I wonder if the RNC Delegates still thought they nominated the right person for President in 1964. Actually when it came to speaking for classical conservatism, Ron Reagan and Barry Goldwater were probably about equal. Except that Reagan had some better lines and better humor. He was essentially a comedian in Hollywood who could also act a little bit, as well as a comedian as a politician. And wrote most of his material, something good comedians have as an advantage as speakers over non-comedians. They can speak off the top of their head. Reagan also had the ability to put down the opposition with humor, without sounding like a jerk.
Reagan was great at getting people to laugh at themselves and laugh at him intentionally as well. 1964 was the last general election that the Democratic Party owned the South even though they won in a landslide, the White House and Congress. Even with Senator Goldwater’s huge defeat, he managed to win some Southern states that the Democratic Party previously owned. Part of this was of course the civil rights legislation of the mid 1960s, but part of it was also Senator Goldwater and Ron Reagan with their classical conservative message of limited government and more individual freedom. That they took across the country, including in the South. That made the Republican Party competitive all across the country, even in the Northeast and Far West.
This was an era from around 1952 with Dwight Eisenhower, up to 1992 with George H.W. Bush where the Republican Party was truly the Grand Ole Party. That was about limited government and individual freedom. That Eisenhower, Goldwater, Gerry Ford and Reagan communicated so well. And why they won 7-10 presidential elections and became competitive in Congress again. Even holding the Senate for eight years in that time period, which at the time was a huge accomplishment for them. Where in the 70s and 80s they would speak to the Christian-Right but wouldn’t give them anything. How times and the Republican Party have changed.