The Rockefeller Republicans

While opposition to FDR had started out based in the Northeast, after World War II more and more Republicans from this region were inclined to compromise with liberal Democrats on domestic and foreign policy. One of the central examples of this is Senator Henry Cabot Lodge Jr., who when he was first elected to the Senate voted a mostly anti-New Deal line. However, the first signs of his budding moderation came shortly before the start of America’s involvement in World War II when he voted for Lend Lease. Lodge, as I have written about before, was the leading proponent of the Eisenhower presidency. Below is a list of liberal to moderate Republicans who served since the end of World War II.



Thomas Kuchel, 1953-69.


Richard J. Welch, 1926-49.

John F. Baldwin Jr., 1955-66.

Pete McCloskey, 1968-83.

Alphonzo Bell, 1961-77.

Steven Kuykendall, 1999-2001.

Steve Horn, 1993-2003.



Clare Boothe Luce, 1943-47. – Although Clare Boothe Luce has a conservative reputation and was a staunch anti-communist, she was actually quite moderate during her four years in Congress.

John Davis Lodge, 1947-51.

Abner W. Sibal, 1961-65.

Stewart B. McKinney, 1971-87. – First member of Congress to die of AIDS.

Horace Seely-Brown, 1947-49, 1951-59, 1961-63.

Ronald Sarasin, 1973-79.

Lawrence DeNardis, 1981-83.

Robert H. Steele, 1970-75.

Nancy Johnson, 1983-2007.

Christopher Shays, 1987-2009.

Rob Simmons, 2001-07.

Edwin H. May, 1957-59.

Albert P. Morano, 1951-59.

James Patterson, 1947-59.


Raymond E. Baldwin, 1946-49.

Prescott Bush, 1952-63. – Prescott Bush was what you would think of when you think Eisenhower Republican – Conservative on fiscal and economic issues and liberal on foreign aid and social issues. Bush served two terms before retiring in 1963. Also, of course, father of President George H.W. Bush.

William A. Purtell, 1952-59.

Lowell P. Weicker Jr., 1969-71, 1971-89. – Weicker stands as the last Republican senator from Connectictut, serving from 1971 to 1989. Although he started as a moderate, his record grew more and more liberal after Watergate. Republicans by 1988 had grown so sick of him as one of the leading anti-Reagan Republicans that many voted for Democrat Joe Lieberman, who won the election.



Pierre Du Pont, 1971-77.

Michael Castle, 1993-2011.



James W. Grant, 1987-91. – Switched to Republican in second term.

Carlos Curbelo, 2015-19.

David W. Jolly, 2014-17.



Hiram Fong, 1959-77.


Pat Saiki, 1987-91.

Charles Djou, 2010-11.



Orval Hansen, 1969-75. – 55%



Charles Percy, 1967-85.

Mark Kirk, 2001-10, 2010-17.


Samuel H. Young, 1973-75.

John B. Anderson, 1961-81.

Thomas Railsback, 1967-83.

Jon E. Porter, 1980-2001.

Bob Dold, 2011-13, 2015-17.



Fred Schwengel, 1955-65, 1967-73.

Jim Leach, 1977-2007.

Thomas Tauke, 1979-91.

T. Cooper Evans, 1981-87.



James B. Pearson, 1962-78. – Yes, even as far in Republican heartland as Kansas Rockefeller Republicans existed! Pearson started his career somewhat conservative and grew more liberal during the Nixon Administration. He participated in the Wednesday Club, a group of moderate to liberal Republicans.

Nancy Kassebaum, 1978-97. – The daughter of presidential candidate Alf Landon, she, like him, was a moderate and this was reflected in her Senate voting record.



John Sherman Cooper, 1946-49, 1952-55, 1956-73.

Thruston B. Morton, 1947-53, 1957-68.

Marlow W. Cook, 1968-74.


John M. Robsion Jr., 1953-59.


Anh Cao, 2009-11.



Margaret Chase Smith, 1940-49, 1949-73. – I covered her in my last post.

Olympia Snowe, 1979-95, 1995-2013.

Susan Collins, 1997-present.

William Cohen, 1973-79, 1979-97.


Stanley Tupper, 1961-67.

David F. Emery, 1975-83.

John McKernan, 1983-87.



Charles Mathias, 1961-69, 1969-87. – Quickly developed a liberal reputation in the 1960s that helped win him a Senate seat in 1968, that and incumbent Daniel Brewster’s corruption scandal.

J. Glenn Beall, Jr., 1969-71, 1971-77.


Gilbert Gude, 1967-77.

Newton Steers, 1977-79.

Constance Morella, 1987-2003.

Wayne Gilchrest, 1991-2009.



Henry Cabot Lodge Jr., 1937-43, 1947-53.

Leverett Saltonstall, 1945-67.

Edward W. Brooke, 1967-79.

Scott Brown, 2010-13.


John W. Heselton, 1945-59.

Hastings Keith, 1959-73.

