- United States presidential election, 1980
election_name = United States presidential election, 1980
country = United States
type = presidential
ongoing = no
previous_election = United States presidential election, 1976
previous_year = 1976
next_election = United States presidential election, 1984
next_year = 1984
election_date = November 4, 1980
party1 = Republican Party (United States)
George H. W. Bush
electoral_vote1 = 489
states_carried1 = 44
popular_vote1 = 43,903,230
percentage1 = 50.7%
party2 = Democratic Party (United States)
home_state2 = Georgia
electoral_vote2 = 49
states_carried2 = 6+DC
popular_vote2 = 35,480,115
percentage2 = 41.0%
map_size = 350px
map_caption = Presidential election results map. Red denotes states won by Reagan/Bush, Blue denotes those won by Carter/Mondale.
title = President
before_party = Democratic Party (United States)
after_party = Republican Party (United States)The United States presidential election of 1980 featured a contest between incumbent Democrat
Jimmy Carterand his Republican opponent, Ronald Reagan, along with third party candidates, the independent John B. Andersonand Libertarian Ed Clark. Reagan, aided by the Iran hostage crisisand a worsening economy at home, won the election by a wide margin.
Through the 1970s, the United States underwent a wrenching period of low economic growth, high inflation and interest rates, and intermittent energy crises. Added to this was a sense of
malaisethat in both foreign and domestic affairs the nation was headed downward. By the beginning of the election season, the prolonged Iran hostage crisishad sharpened public perceptions of a national crisis. [Gil Troy, "Morning in America: How Ronald Reagan Invented the 1980s" (2005) ch 2; John Ehrman. "The Eighties: American in the Age of Reagan" (2005)]
Similar to how
Herbert Hooverhad been blamed for the Great Depressionin 1932, Jimmy Carter was blamed for most of the nation's woes, especially the Iran hostage crisis, in which the followers of the Ayatollah Khomenipublicly humiliated the US by burning American flags and chanting anti-American slogans, parading the captured American hostages in public, and burning effigies of President Carter. Many Americans saw Carter as an inept leader who had failed to solve the worsening economic problems at home, and had made the US look weak abroad. Carter, after defeating Ted Kennedyfor the Democratic nomination, attacked Reagan as a dangerous right-wing radical. For his part, Reagan, the charismatic former Governor of California, repeatedly ridiculed Carter, and won a decisive victory; in the simultaneous Congressional elections, Republicans won control of the United States Senatefor the first time in 28 years. This win marked the beginning of the " Reagan Revolution."
In the spring and summer of 1980 unemployment was high, inflation was on the rise, and in California, the gasoline supply was running out. The gas lines last seen just after the Arab/Israeli war of 1973 were back and President Carter was widely blamed.Fact|date=August 2007
The President’s approval ratings were very low -- 28% according to Gallup, [ [http://www.cnn.com/2005/POLITICS/11/14/bush.poll CNN.com - Poll: Bush approval mark at all-time low - Nov 14, 2005 ] ] with some other polls giving even lower numbers. In July Carter returned from
Camp Davidto reshuffle his cabinet and give a televised address to the nation widely dubbed the "malaise" speech, though the word malaise was never used. [ [http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/carter/peopleevents/e_malaise.html American Experience | Jimmy Carter | People & Events ] ] While the speech caused a brief upswing in the president's approval rating, the decision to dismiss several cabinet members was widely seen as a rash act of desperation, causing his approval rating to plummet back into the twenties. Some Democrats felt it worth the risk to mount a challenge to Carter in the primaries. Although Hugh Careyand William Proxmiredecided not to run, Senator Edward Kennedy finally made his long-expected run at the Presidency.
Ted Kennedy had been asked to take his brother's place at the
1968 Democratic Conventionand had refused. He ran for Senate Majority Whip in 1969, however, and many thought that he was going to use that as a platform for 1972. [US News and World Report Jan. 1969.] But then came the notorious Chappaquiddick incident, in which Kennedy drove his car into a body of water and abandoned his female passenger, trapped in the car, who apparently survived for as long as twenty minutes before drowning, while Kennedy went about his business without informing anyone.
