Reagan, Before the Lightning Struck
“[A]s Ronald Reagan made his plea for unity, he spoke with a mildness, a lack of charisma, even a simplicity, which was reminiscent of a good middle-aged stock actor's simplicity—well, you know, fellows, the man I'm playing is an intellectual, and of course I have the kind of mind which eve gets confused by a finesse in bridge.
”They cheered him wildly, and he looked happy, as if something had gone his way ...
“Still, unlike Nixon, Reagan was altogether at ease with the Press. They had been good to him, they would be good again—he had the confidence of the elected governor of a big state, precisely what Nixon had always lacked; besides, Reagan had long ago incorporated the confidence of an actor who knows he is popular with interviewers. In fact, he had a public manner which was so natural that his discrepancies appeared only slightly surrealistic: at the age of fifty-seven, he had the presence of a man of thirty, the deferential enthusiasm, the bright but dependably unoriginal mind, of a sales manager promoted for his ability over men older than himself. ... Besides, darkening shades of the surreal, he had a second personality which was younger than the first, very young, boyish, maybe thirteen or fourteen, freckles, cowlick, I-tripped-on-my-sneaker-lace aw shucks variety of confusion. For back on Tuesday afternoon they had been firing questions at him on the order of how well he was doing at prying delegates loose from Nixon, and he could only say over and over, 'I don't know. I just don't know. I've been moving around so quickly talking to so many delegations in caucus that I haven't had time to read a paper.'
”'Well, what do the delegations say, Governor?'
“'Well, I don't know. They listen to me very pleasantly and politely, and then I leave and they discuss what I've said. But I can't tell you if we're gaining. I think we are, but I don't know, I don't know. I honestly don't know gentlemen,' and he broken into a grin, 'I just don't know,' exactly like a thirteen year old, as if indeed gentlemen he really didn't know, and the Press and the delegates listening laughed with him as if there were no harm in Ronald Reagan, unless the lightning struck.”
--Norman Mailer, “Miami and the Siege of Chicago,” pp. 70-72.