Republican Party presidential primaries

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For the most recent Republican primaries, see Republican Party presidential primaries, 2012.


Richard Nixon was a popular incumbent. The Vietnam War was winding down and Nixon had achieved détente with China and the Soviet Union. He had challengers but won 1323 of the 1324 delegates on his way to the GOP convention. The sole delegate opposing his reelection was in support of Pete McCloskey, a representative from California, who ran on an anti-Vietnam War platform. The Watergate scandal began in June but interfered with neither the primaries nor the November election.

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Gerald Ford had become Vice President after the resignation of Vice President Spiro Agnew. Upon the resignation of President Richard Nixon following the Watergate Scandal, Ford became the first President never elected President or Vice-President. This status plus Ford's pardon of Nixon caused politicians in both major parties to view Ford as vulnerable. Ronald Reagan led the conservative wing of the party in condemning Ford's foreign policy in Vietnam, Eastern Europe and Panama. Ford held a lead from the beginning until the North Carolina primary where he was upset by Reagan. Reagan then put together a string of victories that put him back in the race. Ford bounced back in his native Michigan. From there a close battle in the remaining states led to a convention in which Ford held the lead but not the necessary majority. Reagan gambled by announcing he would choose a moderate running mate, alienating conservatives. Ford narrowly won on the first ballot.

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Ronald Reagan entered the season as the overwhelming favorite to win the nomination. He lost his lead with a strategy of forums, polls and other events. George H. W. Bush used the McGovern/Carter strategy and began to come in first at these events. Bush beat Reagan in the Iowa straw poll in January. Reagan responded by sweeping the South. Although he lost a few more primaries and even came in third in one state, he had the contest won early. He went into the convention with almost all the delegates.

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The incumbent President Ronald Reagan won all but two of the delegates, who abstained from voting.

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George H. W. Bush entered the contest as incumbent Vice-President and with the support of sitting President Ronald Reagan. Bush had trouble at first but by the time Super Tuesday was over his campaign's organization and fundraising ability had overwhelmed his opponents. He received all the votes at the convention.

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Pat Buchanan mounted a challenge that was too weak to seriously challenge President George H. W. Bush's campaign for a second term. However it was strong enough to alter the party platform and push it to the right, and to award Buchanan the keynote speech at the convention.

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Bob Dole, being the most prominent Republican politician in the race, and who had been widely expected to compete for the 1996 presidential nomination since the 1992 campaign, was the early favorite to win. However, his campaign stumbled in the first few contests as it fell behind conservative insurgent Pat Buchanan in New Hampshire and publishing magnate Steve Forbes in Delaware and Arizona. Dole rebounded with easy victories in the Dakotas and South Carolina, eventually winning every single state thereafter, save a narrow Buchanan win in Missouri.

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George W. Bush entered the race as the favorite, being the son of a former president and the governor of a big state. He faced early opposition from the well-organized campaign of wealthy businessman Steve Forbes, who quickly fizzled. Bush easily won in Iowa but suffered a severe blow when insurgent candidate John McCain defeated him in New Hampshire by 18 points. Bush struck back with a win in South Carolina after a bruising primary fight there. McCain rebounded with wins in Michigan and his home state of Arizona, but lacked the money and organization to keep up with Bush in the Super Tuesday contests, where Bush won all but a few New England states. McCain suspended his campaign the next day.

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As a popular wartime President, George W. Bush was unopposed for the nomination and clinched it easily.

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George W. Bush, the incumbent President, was ineligible to run for a third term due to the Twenty-second Amendment, and Dick Cheney, the incumbent Vice President, did not seek the office, so the field was wide open. Rudy Giuliani was the frontrunner in the polls for most of 2007, but made a critical mistake by skipping the early primaries and staking his fortune on a win in Florida the week before Super Tuesday. This backfired badly as John McCain, whose campaign had been written off long before as a lost cause, surged suddenly in New Hampshire (where he had won before during the 2000 primaries) and rode a wave of momentum through South Carolina to defeat all other contenders in Florida. Giuliani quickly dropped out and endorsed McCain, but Mitt Romney, a well-organized candidate who up to that point had won only his native Michigan and a couple minor caucus states, fought on. McCain easily beat him on Super Tuesday, with assistance from Mike Huckabee, a conservative contender who stole a few crucial Southern primaries, shutting Romney out. Romney suspended his campaign during the CPAC convention that week, leaving only Huckabee, who said he would stay in until the nomination fight was over. He dropped out in early March after McCain won Texas and Ohio, thus clinching the nomination. Ron Paul, who had generated a lot of Internet buzz, did not win a single contest but stayed in the race until the last primary votes were cast in June.


For the first time in modern Republican primary history, three different candidates won the three key early contests: Rick Santorum in the Iowa caucuses, Mitt Romney in the New Hampshire primary and Newt Gingrich in the South Carolina primary. But only Romney and Santorum seemed to project national strength, as Gingrich's only win after South Carolina would be his home state of Georgia. Ron Paul, who had been expected to perform much better than he did in 2008, only scored second-place finishes in contests such as New Hampshire and Virginia (where only he and Romney were on the ballot), and a narrow win in the popular vote in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Romney maintained the upper hand throughout the primaries, winning most of the Super Tuesday contests and holding on to a wide lead in delegates. But Santorum managed to embarrass him in contests such as the Colorado caucuses, which Romney was expected to win, and in Michigan and Ohio, where Romney nearly lost. Santorum dropped out of the presidential race on April 10, leaving Romney nearly undisputed in his drive for the party's nomination.


Positioning for the Republican Party 2016 presidential primaries has begun.