Kennedy refused to run in 1972, and again in 1976. Many suspected that Chappaquiddick had destroyed any ability he had to win on a national level. However, in the summer of 1979, he consulted with his family, and that fall, he let it leak out that because of Carter’s failings, 1980 might indeed be the year. Gallup had him beating the president by over two to one.
Kennedy’s official announcement was scheduled for early November. There was a prime time interview with CBS’s
Roger Muddand it was a minor disaster. Kennedy flubbed a number of the questions and couldn’t exactly explain why he was running, and the polls, which showed him leading the President by 58–25 in August now had him ahead 49–39. [Time Magazine, 11/12/79] Then the hostages were taken in Tehran, Iranand the bottom fell out of the Kennedy campaign.
Carter’s approval ratings jumped in the 60-percent range in some polls, due to a "rally ‘round the flag" effect [http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0022-0027(199012)34%3A4%3C588%3AFPAPPC%3E2.0.CO%3B2-7] and an appreciation of Carter's calm handling of the crisis. Kennedy was suddenly left far behind. Carter beat Kennedy decisively in Iowa and New Hampshire. Carter decisively defeated Kennedy everywhere except Massachusetts, until impatience began to build with the President’s strategy on Iran. When the later primaries in New York, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut came around, it was Kennedy who won largely due to such impatience.
Carter was still able to maintain a substantial lead even after Kennedy swept the last batch of primaries in June. Despite this, Kennedy refused to drop out, and the
1980 Democratic National Conventionwas one of the nastiest on record. On the penultimate day, Kennedy conceded the nomination and called for a more liberal party platform in what many saw as the best speech of his career. On the platform on the final day, Kennedy for the most part ignored Carter.
The delegate tally at the convention was in part:
Jimmy Carter– 2,129.02
Ted Kennedy– 1,150.48
*14 others – 66.5
In the vice presidential roll call, Mondale was re-nominated with 2,428.7 votes to 723.3 not voting and 179 scattering.
The popular votes in the primaries were: [ [http://www.ourcampaigns.com/RaceDetail.html?RaceID=51811 Our Campaigns - US President - D Primaries Race - Feb 26, 1980 ] ]
Jimmy Carter(inc.) - 10,043,016 (51.13%)
Ted Kennedy- 7,381,693 (37.58%)
*Unpledged - 1,288,423 (6.56%)
Jerry Brown- 575,296 (2.93%)
Lyndon LaRouche- 177,784 (0.91%)
Cliff Finch- 48,032 (0.25%)
As the 1970s came to a close, Former Governor
Ronald Reaganwas the odds-on favorite to win his party's nomination for president (after nearly beating incumbent President Gerald Ford just four years earlier). He was so far ahead in the polls that campaign director John Searsdecided on an "above the fray" strategy. He did not attend many of the multicandidate forums and straw poll events held in the summer and fall of 1979.
However, George Bush, former director of the
Central Intelligence Agencyand chairman of the Republican National Committee, taking a page from the George McGovern/ Jimmy Carterplaybook, did go to all the so-called " cattle calls", and began to come in first at a number of these events.
In January 1980, the Iowa Republicans decided to have a straw poll as a part of their caucuses for that year. Bush's hard work paid off, and he defeated Reagan by a small margin. Bush declared he had the "Big
Mo" (for "momentum"), and with Reagan boycotting the Puerto Ricoprimary in deference to New Hampshire, the victorious Bush looked as if he might actually beat Reagan to the nomination.
