U.S. presidential election, 1976: Wikis


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1972 United States 1980
United States presidential election, 1976
November 2, 1976
JimmyCarterPortrait.jpg Gerald Ford.jpg
Nominee Jimmy Carter Gerald Ford
Party Democratic Republican
Home state Georgia Michigan
Running mate Walter Mondale Bob Dole
Electoral vote 297 240
States carried 23 + DC 27
Popular vote 40,831,881 39,148,634
Percentage 50.1% 48.0%
Presidential election results map. Blue denotes states won by Carter/Mondale, Red denotes those won by Ford/Dole. Ronald Reagan received one electoral vote from a "faithless elector" in Washington. Numbers indicate the number of electoral votes allotted to each state.

Incumbent President
Gerald Ford

Jimmy Carter

The United States presidential election of 1976 followed the resignation of President Richard Nixon in the wake of the Watergate scandal. It pitted incumbent President Gerald Ford, the Republican candidate, against the relatively unknown former governor of Georgia, Jimmy Carter, the Democratic candidate. Ford was saddled with a slow economy and paid a political price for his pardon of Nixon. Carter ran as a Washington "outsider" and reformer and won a narrow victory. He was the first president elected from the Deep South since Zachary Taylor in 1848. Eugene McCarthy, a former Democratic Senator from Minnesota, ran as an independent candidate.




Democratic Party

Democratic candidates

Candidates gallery

The surprise winner of the 1976 Democratic presidential nomination was Jimmy Carter, a former state senator and governor of Georgia. When the primaries began Carter was relatively unknown at the national level, and many political pundits regarded a number of better-known candidates, such as Senator Henry M. Jackson of Washington, Governor George Wallace of Alabama, and California Governor Jerry Brown, as the favorites for the nomination. However, in the wake of the Watergate scandal, Carter realized that his status as a Washington "outsider", political centrist, and moderate reformer could give him an advantage over his better-known "establishment" rivals. Carter also took advantage of the record number of state primaries and caucuses in 1976 to eliminate his better-known rivals one-by-one. By June 1976 he had captured more than enough delegates to win the Democratic nomination. At the 1976 Democratic National Convention Carter easily won the nomination on the first ballot; he then chose Minnesota Senator Walter Mondale, a liberal and political protégé of Hubert Humphrey, as his running mate.

Republican Party

Republican candidates

Candidates gallery

The 1976 Republican National Convention at Kemper Arena in Kansas City. Vice-Presidential Candidate Bob Dole is on the far left, then Nancy Reagan, Ronald Reagan is at the center shaking hands with President Gerald Ford, Vice-President Nelson Rockefeller is just to the right of Ford, followed by Susan Ford and First Lady Betty Ford.

The contest for the Republican Party's presidential nomination in 1976 was between two serious candidates: Gerald Ford, the leader of the GOP's moderate wing and the incumbent President, from Michigan; and Ronald Reagan, the leader of the GOP's conservative wing and the former two-term governor of California. The primary contest between the two men was hard-fought and relatively even; by the start of the Republican Convention in August 1976 the race for the nomination was still too close to call. Ford defeated Reagan by a narrow margin on the first ballot at the 1976 Republican National Convention in Kansas City, and chose Senator Robert Dole of Kansas as his running mate.

General election

Fall campaign

Carter and Ford in debate.

One of the advantages Ford held over Carter as the general election campaign began was that, as President, he was privileged to preside over events dealing with the United States Bicentennial; this often resulted in favorable publicity for Ford. The Washington, D.C. fireworks display on the Fourth of July was presided over by the President and televised nationally.[1] On July 7, 1976, the President and First Lady served as hosts at a White House state dinner for Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip of the United Kingdom, which was televised on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) network. These events were part of Ford's "Rose Garden" strategy to win the election; instead of appearing as a typical politician, Ford presented himself as a "tested leader" who was busily fulfilling the role of national leader and Chief Executive. Not until October did Ford leave the White House to actively campaign across the nation.

