Lyn Nofziger was one of the toughest, funniest, smartest, and most utterly loyal men I’ve ever known. He’s also the only man I’ve ever known who wore a Mickey Mouse tie to the White House every day—not that he could abide government work, even in the White House, long enough to remain on the federal payroll very long.
When just now I saw Kathryn’s post—not a surprise, since I’d known for weeks that Lyn was dying, and had been told, this past Saturday, that he was unlikely to survive the weekend; but still, somehow, a stab to the heart—I riffled around in my notes to find a Nofziger story to share with the readers of this Corner. This one contains all the right elements: A touch of salty language, a standoff with Nancy Reagan, and a situation saved by Ronald Reagan.
The scene was in a hotel in North Carolina in 1976. Running for the Republican presidential nomination against the incumbent president, Gerald Ford, Reagan had suffered a string of primary defeats, and by the time of the North Carolina primary even some of Reagan’s well-wishers had begun to wonder whether challenging Ford had been a mistake. Nancy Reagan called Nofziger, the campaign press secretary, to the candidate’s suite. He found her there alone. “She said, ‘Lyn, we’ve got to get Ronnie out of the race,’” Nofziger told me. “‘We can’t have him embarrassed.’” Nofziger disagreed with Mrs. Reagan—he felt certain Reagan could turn the campaign around—but even he thought twice about telling her so to her face.
“I’m standing there saying to myself, ‘Now, how the hell am I going to say anything to her about this?” Nofziger said. Then the candidate himself walked in. “Ronald Reagan saw instinctively what was going on. He turned to me, and he said, ‘Lynwood [Reagan's nickname for Nofziger], I am not going to get out of this race. We’re going to stay in all the way.’ Nancy wasn’t pleased,” Lyn said, chuckling, “but she knew that was it.” (Reagan won the North Carolina primary, just as Lyn believed he would–and, although he narrowly failed to wrest the nomination from Ford, placed himself in a commanding position to run again in 1980.)
Ronald Reagan did go all the way—Lynwood at his side.
Tonight, I’d like to believe, they’re together once again.