Opinion polls had Reagan far ahead of any other challenger for the Election of 1966 for Governor of California, and the national media had started to notice. Reagan's main problem at this point was that he needed to keep the conservative wing of the Republican Party happy without scaring the devil out of everyone else in California, which was what Barry Goldwater was unable to do in 1964. Even though Reagan had previously attacked Republican moderates, he toned down his rhetoric in early-1966 concerning that wing of the party.
Reagan had a winning personality to go with his conservative credentials. Governor Pat Brown, by comparison, looked stodgy and slow. In a June 1966 poll, Reagan held an eleven point lead over Brown, and the Governor was never able to close the gap. On 8 November 1966, Reagan crushed Brown by tallying one million more votes; Republicans swept the statewide offices as well. Nationally, seven other Republicans were elected governor, and Republicans won three Senate seats, and forty-seven seats in the House of Representatives.
The Governor of California was expected to socialize, but Reagan was more of a loner by nature. Reagan went home every night, while state legislators, who were away from home in Sacramento, would "howl and the night". Reagan made some efforts at socializing, for example inviting legislators over for dinner, but his efforts didn't close the "social gap" between the branches of state government.
California Democrats in the legislature attacked Reagan's budget proposal; it turned out that the Democrats paid far more attention to details than the new Governor. Democrats pointed out that Reagan's proposed 10% cuts across-the-board wouldn't eliminate the state budget deficit, and therefore a tax increase was needed. Reagan was forced to compromise with the legislature; a $1 billion tax increase was featured, which went against Reagan's fiscal philosophy (two of his basic principles were smaller government and less taxes), but he had to take what he could get with the state legislature so soon after taking office.
Reagan, like Nixon, went on a multi-state speaking tour before the convention. Reagan campaigned like a candidate for President, even though he was technically non-committal. When Robert Kennedy was assassinated in June 1968, Nixon, the moderate, politically benefited far more than Reagan. Moderate Republicans evoked less emotional passions in the extremely polarized social and political landscape of 1968 compared to the conservative Reagan, who to many was still a very scary proposition, even among Republicans.
But Nixon was a savvy politician, and he was able to keep Reagan off the stage before the balloting while courting Southern delegates by promising that he wouldn't nominate a liberal Republican for the Vice-Presidential slot (Nixon selected Spiro Agnew as his running mate). As predicted, Nixon won the nomination on the first ballot with 692 delegates, while Reagan finished third with 182 (Nelson Rockefeller finished second with 277); only then did Nixon allow Reagan on the stage to address the convention, for the sole purpose of recommending that Nixon's nomination be unanimous (the final ballot, after "switching", was Nixon with 1238 delegates, Rockefeller with 93, and Reagan with 2; pictured above - NBC anchorman John Chancellor interviewing Reagan on the floor of the convention).