Jimmy Carter ran as a reformer who was "untainted" by Washington political scandals, which many voters found attractive in the wake of the Watergate scandal, which had led to President Richard Nixon's resignation. Ford, although personally unconnected with Watergate, was seen by many as too close to the discredited Nixon administration, especially after Ford granted Nixon a presidential pardon for any crimes he may have committed during his term of office. Ford's pardon of Nixon caused his popularity, as measured by public-opinion polls, to plummet. Ford's refusal to publicly explain his reasons for pardoning Nixon (he would do so in his memoirs several years later), also hurt his image. His son, Jack Ford, gave an interview in 1976 in which he stated that his father felt that he "(doesn't) have to prove anything" regarding the pardon of Nixon, and thus did not feel compelled to talk about it.[2]

Ford unsuccessfully asked Congress to end the 1950s-era price controls on natural gas, which caused a dwindling of American natural gas reserves after the 1973 Oil Crisis.[3] Carter stated during his campaign that he opposed the ending of the price controls and thought such a move would be "disastrous."[3]

After the Democratic National Convention, Carter held a huge 33-point lead over Ford in the polls. However, as the campaign continued, the race greatly tightened. The closeness of the race is normally attributed to three causes. Most importantly, Carter confirmed a promise of a full pardon to Christian and other religious and political refugees and other opponents to the Vietnam War (Ford had issued only a conditional amnesty) draft dodgers in response to a question posed by a reporter during the presidential debates, a promise which froze Ford's poll numbers in Ohio, Wisconsin, Hawaii, and Mississippi (Ford needed to convert only 11,000 votes in any two of those four states in order to win). Americans viewed the pardon as the only true way to end the bitterly hated Vietnam War. Earlier, Playboy magazine had published a controversial interview with Carter; in the interview, Carter admitted to having "lusted in his heart" for women other than his wife, which cut into his support among women and evangelical Christians. Also, on September 24, Ford performed well in what was the first televised presidential debate since 1960. Polls taken after the debate showed that most viewers felt that Ford was the winner. Carter was also hurt by Ford's charges that he lacked the necessary experience to be an effective national leader, and that Carter was vague on many issues. Carter pledged to end desegregation busing.[4]

Carter campaign headquarters

However, Ford also committed a costly blunder in the campaign that halted his momentum. During the second presidential debate on October 6, Ford stumbled when he asserted that "there is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe and there never will be under a Ford administration." He added that he did not "believe that the Poles consider themselves dominated by the Soviet Union," and made the same claim with regards to Yugoslavia and Romania.[5] Ford refused to retract his statement for almost a week after the debate. Neo-conservatives, who were becoming increasingly anti-Soviet, were appalled. Combined with Carter's pledge of a pardon for all Vietnam War opponents and refugees, Ford's surge stalled and Carter was able to maintain a slight lead in the polls.

A vice-presidential debate between Robert Dole and Walter Mondale also hurt the Republican ticket when Dole asserted that military unpreparedness on the part of Democratic presidents was responsible for all of the wars the U.S. had fought in the twentieth century. Dole, a World War II veteran, noted that in every twentieth-century war from World War I to the Vietnam War, a Democrat had been President. Dole then pointed out that the number of U.S. casualties in "Democrat wars" was roughly equal to the population of Detroit. Many voters felt that Dole's criticism was unfairly harsh and that his dispassionate delivery made him seem cold. One factor which did help Ford in the closing days of the campaign was a series of popular television appearances he did with Joe Garagiola, Sr., a retired baseball star for the St. Louis Cardinals and a well-known announcer for NBC Sports. Garagiola and Ford appeared in a number of shows in several large cities. During the show Garagiola would ask Ford questions about his life and beliefs; the shows were so informal, relaxed, and laid-back that some television critics labelled them the "Joe and Jerry Show." Ford and Garagiola obviously enjoyed one another's company, and they remained friends after the election was over.


Election results by county.      Jimmy Carter      Gerald Ford

Despite his campaign's blunders, Ford managed to close the remaining gap in the polls and by election day the race was judged to be even. Election day was November 2, and it took most of that night and the following morning to determine the winner. It wasn't until 3:30 am (EST), that the NBC television network was able to pronounce that Carter had carried Mississippi, and had thus accumulated more than the 270 electoral votes needed to win (seconds later, ABC News also declared Carter the winner based on projections for Carter in Wisconsin and Hawaii; CBS News announced Carter's victory at 3:45 am).[6] Carter defeated Ford by two percentage points in the national popular vote.

A campaign button from election night where Carter and Mondale spent the evening in Flint Michigan at a rally It is notable as only a handful of counties in Michigan went to Carter in 1976, and no surrounding counties where Carter held the rally went to him.

The electoral vote was the closest since 1916; Carter took 23 states with 297 electoral votes, while Ford won 27 states and 240 electoral votes (one elector from Washington state, pledged to Ford, voted for Reagan). Carter's victory came primarily from his near-sweep of the South (he lost only Virginia), and his narrow victories in large Northern states such as New York, and Pennsylvania. Ford did well in the West, carrying every state except Hawaii. The states that ultimately decided the election were Wisconsin (1.68% margin) and Ohio (.27% margin), both won by Carter. Had Ford won these states and all other states he carried, he would have won the presidency.

