I must clearly admit, I am a dedicated Democrat and in 1972, my first election (the first 18 y.o.'s could vote in) I didn't vote for Nixon. Compared to today's Republican party leadership, Nixon could be considered a liberal-moderate. In 1960 one has to realize he only lost by a tiny margin and some of the Democrat's votes in Illinois, especially in Chicago were highly suspected to be dead people (such was the Demo machine in Chicago then).
As to his rise from the ashes, after his defeat for Governor of California, he came to NY City, became a member of a law firm (yes, he was a lawyer, went to Duke Univ. Law school if I am correct) that later included his name. With contacts he developed in NYC and the Republican party in disarray and needing someone experienced in Washington DC, whom was palatable to the bulk of the Repuplican party, Nixon quickly became the favorite. The Democrats would have their votes split by the Wallace 3rd party campaign, especially in the southern states. There was the beginnings of the backlash of liberal polices, further inflamed by the racial riots that hit and runied many cities all over the USA from 1964 to 1968. The Democarts lost a lot of white votes due to the riots. One other theme Nixon ran on was to go on an anti-crime 'law and order' platform, which was heightened by the violent protests at the Democratic convention in Chicago in 1968. This was also a time of fast changes in society as to drug use and sex. Like today's Republicans, his message was one of morals over crime and 'different' social beheavors.
He accepted moderate yet important changes in society such as civil rights, enviroment improvement laws, protection of water, yet enough entitlements to keep many happy. His undoing was his overzelous campaign in 1972, and the related use of the IRS, FBI, other agencies and his 'dirty tricks' group to make sure he ran without opposition. What got him with 'watergate' was the cover up of his wrongdoing.
After leaving office, he settled back in NY City and later for many years, in New Jersey, writing several good selling books on international politics.