Biography of U.S. President Ronald Reagan Part 8 Campaign

About the United States President Ronald Reagan, biography and history of his first presidential campaign.


40th President



Relying on his friendly style and appealing looks, Reagan conducted a campaign that called for the revitalization of America's traditional values, namely, "family, work, neighborhood, freedom, peace," and made use of his characteristic supply of one-liners and questionable data. In fact, all Reagan had to do to get elected was sit back quietly and let Jimmy Carter's record speak for itself. However, the former after-dinner speaker couldn't leave well enough alone, and before long newsmen were catching him in one lie or distortion after another. Speaking to a crowd of evangelists, Reagan announced the discovery of "new evidence" disputing the Darwinian theory of evolution and supporting the fundamental biblical view of creation. When challenged, he was unable to produce this new evidence. While visiting Pittsburgh, he declared that smog had been cleared up in California and that government control of industrial air pollution had gone too far. At that very moment Reagan's hometown of Los Angeles was suffering its worst smog attack in several years.

One of Reagan's most popular crowd pleasers was the following: "Jimmy Carter said we should give back the Panama Canal because nobody would like us if we didn't.... Jimmy Carter says we should sign the SALT II treaty because nobody will like us if we don't.... Well, I say, isn't it about time we stopped worrying about whether people like us and say, "We want to be respected again!'" The fact that Jimmy Carter had never said any such thing didn't stop Reagan from using the story over and over, just as he continued to repeat other allegations, even after they had been proved wrong. For example, Reagan incorrectly stated that Alaska has more oil than Saudi Arabia; that trees cause more pollution than industry; that it cost $3 to deliver $1 of welfare (it actually cost 12 cent); and that the number of government employees had increased by 131,000 while Carter was president (the true figure was 6,000).

Fortunately for Reagan, Carter's record bothered more people than Reagan's blunders and falsehoods, and on Nov. 4, 1980, Ronald Reagan was elected president of the U.S. in an electoral landslide. With the votes of 43.3 million Americans (a 51% majority) he won in 44 states, compared to Carter's 6 states (plus Washington, D.C.) and 41% (35 million) of the popular vote. Reagan scored 489 electoral votes and Carter only 49. Independent candidate John Anderson (R-III.) won 7% (5.6 million) of the popular vote. In the 20th century, only two presidents received a larger electoral majority: Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936 and Richard Nixon in 1972. However, voter turnout was 54%--the lowest since 1948--and only 27% of the voting-age population actually voted for Reagan.

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