Carter was the first Democrat since John F. Kennedy in 1960 to carry the states of the Deep South, and the first since Lyndon Johnson in 1964 to carry an unquestionable majority of southern states. Carter performed very strongly in his home state of Georgia, carrying 66.7% of the vote and every county in the state. His 50.1% of the vote was only the second time since 1964 that a Democrat managed to obtain a majority of the popular vote in a presidential election until Barack Obama won about 53% of the vote 32 years later. Carter is just one of five Democrats to gain a majority of the popular vote since the Civil War, with the others being Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, Samuel Tilden, and Barack Obama. Tilden, although winning the popular vote, was declared to have lost the electoral college vote to Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876 as part of a political deal with Southern Democrats to end Reconstruction.

Gerald Ford (right) watching election returns with Joe Garagiola on election night in 1976. Garagiola is reacting to television reports that Ford had just lost Texas to Carter.

Had Ford won the election, the provisions of the 22nd amendment would have disqualified him from running in 1980, because he had served more than two years of Nixon's remaining term.


Presidential candidate Party Home state Popular vote Electoral
Running mate Running mate's
home state
Running mate's
electoral vote
Count Pct
James Earl Carter, Jr. Democratic Georgia 40,831,881 50.08% 297 Walter Frederick Mondale Minnesota 297
Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr. Republican Michigan 39,148,634 48.02% 240 Bob Dole Kansas 241
Ronald Wilson Reagan Republican California (a) (a) 1
Eugene McCarthy (none) Minnesota 740,460 0.91% 0  (b)  (b) 0
Roger MacBride Libertarian Vermont 172,553 0.21% 0 David Bergland California 0
Lester Maddox American Independent Georgia 170,274 0.21% 0 William D. Dyke Wisconsin 0
Thomas J. Anderson American  (c) 158,271 0.19% 0 Rufus Shackelford   0
Peter Camejo Socialist Workers California 90,986 0.11% 0 Willie Mae Reid 0
Gus Hall Communist New York 58,709 0.07% 0 Jarvis Tyner 0
Margaret Wright People's 49,013 0.06% 0 Benjamin Spock 0
Lyndon LaRouche U.S. Labor New York 40,043 0.05% 0 R. Wayne Evans 0
Other 70,785 0.08% Other
Total 81,531,584 100% 538 538
Needed to win 270 270

Source (Popular Vote): Leip, David. 1976 Presidential Election Results. Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections (August 7, 2005).

Source (Electoral Vote): Electoral College Box Scores 1789–1996. Official website of the National Archives. (August 7, 2005).

(a) Mike Padden, a Republican faithless elector from Washington, gave Ronald Reagan one electoral vote.
(b) The running mate of McCarthy varied from state to state.
(c) Research has not yet determined whether Anderson's home state was Tennessee or Texas at the time of the 1976 election.

Close states

States where margin of victory was under 5%

  1. Oregon, 0.17%
  2. Ohio, 0.27%
  3. Maine, 0.84%
  4. Iowa, 1.01%
  5. Oklahoma, 1.21%
  6. Virginia, 1.34%
  7. South Dakota, 1.48%
  8. Wisconsin, 1.68%
  9. California, 1.78%
  10. Mississippi, 1.88%
  11. Illinois, 1.97%
  12. New Jersey, 2.16%
  13. New Mexico, 2.47%
  14. Hawaii, 2.53%
  15. Pennsylvania, 2.66%
  16. Texas, 3.17%
  17. Missouri, 3.63%
  18. Washington, 3.88%
  19. Nevada, 4.36%
  20. New York, 4.43%

States where margin of victory was more than 5%, but less than 10%

  1. Connecticut, 5.16%
  2. Florida, 5.29%
  3. Michigan, 5.39%
  4. Delaware, 5.41%
  5. Louisiana, 5.78%
  6. North Dakota, 5.86%
  7. Maryland, 6.08%
  8. Kentucky, 7.18%
  9. Montana, 7.44%
  10. Kansas, 7.55%
  11. Indiana, 7.62%