With the other candidates in single digits, the Nashua Telegraph offered to host a debate between Reagan and Bush. Worried that a newspaper-sponsored debate might violate electoral regulations, Reagan subsequently arranged to fund the event with his own campaign money, inviting the other candidates to participate at short notice. The Bush camp did not learn of Reagan's decision to include the other candidates until the debate was due to commence. Bush refused to participate, which led to an impasse on the stage. As Reagan attempted to explain his decision, the editor of the Nashua Telegraph ordered the sound man to mute Reagan's microphone. A visibly angry Reagan responded, quoting the
Frank Caprafilm "State of the Union", [Michael P. Rogin and Kathleen Moran, "Mr. Capra Goes to Washington," [http://ucpressjournals.com/journal.asp?j=rep Representations] , vol. 84 (2004), University of California; reprinted at [http://ics.leeds.ac.uk/papers/pmt/exhibits/1812/capra.pdf] ] "I am paying for this microphone, Mr. Green!" (the editor's name was in fact Jon Breen). [ [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,950323,00.html "We Were Sandbagged" - TIME ] ] [ [http://www.molloysoundandvideo.com/articles.html Molloy Sound and Video Contractors: Articles (7/24/08) ] ] Eventually the other candidates agreed to leave, and the debate proceeded between Reagan and Bush. Reagan's quote was often repeated as "I paid for this microphone!" and dominated news coverage of the event; Bush did not make an impact with the voters.Reagan swept the South and, although he lost five more primaries to Bush [including one where he came in third behind John Anderson (the former Illinois congressman)] , had a lock on the nomination very early in the season. Reagan would always be grateful to the people of Iowa for giving him "the kick in the pants" he neededFact|date=April 2008.
Reagan was an adherent of
supply side economics, which argues that economic growth can be most effectively created using incentives for people to produce (supply) goods and services, such as adjusting income tax and capital gains tax rates. Accordingly, Reagan promised an economic revival that would affect all sectors of the population. He said that cutting tax rates would actually increase tax revenues because the lower rates would cause people to work harder as they would be able to keep more of their money. Reagan also called for a drastic cut in "big government" programs and pledged to deliver a balanced budget for the first time since 1969. In the primaries Bush famously called Reagan's economic policy " voodoo economics" because it promised to lower taxes and increase revenues at the same time.
1980 Republican National Conventionwas held in Detroit, Michigan, in July. The tally at the convention was as follows:
Ronald Reagan– 1,939
John Bayard Anderson– 37
George H.W. Bush– 13
Reagan initially negotiated with
Gerald Fordto be his running mate; when the complex plan fell through (Ford reportedly insisted Henry Kissingerand Alan Greenspanbe offered cabinetpositions), Reagan chose Bush as the Republican vice presidential candidate.
For Vice President the vote was:
George H.W.Bush– 1,832
Jesse Helmsof North Carolina– 54
Jack F. Kempof New York– 42
Phil Crane– 23
James R. Thompsonof Illinois- 5
John M. Ashbrookof Ohio- 1
Howard Baker- 1
Henry Hydeof Illinois- 1
*former Secretary of Defense
Donald Rumsfeldof Illinois- 1
Eugene Schroeder- 1
*former Secretary of the Treasury
William E. Simonof New Jersey- 1
Guy Vander Jagtof Michigan- 1
*Scattering – 32
John Bayard Anderson, after being defeated in the Republican primaries, entered the general election as an independent candidate because of his opposition to the more conservative policies of Reagan. His support levels in the polls fell every week as his former supporters were pulled away by Carter, who was more liberal, or Reagan, who was more conservative. His running mate was Patrick Lucey, former Governor of state of Wisconsinand then Ambassador to Mexico, appointed by President Carter.
Socialist Party USAnominated David McReynoldsfor President and Sister Diane Drufenbrockfor Vice President, making McReynolds the first openly gay man to run for President. Barry Commonerran on the Citizens Partyticket with La Donna Harris.
Communist Party USAran Gus Hallfor President and Angela Davisfor Vice President.
Under federal election laws, Carter and Reagan received $29.4 million each, and Anderson was given a limit of $18.5 million with private fund-raising allowed for him only. They were not allowed to spend any other money. Carter and Reagan each spent about $15 million on television advertising, and Anderson under $2 million. Reagan ended up spending 29.2 million in total, Carter 29.4 million, and Anderson spent 17.6 million—partially because he didn't get FEC money until after the election.
The 1980 election is considered by some to be a
realigning election. Reagan's supporters praise him for running a campaign of upbeat optimism, together with implications of a more militarily aggressive foreign policy. Carter emphasized his record as a peacemaker, and said Reagan's election would threaten civil rights and social programs that stretched back to the New Deal.
