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UNR Archive Details Relationship Between Laxalt, Reagan

University of Nevada Reno - Special Colletions

Paul Laxalt’s Reagan Years: Campaigns, Elections and the Road to the White House

It's no secret that former Nevada Governor, then Senator Paul Laxalt and Ronald Reagan were close.

Laxalt was often referred to in the media as the nation's "first friend," after all.

But what many don't know is how Laxalt helped run Reagan's presidential campaigns in 1976, 1980 and 1984.

The University of Nevada, Reno has obtained a series of correspondences between Laxalt and Reagan that goes into their relationship. It also sheds some new light on ties between Nevada's senator and the nation's 40th president.

Eden Strekal is a project archivist for the University of Nevada, Reno. He said Reagan and Laxalt originally met in the early 1960s, but became closer when they were both governors in 1968.

The letters between the two leaders shows the trust the president had for Sen. Laxalt. In fact, Reagan asked him for help during his first campaign for president.

"Now, I'm not sure exactly Reagan's reasoning why he wanted Paul Laxalt, but he obviously trusted him," Strekal said. "The two had cordial relationships and he saw his ability as an up-and-coming star in the Senate." 

According to Strekal, the two stayed close even after Reagan was elected and, in fact, Laxalt became an informal bridge between the Oval Office and the Senate.

Jacque Sundstrand is the manuscript and archives librarian for the University of Nevada, Reno's special collections and university archives. She said looking at these kinds of letters, papers, and notes allow researchers a very personal look at leaders.

It also gives a look at why decisions were made.

"I think an awful lot of the material does reflect the people, as well as the voices from Nevada that wrote in," Sundstrand said, "The constituent correspondence that we have that is extremely interesting."

She also said the correspondence gives an idea of how Republicans worked to rebuild their party after it had lost so much face in Watergate. 

Strekal found the banter between Laxalt and other lawmakers, including President Reagan, gave him a new insight.

"I think that kind of banter is fun to see," he said, "It humanizes these people. It makes you realize they have a sense of humor as well."

Courtesy: UNR Special Collections

Eden Strekal, project archivist, University of Nevada, Reno;  Jacque Sundstrand, manuscripts and archives librarian for the University of Nevada, Reno's special collections and university archives

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