KC Johnson

LBJ, Dick Nelson, and Bill Moyers, 25 Aug. 1964

By the Democratic convention in late August, Johnson had a more felicitous term to describe the concept—the “frontlash.” In this clip, the President pressed aide Dick Nelson for the latest polls, and passed them onto Bill Moyers with an instruction to “stampede that convention” with talk of the frontlash.

President Johnson: Dick, I want you to get the best figures on the last poll—the frontlash and the backlash—with the last five of them, that you can. I know you’ve got a good one on Roper. I know you’ve got a good one on Gallup. I know you’ve got a good one on Harris. I know you—then I would think there are two or three big states like New York.

And call Bill Moyer[s] and tell him to make copies of them and distribute them to all the networks. Try to get some of our people like [John] Connally and the others to point out, then, what the polls show on the frontlash. Use nothing but the word frontlash; quit talking about backlash.

Tell him to really stampede that convention with frontlashes today.

Dick Nelson: All right.

President Johnson: Try to drown it out.

[Break; Moyers comes to the line.]

President Johnson: Try to get a half dozen of our people talking about frontlash.

Bill Moyers: All right, sir.

President Johnson: “The great frontlash.”

We ought to get some of our folks from New York, and we ought to . . . If I were you, I’d go talk to Bobby Kennedy and show him what the polls say and see if he won’t make some comment on the frontlash, how the Republicans are quitting.

Moyers: All right, sir.

President Johnson: I can’t do it. See if anybody else that’s got any press around him.

Moyers: All right, sir.

President Johnson: Let’s bury ‘em in frontlash today.

[Break.]

President Johnson: And the frontlash is liberals, independents, moderate Republicans. It shows he’s [Goldwater] only getting one independent out of four, whereas Nixon got two. It shows Nixon got 92 percent of the Republicans; he’s only got 60 [percent]. Roper only gives him 50 [percent]. Gives us 27 [percent], and him 50 [percent].

Moyers: All right, sir.

President Johnson: So he’s only got—he’s got two out of three Republicans, whereas Nixon had nine out of ten.

Moyers: All right, sir.

President Johnson: Now, we’ve got to sell that every place we can. That ought to be our one propaganda thing today.

Moyers: All right.

———

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