Voter demographics

Social groups and the presidential vote, 1980 and 1976
Size[A 1] '80 Carter '80 Reagan '80 Anderson '76 Carter '76 Ford
Democratic 43 66 26 6 77 22
Independent 23 30 54 12 43 54
Republican 28 11 84 4 9 90
Liberal 18 57 27 11 70 26
Moderate 51 42 48 8 51 48
Conservative 31 23 71 4 29 70
Black 10 82 14 3 82 16
Hispanic 2 54 36 7 75 24
White 88 36 55 8 47 52
Female 48 45 46 7 50 48
Male 52 37 54 7 50 48
Protestant 46 37 56 6 44 55
White Protestant 41 31 62 6 43 57
Catholic 25 40 51 7 54 44
Jewish 5 45 39 14 64 34
Family income
Less than US$10,000 13 50 41 6 58 40
$10,000–$14,999 15 47 42 8 55 43
$15,000–$24,999 29 38 53 7 48 50
$25,000–$50,000 24 32 58 8 36 62
Over $50,000 5 25 65 8
Professional or manager 39 33 56 9 41 57
Clerical, sales, white-collar 11 42 48 8 46 53
blue-collar 17 46 47 5 57 41
Agriculture 3 29 66 3
Unemployed 3 55 35 7 65 34
Less than high school 11 50 45 3 58 41
High school graduate 28 43 51 4 54 46
Some college 28 35 55 8 51 49
College graduate 27 35 51 11 45 55
Union membership
Labor union household 28 47 44 7 59 39
No member of household in union 62 35 55 8 43 55
18–21 years old 6 44 43 11 48 50
22–29 years old 17 43 43 11 51 46
30–44 years old 31 37 54 7 49 49
45–59 years old 23 39 55 6 47 52
60 years or older 18 40 54 4 47 52
East 25 42 47 9 51 47
South 27 44 51 3 54 45
White South 22 35 60 3 46 52
Midwest 27 40 51 7 48 50
Far West 19 35 53 9 46 51
Community size
City over 250,000 18 54 35 8 60 40
Suburb/small city 53 37 53 8 53 47
Rural/town 29 39 54 5 47 53

Source: CBS News/ New York Times interviews with 12,782 voters as they left the polls, as reported in the New York Times, November 9, 1980, p. 28, and in further analysis. The 1976 data are from CBS News interviews.

  1. ^ “Size” = share of 1980 national total


  • The 1976 election was the first presidential election since 1932 which resulted in an incumbent President being defeated for re-election as a major party candidate. Four years later, in 1980, this event would occur again when Ronald Reagan would defeat President Carter in the general election and again, in 1992, when Bill Clinton defeated incumbent George H. W. Bush in his bid for re-election.
  • This was the last time that a Democratic candidate carried any of the following states: Texas, South Carolina, Mississippi and Alabama. North Carolina did not vote for a Democratic candidate again until Obama in 2008. Obama also carried Virginia, the one state in the South that Carter did not win.[7]
  • 1976 marked the first year that a television news network used colors to represent the states won by the candidates. John Chancellor, the anchorman for the NBC Nightly News, suggested to his network's engineers that they create a large electronic map of the United States; the map was placed in the network's election-night news studio. If Carter carried a state it would light up in red, if Ford won a state it would light up in blue. The feature proved to be so popular that all three major news networks would adopt the feature for the 1980 presidential election, and it has since become a staple of election-night broadcasts, although the colors for both parties have been reversed.
  • This election was the first time since 1908, and last time to date, that Nevada did not back the winning candidate. It was also the first election that New Mexico did not back the winning candidate since it had achieved statehood in 1912.
  • Although he lost, Ford carried 27 out of 50 states, the most ever won by a losing candidate. He became the second and the last person to not win the presidency while carrying more than half the states. The first was Nixon in 1960, who won in 26 states.

See also


  1. ^ Election of 1976: A Political Outsider Prevails. C-SPAN. Retrieved on 2006-12-31.
  2. ^ Ford, Jack. "My Father the President" Best Life 5 no5 pgs. 126-7 June/July 200.'
  3. ^ a b Frum, David (2000). How We Got Here: The '70s. New York, New York: Basic Books. pp. 321–322. ISBN 0465041957.  
  4. ^ Frum, David (2000). How We Got Here: The '70s. New York, New York: Basic Books. p. 265. ISBN 0465041957.  
  5. ^ http://www.pbs.org/newshour/debatingourdestiny/76debates/2_b.html
  6. ^ Jules Witcover. Marathon: The Pursuit of the Presidency, 1972–1976 (New York: Viking), p. 11.
  7. ^ year=1976&fips=51&f=1&off=0&elect=0 1976 Presidential General Election Results - Virginia

External links



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