Republican Party (United States) presidential primaries, 1976

Republican Party (United States) presidential primaries, 1976

Infobox Election
election_name = Republican Party Presidential Primaries, 1976
country = United States
type = presidential
ongoing = no
previous_election = Republican Party (United States) presidential primaries, 1972
previous_year = 1972
next_election = Republican Party (United States) presidential primaries, 1980
next_year = 1980
election_date = 1976

nominee1 = Gerald Ford
party1 = Republican Party (United States)
home_state1 = Michigan
states_carried1 = 27
popular_vote1 = 5,529,899
percentage1 = 53.29%

nominee2 = Ronald Reagan
party2 = Republican Party (United States)
home_state2 = California
states_carried2 = 23
popular_vote2 = 4,760,222
percentage2 = 45.88%


map_size =
map_caption =
before_election = Richard Nixon
before_party =
after_election = Ronald Reagan

after_party =


Potential candidates who did not run

Before President Richard Nixon's resignation and elevation of Gerald Ford to the Presidency, number of politicians were mentioned as possible Nixon's successors as Republican nominees. Most notably his first Vice President Spiro T. Agnew, before he resigned due to separate scandal [ [ Online NewsHour: Remembering Spiro Agnew - September 18, 1996 ] ] or former Governor of Texas and Secretary of Treasury John B. Connally (reportedly Nixon's favorite) [ [ Handbook of Texas Online - CONNALLY, JOHN BOWDEN, JR ] ] .

After Ford's accession many thought that he would not run in 1976, as he previously promised. Ford's Vice President Nelson Rockefeller was mentioned as a possible nominee and reportedly seriously considered the idea [Peter Collier, David Horovitz The Rockefellers: An American Dynasty (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1976) ISBN 0-03-008371-0] . Ford, however, decided to seek the nomination and Rockefeller was replaced as V.P. nominee.

The primaries

The contest for the Republican Party's presidential nomination in 1976 was between just two candidates: Gerald Ford, the incumbent President of the United States; and Ronald Reagan, the popular leader of the GOP's conservative wing and the former two-term governor of California.

Incumbent President Ford had been appointed to the vice-presidency after the resignation of Spiro Agnew in 1973 and then elevated to the presidency by the resignation of Richard Nixon in August 1974. His policy goals were often frustrated by Congress, which was heavily Democratic after the 1974 mid-term election. Liberal Democrats were especially infuriated by President Ford's decision to pardon Nixon for any criminal acts he committed or may have committed as part of the Watergate Scandal. Because Ford had not won a national election as President or Vice-President, he was seen by many politicians as being unusually vulnerable for an incumbent President, and as not having a strong nationwide base of support.

Reagan and the conservative wing of the Republican Party faulted Ford for failing to do more to assist South Vietnam (which finally collapsed in April 1975 with the fall of Saigon) and for his signing of the Helsinki Accords, which they took as implicit U.S. acceptance of Soviet domination over Eastern Europe. Conservatives were also infuriated by Ford's negotiations with Panama to hand over the Panama Canal.

Reagan began to criticize Ford openly starting in the summer of 1975, and formally launched his campaign in the autumn. At first it appeared as though Ford would easily win the GOP nomination. Defying expectations, Ford narrowly defeated Reagan in the New Hampshire primary, and then proceeded to beat Reagan in the Florida and Illinois primaries by comfortable margins. By the time of the North Carolina primary in March 1976, Reagan's campaign was nearly out of money, and it was widely believed that another defeat would force Reagan to quit the race. However, assisted by the powerful political organization of right-wing U.S. Senator Jesse Helms, Reagan upset Ford in North Carolina and then proceeded to win a string of impressive victories, including Texas, where he won all 100 delegates. Ford bounced back to win in his native Michigan, and from there the two candidates engaged in an increasingly bitter nip-and-tuck contest for delegates. By the time the Republican Convention opened in August 1976 the race for the nomination was still too close to call.

Republican National Convention

The 1976 Republican National Convention was held in Kansas City. As the convention began Ford was seen as having a slight lead in delegate votes, but still shy of the 1130 delegates he needed to win. Reagan and Ford both competed for the votes of individual delegates and state delegations. In a bid to woo moderate Northern Republicans, Reagan shocked the convention by announcing that if he won the nomination, Senator Richard Schweiker of Pennsylvania, a moderate, would be his running mate. The move backfired, however, as few moderates switched to Reagan, while many conservative delegates were outraged. The key state of Mississippi, which Reagan needed, narrowly voted to support Ford; it was believed that Reagan's choice of Schweiker had led Clarke Reed, Mississippi's Chairman, to switch to Ford. Ford then won the nomination, narrowly, on the first ballot. He chose Senator Robert Dole of Kansas as his running mate. After giving his acceptance speech, President Ford asked Reagan to come and say a few words to the convention; Reagan proceeded to give an eloquent address which virtually overshadowed Ford's speech. The 1976 Republican National Convention was the last time a presidential convention opened without the nominee having already been decided in the primaries.

Primary results by state

Convention tally

Presidential [ [ Our Campaigns - US President - R Convention Race - Aug 16, 1976 ] ] :

*President Ford 1187
*Ronald Reagan 1070
*Elliot L. Richardson 1

Vice-presidential nomination

President Ford chose Senator Robert J. Dole of Kansas as his running mate. The shortlist also included,

*Senator Howard Baker of Tennessee
*Governor Kit Bond of Missouri
*Senator William Brock of Tennessee
*Senator Edward Brooke of Massachusetts
*CIA Director George H.W. Bush of Texas
*Former Secretary of the Treasury John B. Connally of Texas
*Governor Daniel Evans of Washington
*Governor James Holshouser of North Carolina
*Former Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird of Wisconsin
*Senator Charles Mathias of Maryland
*Senator Charles Percy of Illinois
*Governor Robert Ray of Iowa
*Former Governor Ronald Reagan of California
*Secretary of Commerce Elliot Richardson of Massachusetts
*Vice President Nelson A. Rockefeller of New York
*Former FBI Director William Ruckelshaus
*Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld of Illinois

the vice presidential tally, was [ [ Our Campaigns - US Vice President - R Convention Race - Aug 16, 1976 ] ] :

*Bob Dole 1921
*Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina 103
*Abstaining 103
*Ronald Reagan 27
*Representaive Phil Crane of Illinois 23
*John Grady of Florida 19
*Representative Louis Frey, Jr. of Florida 9
*Ambassador Anne L. Armstrong of Texas 6
*Senator Howard Baker of Tennessee 6
*William F. Buckley of New York 4
*former Governor John B. Connally of Texas 4
*Representative David C. Treen of Louisiana 4
*Representative Alan Steelman of Texas 3
*Representative Robert E. Bauman of Maryland 2
*Senator William E. Brock of Tennessee 2
*Senator Paul Laxalt of Nevada 2
*Elliot L. Richardson 2
*Senator Richard Schweiker of Pennsylvania 2
*Secretary of Treasury William E. Simon of New Jersey 2
*Jack Wellborn 2
*Senator James Allen of Alabama 1
*Ray Barnhardt 1
*CIA director George H.W. Bush of Texas 1
*Senator Pete Domenici of New Mexico 1
*Governor James B. Edwards of South Carolina 1
*Frank S. Glenn of Texas 1
*David Keane 1
*Senator James McClure of Idaho 1
*Nancy Palm 1
*Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld of Illinois 1
*John W. Sears of Massachusetts 1
*Roger Staubach of Texas 1
*Representative Steven D. Symms of Idaho 1


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