Ronald Reagan Very Nearly Unseated President Gerald Ford in 1976

The Republican nomination for the 1976 US elections nearly did not go to the incumbent president.In the 1976 US Presidential election, Jimmy Carter defeated the incumbent Gerald Ford by a comfortable margin.

What people may not realize or remember, however, is that California Governor Ronald Reagan very nearly unseated President Ford to win the Republican nomination.


In this day and age, the idea of an incumbent President not winning his party's nomination is almost impossible to fathom.

This very nearly happened in 1976, however, as President Gerald Ford eked out a primary victory against Ronald Reagan by the narrowest of margins.

After Richard Nixon resigned in 1974, the Republican Party was reeling from the Watergate scandal. There was a desire from many inside of the Party for a completely fresh start.

Inside, President Gerald Ford, who became President after Richard Nixon resigned, not only pardoned the former President, but also vowed to carry through with Nixon's political agenda.

This was seen as political suicide by many within the Republican Party, and a challenger to President Ford stepped up - Ronald Reagan.


In the summer of 1975, President Ford's approval rating was stuck in the low 30s, and many in the Republican party viewed the 1976 Presidential election as a lost cause.

There was growing excitement within the party about Ronald Reagan, who was seen as the breath of fresh air that the Republican party needed to repair the damage done by the Watergate scandal.

Not only was the economy in the tank, but President Ford was seen as many in the Republican Party as not being harsh enough towards the Soviet Union.

In September of 1975, Ronald Reagan started to campaign, and by November of 1975, he had officially entered the race for the Republican nomination.


Things started off poorly for Ronald Reagan, as he lost the New Hampshire, Florida and Illinois primaries.

In the North Carolina primary, a change in momentum occurred, as Reagan managed to win. He followed this up with an impressive victory in Texas.

Momentum ebbed and flowed for both sides, but Reagan had already done the seemingly impossible - win primaries against an incumbent President.

As the primaries continued, the two sides exchanged victories. Ford won states such as Kentucky, New Jersey and Ohio, while Reagan won in Nevada, California and Arkansas.

By the start of the Republican national convention, a presumptive nominee had still not been chosen.


In total, President Ford won 27 primaries, while Ronald Reagan won 24.

In the end, President Ford managed to secure the nomination, as he ended up with 1,121 delegates, while Ronald Reagan had 1,078.

President Ford was able to use his influence to get the support that he needed.

In the end, many believe that Ronald Reagan's attack against President Ford hurt Ford in the 1976 election.

In the end, President Ford would lose in 1976, while Ronald Reagan would easily secure the Republican nomination in 1980, and go on to serve two terms in the White House.

Filed under: General Knowledge

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