Silvio O. Conte, 1959-91. – One of the longest standing Rockfeller Republicans from the state, he moved from moderate to liberal in his career, but in his later liberal phase he still had a few issues one might consider him conservative on: he was resolutely pro-life as a Catholic and was a firm opponent of pork barrel legislation. Notably, he was one of three House Republicans to vote against the Gulf War in 1991, which he did right before his death.

Margaret Heckler, 1967-83.

Frank B. Morse, 1961-72.

Paul W. Cronin, 1973-75.

Peter G. Torklidsen, 1993-97.

Peter I. Blute, 1993-97.



Donald W. Riegle Jr., 1967-77, 1977-95. – Initially elected as a moderate to the House, Riegle moved more and more leftward until he officially switched parties in 1973. His move into the Democratic Party proved quite good for his political career as he was elected to the Senate in 1976, and served for eighteen years, retiring due to his role in the Keating Five scandal.

John B. Bennett, 1943-45, 1947-64.

Robert J. McIntosh, 1957-59.

Marvin L. Esch, 1967-77.

Garry Brown, 1967-79.

Philip Ruppe, 1967-79.

Carl D. Pursell, 1977-93.

James W. Dunn, 1981-83.

Paul B. Henry, 1985-93.

Robert W. Davis, 1979-93.

Joe Schwarz, 2005-07.



Edward J. Thye, 1947-59.

David Durenberger, 1978-95.


John Zwach, 1967-75.

William E. Frenzel, 1971-93.

Arlen Erdahl, 1979-83.

Walter H. Judd, 1943-63.



John Danforth, 1976-95. – Before John Danforth was elected to the Senate, Republicans were quite weak in the state, with only Gene Taylor from the staunchly conservative Springfield district representing Missouri in Congress. A strongly religious man, he was pro-life but also was very pro-civil rights and was overall a calming influence in the Senate and known as someone who could make bipartisan deals. Danforth was overall a centrist.


Claude I. Bakewell, 1947-49, 1951-53.



Charles W. Tobey, 1933-39, 1939-53.


Chester Merrow, 1943-63. – Although Merrow was elected to Congress as a conservative before the end of World War II, his record became more and more liberal overtime. After his departure from Congress in 1963, he switched parties and tried to regain his old House seat without success.



Clifford P. Case, 1945-53, 1955-79. – Case of New Jersey was one of the most prominent liberal Republicans on the scene. Although he succeeded a man who voted against Social Security to the House, Case proved much more amenable to Democrats. Although his record was moderately conservative during the Republican 80th Congress, he moved leftward after the loss of Congress in 1948. Although something of a moderate liberal during the Eisenhower Administration, his record again moved more to the left during the 1960s and even more so during the 1970s. By the 1970s, Case had little in common with his party label and in 1978 he was defeated for renomination by conservative Jeffrey Bell, who lost the election. Case is, to this day, the last Republican New Jersey voters have seen fit to send to the Senate.

H. Alexander Smith, 1944-59.


Charles A. Wolverton, 1927-59.

Peter Frelinghuysen, 1953-75.

Gordon Canfield, 1941-61.

Millicent Fenwick, 1975-83.

Florence P. Dwyer, 1957-73.

William B. Widnall, 1950-74.

Frank C. Osmers, 1939-42, 1952-65.

William T. Cahill, 1959-70.

Leonard Lance, 2009-19.

Joseph J. Maraziti, 1973-75.

Harold Hollenbeck, 1977-83.

Matthew Rinaldo, 1973-93.

Robert W. Kean, 1939-59.

Bob Franks, 1993-2001.

Margaret Roukema, 1981-2003.

George M. Wallhauser, 1959-65.

William J. Martini, 1995-97.

Jon Runyan, 2011-17.

Chris Smith, 1981-present.

Jeff Van Drew, 2019-present.

Edwin B. Forsythe, 1970-84.



Seymour Halpern, 1959-73.

John Lindsay, 1959-65. – I have written about the Lindsay legacy before.

Theodore Kupferman, 1966-69.

Francis Dorn, 1953-61.

Ogden R. Reid, 1963-74. – Switched to Democrat in 1972.

Paul A. Fino, 1953-69.

Daniel Button, 1967-71.

Hamilton Fish IV, 1969-95.

Peter A. Peyser, 1971-77, 1979-83. – Switched to Democrat after 1977.

Martin B. McKneally, 1969-71.

William F. Walsh, 1973-79.

Angelo D. Roncallo, 1973-75.

Frank J. Horton, 1963-93.

Benjamin Gilman, 1973-2003.

S. William Green, 1977-93.

Sherwood Boehlert, 1983-2007.

James T. Walsh, 1989-2009.

Bruce F. Caputo, 1977-79.

Michael G. Grimm, 2011-15.

Edwin B. Dooley, 1957-63.

Donald J. Mitchell, 1973-83.

Joseph J. DioGuardi, 1985-89.

Rick Lazio, 1993-2001.

Joseph Clark Baldwin, 1941-47.

Sue W. Kelly, 1995-2007.

Augustus W. Bennet, 1945-47.

Amory Houghton Jr., 1987-2005.

Michael P. Forbes, 1995-2001. – Switched parties in 1999.

