Opposition research — political Dumpster diving perfected by Lee Atwater and Roger Stone — has been a part of American politics for nearly 200 years. Your familiarity with Willie Horton, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and John Edwards’ $400 haircut is a tribute to its irritating persistence as a campaign tool. What follows is oppo research, but we do not aim to inflict damage. In fact, The Awl’s effort, a collection of early media mentions of the Republican candidates (sometimes appearing under their given names), may actually endear these Presidential hopefuls to you. Or am I the only one charmed by 11-year-old zoo booster Newton Gingrich?
New York Times — February 28, 1960
By the time of this family portrait in the Times, George Romney had been on the cover of Time, having made millions as head of American Motors Corporation. His son, as a classmate would later tell a Boston Globe reporter, was still “tall, skinny, gawky [and] had a bad complexion.”
Albuquerque Journal — December 4, 1976
’76 was a good year for Mr. Johnson: just out of college, he founded Big J Enterprises, a construction firm he’d sell for a profit more than twenty years later, and married Denise Simms. Bride and groom “both of Albuquerque.”
Years later, in 1993, Gary Johnson was a political unknown with a bad haircut, as evidenced in this August 14th The New Mexican profile. He now has an awesome haircut.
Winona Daily News — April 13, 1977
Michele Amble’s push for the legalization of booze on her college campus presaged her fondness for beer companies, from whom she has accepted donations.
In this AP story, Bachmann, then a junior at Winona State University, was among a group of students pushing for legalization “taken by Gov. Rudy Perpich on a private tour of a home for alcoholics.” The tour evidently did not sway her opinion. Her quote: “The University of Minnesota and six private colleges allow liquor on campus. And there have been no problems because of it.”
The Brazosport Facts (Texas) — July 11, 1972
Dr. Paul once went to great lengths for a box of Samoas.
Daily Boston Globe — September 1, 1954
Gingrich would eventually become a standard-bearer for conservative values, but in ’54 the little moocher didn’t mind asking for a handout from the mighty producer.
An 11-year-old is fighting City Hall here in an attempt to establish a zoo in the city’s Wildwood Park.
Young Newton Gingrich told Mayor Claude Robins and four city Councilmen that he and an umber of youthful buddies could round up enough animals to get the project started if granted use of the park.
As Gingrich later told CNN, “Early on in life I thought I’d be a paleontologist or a zoo director.” The interest abides: “Yes, I mean, I — when you say to me about really great moments of happiness, it is hanging out at zoos.”
Olney Enterprise — September 27, 1984
Perry has long had a reputation as an excellent retail politician. As a then-unelected Democrat, he learned to press the flesh.
Two years later — as The Houston Chronicle reported on Jan. 29, 1986 — he inadvertently educated a classroom of high-school students.
A state technician says a nude scene attached to the end of a videotaped program on drug abuse was not the fault of the lawmaker who provided the tape to a surprised high school audience.
The scene depicting a nude couple in bed was inadvertently attached to a taped drug program sent by state Rep. Rick Perry, D-Haskell, to the 26 schools in his district.
The discovery prompted Perry to recall all the tapes.
The story as it appeared in The Galveston Daily News.
Associated Press — November 27, 1981
Santorum has famously kept children safe from gays, biology and immigration reform. His opposition to caffeine pills may have been his first crusade. Working as an aide to then Sen. Doyle Colman, Santorum advocated for a bill making it illegal to sell caffeine pills “that resemble amphetamines if the intent is to deceive the buyer.”
Deseret News — October 16, 1971
As a new member of the Nixon Administration, Jon Huntsman Sr. introduced the future governor and his brother to the felonious President he would be serving.