Reagan promised a restoration of the nation's military strength. Reagan also promised an end to "'trust me' government" and to restore economic health by implementing a supply-side economic policy. Reagan promised a
balanced budgetwithin three years (which he said would be "the beginning of the end of inflation"), accompanied by a 30% reduction in taxes over those same years. With respect to the economy, Reagan famously said, "A recession is when your neighbor loses his job. A depression is when you lose yours. And recovery is when Jimmy Carter loses his."
In August, after the Republican National Convention, Ronald Reagan gave a campaign speech at an annual county fair on the outskirts of
Philadelphia, Mississippi, where three civil rights workers were murdered in 1964. Reagan famously announced, "Programs like education and others should be turned back to the states and local communities with the tax sources to fund them. I believe in states’ rights. I believe in people doing as much as they can at the community level and the private level". Reagan also stated, "I believe we have distorted the balance of our government today by giving powers that were never intended to be given in the Constitution to that federal establishment." He went on to promise to "restore to states and local governments the power that properly belongs to them." [Kneeland, Douglas E. (August 4, 1980) "Reagan Campaigns at Mississippi Fair; Nominee Tells Crowd of 10,000 He Is Backing States' Rights." "New York Times". p. A11.] President Carter attacked Reagan for injecting "hate and racism" by the "rebirth of code words like ' states' rights'". [ [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RpHZdreWz3E&feature=related "The Made-for-TV Election with Martin Sheen" clip 14] .]
Reagan was also hurt by a series of gaffes during the campaign. When Carter appeared in a small Alabama town, Reagan incorrectly claimed the town had been the birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan. Reagan was widely ridiculed for saying that trees caused pollution. Those remarks, and others, added to the impression that Reagan too often "shot from the hip" without checking his facts.
But if Reagan's remarks hurt his candidacy, Carter was burdened by a continued weak economy and the Iran hostage crisis. Inflation, high interest rates, and unemployment continued through the course of the campaign, and the ongoing hostage crisis in Iran became, to many, a symbol of American impotence during the Carter years. John Anderson's independent candidacy, aimed at liberals, was also seen as hurting Carter more than Reagan, especially in such Democratic states as Massachusetts and New York.
The campaign was largely negative, with many voters disliking Carter's handling of the economy, but also perceiving Reagan as an intellectual lightweight, possibly unable to handle the presidency and with various questionable policies. One analysis of the election has suggested that "Both Carter and Reagan were perceived negatively by a majority of the electorate." [Wayne, Stephen J. (1984). "The Road to the White House" (2nd ed.), p. 210. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-68526-2.]
The election of 1980 was a key turning point in American politics. It signaled the new electoral power of the suburbs and the
Sun Belt. Reagan's success as a conservative would initiate a realigning of the parties, as liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats would either leave politics or change party affiliations through the 1980s and 1990s to leave the parties much more ideologically polarized.
The most important event of the entire 1980 presidential campaign was the second presidential debate, which was held one week to the day before the election (October 28). Over the course of two hours, the entire race changed drastically, and what was considered an extremely tight race with the President slightly ahead became a comfortable Republican victory.
Nothing of that magnitude has happened since in any televised confrontations.
League of Women Voters, who had sponsored the 1976 Ford/Carter series, announced that it would do so again for the next cycle in the spring of 1979. However, Carter was not eager to participate. He had repeatedly refused to debate Sen. Kennedy during the primary season, and had given ambivalent signals as to his participation in the fall.
The LWV had announced a schedule of debates similar to 1976, three presidential and one vice presidential. No one had much of a problem with this until it was announced that Rep. John Anderson might be invited to participate along with Carter and Reagan. Carter steadfastly refused to participate with Anderson included and Reagan refused to debate without him.
The first debate took place in
Baltimore, Marylandon September 21. The President was nowhere to be found. Moderated by Bill Moyers, the confrontation between Anderson and Reagan was considered a dud. Anderson, who many thought would handily dispatch the former Governor, could according to many in the media manage only a draw. Anderson, who had been as high as 20% in some polls and at the time of the debate was over ten, dropped to about five soon after. Still, with the President boycotting, the whole thing seemed meaningless and ratings were low.
