Republican Primary 2012: A Dirty Fight?

Historian Ken Davis puts the race in the context of past campaigns.
1:12 | 03/06/12

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Transcript for Republican Primary 2012: A Dirty Fight?
-- big question for you -- going back to history. We were hearing from a lot of folks most recently from Barbara Bush in this most negative campaign I've ever seen. I'm always I always -- to talk to historians about this because. Go back in time this is never been a pretty processed right and -- -- -- it looks very campaign that we can say officially was -- to -- most negative. There have been so many I don't know quite where to start but it's one of the Greek myths we have a lot of myths. When we talk about American history but certainly one of the myths is that. Politics once used to be more noble -- more clean and men in. Powdered wigs discussing the great issues of the day back and 1824. By Andrew Jackson was accused of being an adulterer a murderer. His mother was said to be a prostitute. And that was the nice stuff -- -- so it's always been that in fact it was a song that was -- Andrew Jackson and his wife had been. Married after she thought she was divorced but wasn't. And that became a really crucial. Issue -- also killed several men Abdul and that was a song of the day that went. Oh Andy -- Andy how many men have you killed in your life how many weddings to make a wife. Now that -- it sounds a little you know it sounds cute now but if this was pretty pretty brutal act and. A few years later John Quincy Adams was accused of curing women for the czar of Russia. Young American girls for the czar of Russia when he was the minister there. So it's always been a part of -- -- and -- of the American. Political process it's magnified obviously today by television. Thomas Jefferson 1804. He's accused of the relationship with Sally hemmings in the midst of that campaign that was not a story that came out from historian hundred years later. That was a campaign -- hundreds of journalists that the Clinton the calendar calendar was a muckraking journalist who actually worked for Thomas Jefferson a little bit earlier are. Was miffed because he didn't get a job in the Jefferson administration and started going after him. He was by the way found dead in river they said he was a drinker and that time. I don't really know what happened to James Callender. But but it you can go back even further. This is the very idea of American politics. The founders the framers the men we think of this behind minded -- they didn't even like the idea parties they were opposed to them. But as soon as George Washington -- off the scene they started creating them. Alexander Hamilton. Went after John Adams his own president while he was the sitting president and and stabbed him in the back with a pamphlet. That was published widely. The talked about what a failed president while he was and then kind of endorsed him at the end to police things that we see today between Republicans. You know clubbing each other in this circle it just keeps going around it's all been done before in American history. We -- talking about history before earlier with George. George me -- point when he was interviewing Newt Gingrich on Sunday on this week as well that if you look back in. 1950 to 1976. And nineteen Eden. I have my ears right there and 8680 and 52. -- That these kinds of nomination battles that do damage to the party and delivering to the White House to be opposite party. Particular point that neither of these guys have some reason to sort of the speech of their careers I think that's probably true. But those things don't necessarily present themselves inside the nomination -- -- -- they -- to present themselves morning general election conference. Well who led the checkers speech for instance Nixon that was a speech where he had to really give the speech he that had been accused of a slush funds during that -- -- talk about going back in history having having. Money and that's where of course he came up with the famous story about his dog little dog checkers that's why the name of the speech but he also talked about his his wife's. Republic she didn't Wear a mink coat she wore a good Republican cloth coat. It was a speech that did save his political career. The Eisenhower campaign was going to get -- -- Richard Nixon. And so I think that you know there always examples of how these things have happened during the primary season as well as. As as a general campaign. But. And to the point of of other primaries though I have to raise one that's especially interest in this year because that's the hundredth anniversary and I'm watching these Republicans do it. Taft and Roosevelt 1912. Teddy Roosevelt had been the president. Taft took over and became president. Roosevelt wasn't happy with what -- -- done. By the way back -- they said -- -- take advice from -- that's that was -- unfortunately what his name meant in the press. So Roosevelt Teddy Roosevelt of course comes back by the way he did not like the name Teddy -- column that colonel Roosevelt came back and decide to run again. And it was a bruising campaign there were primaries in those days they were non binding. But it was the loss that Roosevelt had that that forced him to decide to become a third party candidate. -- started and progressive party. The Bull Moose Party. As it was known the most successful third party in history by the way he actually won more. Electoral votes -- more states than Taft did but ultimately gave the election. To Woodrow Wilson the Democrat in 1912 so. In -- -- scene fighting amongst Republican in us for that really does steal the election on two. To Ellen -- and we talk a lot about the fact that. Ultimately. An outcome of the primary like this is a spurned. Republican maybe we see it in Ron Paul -- -- -- Tea Party -- look who's. Well I'll notably they're putting your room on the kids want to sit I catch. Are you we're. This is can davis' story in. I and I urge. Him. To get special report on the for the I don't that your attempt -- one. That -- vote in Ohio. -- Where we are. 38% to 35 and 60% -- Thousands that's a lot to make up even with some rotten beaver counties and populous ones slow Callahan. That's that is quite. Point lead that Santorum has -- -- There. Caucus state. -- it. I'm surprised. He spent about a time -- As well. Republicans. But a statement no economic problems. They have really nasty recession mark. -- -- And in fact if you guys I would like so -- terror network this week that we -- -- read it. -- but tell the story. And a look at arranged by the as the clock out at those -- -- and the nice thing is when we're done with this week he sees as coasters. -- answer quite. -- -- this is not. And this is -- well he's like well -- -- -- good margin up. It's still aren't. Sure that you -- so we can happen. He didn't come -- it was going to be -- -- point yeah -- frequently thanks for visiting you know eight. I've stayed with just water right now. Thanks for coming back to the -- -- catches are quite quite comfortable.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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