Richard Hanna, 2011-17.

Christopher Gibson, 2011-17.

John Faso, 2015-17.

Daniel Donovan, 2015-19.

John Katko, 2015-present.

Elise Stefanik, 2015-present.


Irving Ives, 1947-59.

John Foster Dulles, 1949.

Kenneth B. Keating, 1947-59, 1959-65.

Jacob Javits, 1947-55, 1957-81.

Charles Goodell (strictly as senator), 1969-71.



William Lemke, 1933-41, 1943-50.

Usher L. Burdick, 1935-45, 1949-59.


William Langer, 1941-59.

Mark Andrews, 1963-81, 1981-87.



Charles W. Whalen Jr., 1967-79.

Charles A. Mosher, 1961-77.

J. William Stanton, 1965-83.

Lyle Williams, 1979-85.


William B. Saxbe, 1969-74.

Robert Taft Jr., 1963-65, 1967-71, 1971-76.



Homer D. Angell, 1939-55.

John Dellenback, 1967-75.


Wayne Morse, 1945-69. – Covered him in a previous post, switched parties in 1952. – 14%

Mark Hatfield, 1967-97.

Bob Packwood, 1969-95.



Marc L. Marks, 1977-83.

Charles F. Dougherty, 1979-83.

Robert J. Corbett, 1939-41, 1945-71.

James G. Fulton, 1945-71.

Mitchell Jenkins, 1947-49.

Edward Biester, 1967-77.

John P. Saylor, 1949-73.

Robert Coyne, 1981-83.

John McDade, 1963-97.

Jon D. Fox, 1995-99.

James Nelligan, 1981-83.

Jim Gerlach, 2003-15.

Robert L. Coughlin, 1969-93.

William F. Clinger Jr., 1979-97.

Thomas J. Ridge, 1983-95.

Edward Sittler, 1951-53.

James Greenwood, 1993-2005.

Michael G. Fitzpatrick, 2005-07, 2011-17.

Brian Fitzpatrick, 2017-present.


James H. Duff, 1951-57.

Hugh Scott, 1941-45, 1947-59, 1959-77.

Henry J. Heinz III, 1972-77, 1977-91.

Richard Schweiker, 1961-69, 1969-81. – Ronald Reagan picked him as his running mate in his 1976 effort at gaining the Republican nomination. Conservatives weren’t too pleased and tried to get him to change his mind and nominate James L. Buckley, New York senator and older brother of the National Review founder William F. Buckley Jr.

Arlen Specter, 1981-2011. – Switched from Republican to Democrat in 2009.



Claudine Schneider, 1981-91.

Ronald Machtley, 1989-95.


John Chafee, 1977-99.

Lincoln Chafee, 1999-2007.



Howard Baker, Sr., 1951-64.



Richard W. Mallary, 1972-75.

Peter P. Smith, 1989-91.


Ernest W. Gibson Jr., 1940-41.

Ralph Flanders, 1946-59.

George Aiken, 1941-75.

Winston Prouty, 1951-59, 1959-71.

Robert Stafford, 1961-71, 1971-89.

Jim Jeffords, 1975-89, 1989-2007. – Switched from Republican to Independent in 2001.



Joel Pritchard, 1973-85.

Hal Holmes, 1943-59.

John R. Miller, 1985-93.

Rodney Chandler, 1983-93.

Thor Tollefson, 1947-65.

Sid Morrison, 1981-93.


Daniel J. Evans, 1983-89.



Alexander Wiley, 1939-63.


Merlin Hull, 1929-31, 1935-53.

Gardner R. Withrow, 1931-37, 1949-61.

Charles J. Kersten, 1947-49, 1951-55.

Donald E. Tewes, 1957-59.

Scott L. Klug, 1991-99.

William A. Steiger, 1967-78.

Alvin O’Konski, 1943-73.

3 thoughts on “The Rockefeller Republicans

  1. Purtell was a Rockefeller Republican? I thought he was a strong conservative and anti-communist, an example being his vote against the Senate censure of Joseph McCarthy. Perhaps I’m missing something?

  2. Per my new MC-Index which I am still working on but have finished for when Purtell served, his scores were thus: 83rd: 68%; 84th: 50%; 85th: 65%. His average is a 61%, and I consider this score to be moderate, with 65% the threshold for moderate conservatism. You could say that he was one of the more conservative Rockefeller Republicans, who ranged from liberal to moderate. Thomas Kuchel of California (an Earl Warren ally) and William Langer of North Dakota also voted against censure, the former latter doing so as a way of paying back McCarthy for helping him win renomination in 1952. Zero Democrats voted against the censure (although JFK ducked it by scheduling his back surgery for the day of the vote) because McCarthy had called the Democratic Party the “party of treason”. Had he not said that he might have won votes from people like James Eastland of Mississippi and Harry F. Byrd of Virginia, whose anti-communist credentials were undisputed.

    1. Ah, interesting. Thanks for your excellent detailed analysis as usual! I wasn’t aware previously that Purtell’s conservatism was this moderate.

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