Ronald Reagan presidential campaign, 1980

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Reagan & Bush
Reagan Bush Logo.svg
1980 Reagan-Bush campaign logo
Campaign Republican primaries, 1980
U.S. presidential election, 1980
Candidate Ronald Reagan
33rd Governor of California

George H. W. Bush
11th Director of Central Intelligence
Affiliation Republican Party
Status Announced: November 13, 1979
Official nominee: July 17, 1980
Won election: November 4, 1980
Key people William J. Casey (Manager)
Edwin Meese III (Chief of Staff)
Richard V. Allen (Foreign Policy Adviser)
Slogan Let's Make America Great Again
Are You Better Off Than You Were Four Years Ago?
President Ronald Reagan's 1980 presidential campaign poster
A button from Reagan's 1980 presidential campaign

Ronald Reagan, the 33rd Governor of California (served 1967–1975), announced his candidacy for President of the United States in New York City on November 13, 1979. On July 17, 1980, he became the nominee of the Republican Party for the 1980 presidential election.[1] After receiving the Republican nomination, he selected one of his opponents in the primary elections, George H. W. Bush, to be his running mate.

On November 4, 1980, Reagan carried 44 states and received 489 electoral votes to win the election. Jimmy Carter, the incumbent president, carried six states, as well as Washington, D.C., and received 49 electoral votes.[2] Reagan won 50.7 percent of the popular vote, Carter took 41 percent, and Independent John B. Anderson (a liberal Republican) received 6.7 percent.[2] Reagan's election as President was completed with the meeting of the Electoral College on December 15, 1980,[3] and with the subsequent certification of the college's vote by the Joint session of Congress on January 6, 1981.[4]



Reagan announced his candidacy for President of the United States in New York City on November 13, 1979.[5]

End of the primaries[edit]

On May 20, 1980, after the Michigan and Oregon primaries, Ronald Reagan secured enough delegates to clinch the nomination for the Republican Party. His opponent in the general election, incumbent President Jimmy Carter, passed the delegate threshold to become the presumptive nominee of his party on June 3. On May 26, George H. W. Bush, Reagan's remaining opponent for the Republican nomination, conceded defeat and urged his supporters to back Reagan.[6]

Vice Presidential selection[edit]

On July 16 (day 3 of the Republican National Convention) Gerald Ford consults with Bob Dole, Howard Baker and Bill Brock before ultimately making a decision to decline the offer to serve as Reagan's running mate

Ronald Reagan's choice for vice presidential running mate had been a subject of speculation since the end of the primaries. When former President Gerald Ford revealed in a CBS interview with Walter Cronkite that he was seriously considering the vice presidency, Ford garnered a great deal of interest. However, after Ford suggested the possibility of a "co-presidency" and, in addition, insisted that Henry Kissinger be re-appointed as Secretary of State and that Alan Greenspan be appointed as Secretary of the Treasury, negotiations to form a Reagan-Ford ticket ceased. Less than twenty-four hours before Reagan had formally accepted the Republican nomination, he telephoned George H. W. Bush to inform Bush of his intent to nominate him. The following day, on July 17—the final day of the Republican National Convention—Reagan officially announced Bush as his running mate.

Republican National Convention[edit]

Reagan giving his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention.

The 1980 Republican National Convention convened at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan. Reagan accepted the Republican nomination on the final day of the convention:

"With a deep awareness of the responsibility conferred by your trust, I accept your nomination for the presidency of the United States. I do so with deep gratitude, and I think also I might interject on behalf of all of us, our thanks to Detroit and the people of Michigan and to this city for the warm hospitality they have shown. And I thank you for your wholehearted response to my recommendation in regard to George Bush as a candidate for vice president."

Opinion polling[edit]

Weeks before the election, Reagan trailed Carter in most polls. In the Gallup poll on October 26, Jimmy Carter was at 47 percent and Ronald Reagan at 39 percent.[7] Following his sole debate with President Carter on October 28, Reagan overcame the largest deficit since Gallup polling began in 1936,[8] and within one week, the Associated Press reported that the race was "too close to call". Three weeks before the election, Yankelovich, Skelly and White produced a survey of 1,632 registered voters showing the race almost dead even, as did a private survey by Caddell.[9] Two weeks later, a survey by CBS News and the New York Times showed a similar situation.[9] Although some pollsters reported a slight Reagan lead, ABC News-Harris surveys consistently gave Reagan a lead of a few points until the climactic last week of October.[9]

Political positions[edit]

Ronald and Nancy Reagan campaigning with Strom Thurmond in Columbia, South Carolina.