As September turned into October, the situation remained essentially the same. Reagan demanded Anderson in and Carter demanded him out. As the standoff continued, the second round was canceled, as was the vice presidential debate.
With two weeks to go to the election, the Reagan campaign decided that the best thing to do at that moment was to accede to all of Carter's demands, and LWV agreed to disinvite Congressman Anderson from the remaining debate, which was rescheduled for October 28 in
Howard K. Smith, the presidential debate between President Carter and Governor Reagan received among the highest ratings of any televisionshow in the previous decade. Debate topics included the Iranian hostage crisis, and nuclear arms treaties and proliferation. Carter's campaign sought to portray Reagan as a reckless "hawk." Reagan would have none of it, and it came as no surprise, then, when the candidates repeatedly clashed over the nuclear weapons issue in their debate. But it was Carter's reference to his consultation with 12 year old daughter Amy concerning nuclear weapons policy that became the focus of post-debate analysis and fodder for late-night television jokes.
Reagan's demeanor, on the other hand, was sunny and tolerant. When Carter made a reference to the governor's record, voting against Medicare and
Social Securitybenefits, he replied with a cheerful "There you go again."
In his closing remarks, Reagan asked a simple yet devastating question that would resonate with voters in 1980 and beyond: "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" According to Carter' Press Secretary
Jody Powell's memoirs, internal tracking polls showed Carter's tiny lead turning into a major Reagan landslide over the final weekend.
The election was held on November 4, 1980. Ronald Reagan with running mate George Bush beat Carter by almost ten percentage points in the popular vote. Republicans also gained control of the Senate for the first time in twenty-five years on
Reagan's coattails. The electoral college vote was a landslide, with 489 votes (representing 44 states) for Reagan and 49 votes for Carter (representing 6 states and the District of Columbia). NBC News projected Reagan as the winner at 8:15 pm EST (5:15 PST), before voting was finished in the West, based on exit polls. (It was the first time a broadcast network used exit polling to project a winner, and took the other broadcast networks by surprise.) Carter conceded defeat at 9:50 pm EST. [ Facts on File Yearbook 1980 p865 ] [ Facts on File Yearbook 1980 p838 ] Carter's loss was the worst defeat for an incumbent President since Herbert Hooverlost to Franklin D. Rooseveltin 1932 by a margin of 18%. John B. Andersonwon no electoral votes, but got 5,720,060 popular votes. His 6.6% share of the popular vote total was the best by a third party or independent since 1968, and would not be bettered again until Ross Perotwon 19% in 1992.
Libertarian Party candidate
Ed Clarkreceived 921,299 popular votes (1.1%). The Libertarians succeeded in getting Clark on the ballot in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Clark's best showing was in Alaskawhere he received 12% of the vote. As of 2008, this is the best performance by a Libertarian presidential candidate.
*After Ronald Reagan and George Bush were officially nominated, the two running mates held a joint press conference in which the microphones kept malfunctioning. Recalling Reagan's memorable line from the New Hampshire primary campaign, a reporter asked Reagan, "Governor, who paid for "these" microphones?" The press and the candidates greeted the question with laughter.
*A television ad from the Jerry Brown campaign that aired in Wisconsin showed an image of the California governor with parts of the picture marred by splotches of empty space due to a technical snafu, giving the appearance of holes in the candidate's head. Brown had publicly stated that he needed a win in the Wisconsin primary to stay in the campaign; he dropped out when he lost.
* After Jimmy Carter's acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention at Madison Square Garden, a flood of balloons was supposed to drop. However, the overhead machine experienced difficulty and the balloons could not drop, after a significant wait they began to drop, but then at a very slow pace. This was considered a bad omen on the fall campaign. Similar malfunctions occurred during the 1996 Republican National Convention following nominee Bob Dole's speech and the 2004 Democratic Convention following nominee John Kerry's speech. In 2004, TV microphones picked up the voice of Don Mischer, the director & producer of the convention, who (perhaps remembering 1980) uttered several profanities regarding his displeasure at the malfunction (YouTube link [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FTtIbkTWTY here] ).
