CLEVELAND — You could almost call it a game of six degrees of separation from Jack Kemp.
New York State Republican Chairman Ed Cox has seen it all and met just about everyone in Republican circles since he became part of the party’s lineage when he married Tricia Nixon on June 12, 1971, in the White House.
Now, charged with rallying some recalcitrant Republicans around Donald Trump, Cox is calling on the name of the late Rep. Jack Kemp of Buffalo, the former Buffalo Bills quarterback and a beloved statesmen to many New York Republicans.
In describing Trump’s choice of running mate, Cox said Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is “a Jack Kemp, a policy wonk conservative.”
“That was Trump’s first big decision,” Cox said in an interview. “And he made the right decision.”
Cox later played up House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, who had long refused to endorse Trump, but is now trying to mend fences and getting some blow back from anti-Trump Republicans. Cox notes that Kemp was Ryan’s mentor when Ryan was a young staffer.
Kemp was sometimes called a bleeding-heart conservative, and had strong bipartisan support throughout his political career, which is rare today.
Kemp played for the Bills and San Diego Chargers. He served the Buffalo area from 1971 to 1989 and was housing secretary under President George H.W. Bush. He was the GOP nominee for vice president in 1996.