The United States in the 1970s underwent "stagflation"—a wrenching period of low economic growth, high inflation and high interest rates and intermittent energy crises.[10] 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. Reagan theorized 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 called for a drastic cut in "big government" 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.

Interest rate crisis of 1980.

Racial animus[edit]

As part of his campaign, Reagan used dog whistle rhetoric, coded rhetoric that uses racial fears and prejudice, to appeal to white voters. Reagan's use of a phrase such as "states' rights", although literally referring to powers of individual state governments in the United States, was described by many as "code words" for institutionalized segregation and racism.[11] [12] [13] States rights was the banner under which groups like the Defenders of State Sovereignty and Individual Liberties argued in 1955 against school desegregation.[14] Reagan also used such coded racial rhetoric when he spoke about "Cadillac-driving 'welfare queens'" and "'strapping young bucks' buying T-bone steaks with food stamps" during his presidential campaign.[15][16][17] Dog whistling was a tactic that was part of the "Southern Strategy" developed by President Richard Nixon to garner white support for Republican candidates.[18][19]


  1. ^ "Time to Recapture our Destiny". Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Library. July 17, 1980. Retrieved February 2, 2009. 
  2. ^ a b "1980 Presidential Election". University of Connecticut. Retrieved February 2, 2009. 
  3. ^ "Electoral College chooses Reagan today". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 1980-12-15. p. 3. Retrieved February 2, 2009. 
  4. ^ Averill, John H. (January 7, 1981). "Congress Makes It Official—Reagan's the Winner". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 2, 2009. 
  5. ^ "Intent to Run for President". Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Library. November 13, 1979. Archived from the original on January 24, 2009. Retrieved February 2, 2009. 
  6. ^ Ciccone, F. Richard (May 27, 1980). "Bush quits, backs Reagan". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2009-02-03. 
  7. ^ Harwood, John (October 12, 2008). "History Suggests McCain Faces an Uphill Battle". The New York Times. Retrieved February 3, 2009. 
  8. ^ Cohen, Jon (October 13, 2008). "Reagan's "Comeback"". The Washington Post. Retrieved February 3, 2009. 
  9. ^ a b c Stacks, John F. (December 1, 1980). "Where the Polls Went Wrong". Time magazine. Retrieved February 3, 2009. 
  10. ^ Frum, David (2000). How We Got Here: The '70s. New York, New York: Basic Books. p. 292. ISBN 0-465-04195-7. 
  11. ^ Greenberg, David (Nov 20, 2007). "Dog-Whistling Dixie. When Reagan said "states' rights," he was talking about race". Slate. Retrieved May 21, 2012. 
  12. ^ Salon 1 Nov. 2014, "The Racism at The Heart of the Reagan Presidency: How Ronald Reagan Used Coded Racial Appeals to Galvanize White Voters and Gut the Middle Class,"
  13. ^ ''The New Statesman'', 27 June 2012, "Top Five Racist Republican Dog-Whistles,"
  14. ^ "A Plan for Virginia Presented to the People of the Commonwealth by the Defenders of State Sovereignty and Individual Liberties". Defenders of State Sovereignty and Individual Liberties. June 8, 1955. Retrieved 30 August 2017. 
  15. ^ Haney López, Ian (2014). Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 4. ISBN 978-0-19-996427-7. 
  16. ^ Full Show: Ian Haney López on the Dog Whistle Politics of Race, Part I. Moyers & Company, February 28, 2014.
  17. ^ Yao, Kevin (November 9, 2015). "A Coded Political Mantra". Berkeley Political Review: UC Berkeley’s Only Nonpartisan Political Magazine. Retrieved February 5, 2016. 
  18. ^ Lamis, Alexander P.; et al. (1990), "The Two Party South", Oxford University Press 
  19. ^ Herbert, Bob (October 6, 2005), "Impossible, Ridiculous, Repugnant", The New York Times, retrieved February 5, 2016