock VINE VOICE on April 4, 2016
    Format: Paperback
    Gene Kopelson has thrown open the curtains on a hinge moment in the leadership journey of Ronald Reagan: his 1968 presidential campaign. While many were introduced to Reagan during his dramatic 1976 challenge to an incumbent president, his 1968 run–the “dress rehearsal” undertaken in the second year of his governorship–is an important tale.

    1968, was, of course, also a hinge moment in American history. Reagan was interacting with giants who were in their final act–most notably Dwight Eisenhower–as well as his political contemporaries, including Nelson Rockefeller, Richard Nixon, Robert Kennedy, and others.

    Kopelson has done yeoman’s research in primary and secondary sources to bring together a fine portrait of Reagan and the moment.

    As the United States heads into another time of rapid change, interest in the 1960s is rising. This book can be usefully read along with other entries, including Jonathan Darman’s ‘Landslide,’ Richard Norton Smith’s authoritative biography of Nelson Rockefeller, ‘On His Own Terms,’ and Patrick Buchanan’s ‘The Greatest Comeback.’

  2. Figueroa Press

    5.0 out of 5 starsMust read for anyone interested in Ronald Reagan or US political history
    By Amazon Customer on May 15, 2016
    Format: Paperback
    Gene Kopelson’ s book is an extraordinarily researched and detailed look at a very important period in Ronald Reagan’s political career and indeed in US history. He has uncovered many details not widely known about Reagan and his political career. Kopelson melds together flawlessly and very readably three distinct dimensions of the Reagan story – first, an in-depth look at Reagan’s little-know 1968 campaign for the US Presidency (and highlights the even less known fact that Reagan came very closer to gaining the 1968 GOP nomination); second, the even less known ongoing relationship between Reagan and Dwight D Eisenhower including Eisenhower’s guidance to Reagan on US foreign policy issues; and third, the littlest known story of all – the rivalry and intense dislike between Robert Kennedy and Reagan, including the wonderful details of how Reagan trounced Kennedy in a 1967 debate featuring questions from Oxford students (including future Senator Bill Bradley) – worth watching on You Tube.. All-in-all a great read for anyone interested in Reagan or US political history.

  3. Figueroa Press

    5.0 out of 5 starsReagan’s Dress Rehearsal Is Looking Sharp
    By Amazon Customer on July 9, 2016
    Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
    This is a magnificent book about the earlier years of one of our most beloved presidents. Some may be turned off by the book’s length (over 900 pages) but if you love American History as much as I can, you’ll never feel that it’s unnecessarily long and you’ll have a hard time putting it down.

    Calling it “Reagan’s Dress Rehearsal” is very appropriate as the book details how Reagan’s initial presidential campaign contains a lot of elements we would see in his administration: his strong anti-communist sentiments, his zero tolerance for labor strikes, his interest in keeping America safe, and so forth.

    The book goes into great detail on Reagan’s relationship with President Eisenhower, an important reminder of the chain of previous political leaders inspiring the next political leaders.

    The book not only follows Reagan but does a good job of introducing the various underlings who worked behind the scenes throughout the country to get Reagan to the white house.

    My one minor complaint about the book is that I felt Mr. Kopelson should have stayed with the story of Reagan. I felt there were a few too many times that the book brings up current politics that Reagan didn’t even live to see.

Add a review