Video: Great communicator

updated 7/20/2004 6:05:05 PM ET 2004-07-20T22:05:05

For MSNBC political host Chris Matthews, the 1976 Republican convention was "the last one that could have gone either way." The fight was between Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford.

"That was a real battle-royale," recounts NBC's Tom Brokaw. "Reagan hung in there until the end and I had the last interview with him up in the booth. He was very reflective and it was clear at some point that he knew he would get his crack at the presidency, and he felt it was part of his destiny. Reagan was then summoned down the stage and the entire floor of the delegation realized that maybe they nominated the wrong guy. Reagan got up there and electrified the place. Gerry Ford deserved the nomination, but when you put those two guys on the same platform, there is just no comparison in terms of charisma and ability to captivate a crowd.”

“I had been covering Ronald Reagan since 1966 and I never ever underestimated his ability to be a great successful warrior on Election Day. He had an uncanny connection to the American public, it was part-philosophy, part-personality, and a lot of optimism. He was unapologetic in his kind of view of this country. He really did think it was a city shining on a hill and that 'If you stay with me, we could get there together.'”

For Brokaw, Reagan's legacy can be found everywhere—in the Senate, in Congress, in media. "The progeny of Ronald Reagan don't necessarily carry his name. There's a whole generation of young conservatives out there — involved in politics— because of what he meant to them. He had as much of an impact, I believe, on succeeding American populations as John Kennedy did."

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