The Elections of 1980, 1984, and 1988

Ronald Reagan (489 Electoral Votes)
Jimmy Carter (49 Electoral Votes)

Ronald Reagan (525 Electoral Votes)
Walter Mondale (13 Electoral Votes)

George Bush (426 Electoral Votes)
Michael Dukakis (111 Electoral Votes)

Jimmy Carter’s administration produced well-crafted policy initiatives to deal with things like the energy crisis, civil service reform, and deregulation of the airline and trucking industries. The initiatives were, however, not always politically astute, and Carter lacked the ability to wheel, deal, cajole, and flatter enough to get his way.  He had some significant achievements in foreign policy, including the Panama Canal treaty, recognition of China, the Camp David peace agreement, and the campaign for human rights.  But he was probably doomed as soon as he made a speech that seemed to blame the voters for America’s economic problems in the midst of a gasoline shortage.  (He did not actually use the word “malaise,” but the speech quickly got that label.)  His fate was certainly sealed, however, by the humiliating hostage crisis with Iran.  In 1980, Republican Ronald Reagan used his skillful delivery (“I am paying for this microphone, Mr. Green”) and exquisite sense of timing (“There you go again”) to overcome fears that his views were too extreme.  Carter suffered the first defeat by an incumbent president since Herbert Hoover.  He went on to become our most distinguished ex-President since John Quincy Adams.  Reagan got off to a rocky start as the country entered a stiff recession, but his tax cuts and increased military spending helped to stimulate a recovery, as well as his sunny disposition even after an assassination attempt (“Honey, I forgot to duck”), won the country over.  In 1984, the Democrats reached rock bottom as a presidential party when former Vice President Walter Mondale won only his native Minnesota against Reagan.  There was nowhere for the Democrats to go but up, and although Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis brought the party half-way back in 1988, he was unable to prevent Vice President George (“Read my lips: no new taxes”) Bush from winning Reagan’s third term.


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