*In his nomination acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, President Carter recalled deceased Democratic leaders and referred to
Hubert Humphrey, whose middle name was Horatio, as "Hubert Horatio Hornblower." He quickly corrected himself.
Joe Walshran a mock campaign as a write-in candidate, promising to make his song "Life's Been Good" the new national anthem if he won, and running on a platform of "Free Gas For Everyone." Though Walsh was not old enough to actually assume the office, he wanted to raise public awareness of the election. (In 1992, Walsh recorded a song called "Vote For Me," in which he declared his candidacy for "vice"-president.)
Jerry Falwell's Moral Majoritylobbying group is credited with giving Reagan two-thirds of the white, evangelical vote.cite news |title= When worlds collide: politics, religion, and media at the 1970 East Tennessee Billy Graham Crusade. (appearance by President Richard M. Nixon) |url= http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-19592304.html|publisher="Journal of Church and State" |date=March 22, 1997 |accessdate=2007-08-18 ]
Source (Popular Vote): Leip PV source 2| year=1980| as of=August 7, 2005
Source (Electoral Vote): National Archives EV source| year=1980| as of=August 7, 2005
Margin of victory less than 5%
#South Carolina, 1.53%
#North Carolina, 2.12%
#New York, 2.67%
Margin of victory more than 5% but less than 10%
#West Virginia, 6.02%
Source: CBS News/ New York Times interviews with 12,782 voters as they left the polls, as reported in the New York Times, November 9, 1980, p. 28, and in further analysis. The 1976 data are from CBS News interviews.
United States Senate elections, 1980
History of the United States (1980-1988)
Anderson v. Celebrezze
October surprise conspiracy
President of the United States
; Books:* Busch, Andrew E. "Reagan's Victory: The Presidential Election of 1980 and the Rise of the Right," (2005) [http://www.claremont.org/publications/crb/id.1103/article_detail.asp online review by Michael Barone] :* John Ehrman. "The Eighties: American in the Age of Reagan" (2005) :* cite book| last=Ferguson| first=Thomas| coauthors=Joel Rogers| year=1986| title=Right Turn: The Decline of the Democrats and the Future of American Politics| publisher=Hill and Wang:* cite book| last=Germond| first=Jack W.| coauthors=Jules Witcover| year=1981| title=Blue Smoke & Mirrors: How Reagan Won & Why Carter Lost the Election of 1980:* cite book| editor=Gerald M. Pomper (ed.)| year=1981| title=The Election of 1980: Reports and Interpretations| publisher=Chatham House:* Gil Troy, "Morning in America: How Ronald Reagan Invented the 1980s" (2005) :* cite book| last=West| first=Darrell M.| year=1984| title=Making Campaigns Count: Leadership and Coalition-Building in 1980| publisher=Greenwood Press; Journal articles:* cite journal| first=Jerome| last=Himmelstein| coauthors=J. A. McRae Jr.| title=Social Conservatism, New Republicans and the 1980 Election| journal=Public Opinion Quarterly| volume=48| year=1984| pages=595–605| doi=10.1086/268860 :* cite journal| first=Seymour M.| last=Lipset| coauthors=Earl Raab| title=Evangelicals and the Elections| journal=Commentary| volume=71| year=1981| pages=25–31:* cite journal| first=Arthur H.| last=Miller| coauthors=Martin P. Wattenberg| title=Politics from the Pulpit: Religiosity and the 1980 Elections| journal=Public Opinion Quarterly| volume=48| year=1984| pages=300–12| doi=10.1086/268827
* [http://geoelections.free.fr/USA/elec_comtes/1980.htm 1980 popular vote by counties]
* [http://www.presidentelect.org/e1980.html 1980 popular vote by states]
* [http://uselectionatlas.org/RESULTS/datagraph.php?year=1980&fips=0&f=1&off=0&elect=0 1980 popular vote by states (with bar graphs)]
* [http://www.msu.edu/~sheppa28/elections.html#1980 How close was the 1980 election?] - Michael Sheppard, Michigan State University
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