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December 01, 2020, 04:10:02 PM
News: 2020 Election day live thread: https://talkelections.org/FORUM/index.php?topic=409870.0

  Talk Elections
  Presidential Elections - Analysis and Discussion
  Election What-ifs?
  Past Election What-ifs (US) (Moderators: #CriminalizeSobriety, Dereich)
  1976: Sen. Ronald Reagan (D-CA) vs. President Gerald Ford (R-MI)
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Author Topic: 1976: Sen. Ronald Reagan (D-CA) vs. President Gerald Ford (R-MI)  (Read 259 times)
Alben Barkley
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« on: November 17, 2020, 12:44:22 AM »

Assume for the purposes of this scenario that Ronald Reagan remained a liberal Democrat, that he campaigned fiercely for LBJ rather than Goldwater in 1964, that he won the 1968 CA-SEN race instead of the 1966 CA-GOV race, and that everything else with Nixon, Watergate, Ford, etc. played out the same. Until Reagan wins the 1976 Democratic nomination; as a relative newcomer to Congress, he can play the “outsider” card to an extent like Carter did, but he’s also got a lot more charisma and presumably better relations with Congress due to eight years of experience. He likely also was a prominent voice denouncing Nixon for Watergate and Ford for the pardon, and gained increased national attention for that.

As in real life, he would be challenging an incumbent President Ford, but under very different circumstances, to his left rather than his right.

Discuss with maps. Bonus: Discuss how you think his term would have gone compared to Carter’s if he won, and what his re-election chances would have looked like in 1980.
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Fuzzy Bear
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« Reply #1 on: November 22, 2020, 01:08:19 PM »

Reagan would have been an obscure Senator and he would have been defeated for re-election in 1974.

Why was Reagan a big deal?  He was a big deal because he was Governor of California since 1966.  The timing is crucial; his 1966 election enabled him to put on a last minute candidacy for President in 1968 (after months of conservatives wishing he'd put his hat in the ring).  He was re-elected in 1970 by avoiding the cultural issues and the Vietnam War issue because he was Governor.  Let's not forget that in 1968 and 1970 California rejected hawkish Republicans for dovish Democrats in their US Senate races.  A non-incumbent Reagan would have lost both races.

The key for Reagan to be a viable Presidential candidate was his 1966 Gubenatorial win.  Reagan didn't run for the Senate in 1974 because at that time he was considered unelectable in California.  His Presidential campaigns rehabilitated his image with the home folks, as did the ebbing of the Vietnam War and the cultural/countercultural issues surrounding it.

The Reagan you created would not have won the primary against Ford in 1976.  But let's say that he had.  If that were the case, he'd have been pigeonholed as a reactionary Senator with a voting record to support the label and he'd have lost in a landslide to Carter; the reasonable moderate versus the dangerous kook.  Reagan beat Carter because the path he took enabled him to avoid being pigeonholed and because it was the incompetent Carter, and not the moderate and reasonable Carter that Reagan ran against in 1980.
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Huey Long is a Republican
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« Reply #2 on: November 22, 2020, 02:01:15 PM »

Reagan would have been an obscure Senator and he would have been defeated for re-election in 1974.

Why was Reagan a big deal?  He was a big deal because he was Governor of California since 1966.  The timing is crucial; his 1966 election enabled him to put on a last minute candidacy for President in 1968 (after months of conservatives wishing he'd put his hat in the ring).  He was re-elected in 1970 by avoiding the cultural issues and the Vietnam War issue because he was Governor.  Let's not forget that in 1968 and 1970 California rejected hawkish Republicans for dovish Democrats in their US Senate races.  A non-incumbent Reagan would have lost both races.

The key for Reagan to be a viable Presidential candidate was his 1966 Gubenatorial win.  Reagan didn't run for the Senate in 1974 because at that time he was considered unelectable in California.  His Presidential campaigns rehabilitated his image with the home folks, as did the ebbing of the Vietnam War and the cultural/countercultural issues surrounding it.

The Reagan you created would not have won the primary against Ford in 1976.  But let's say that he had.  If that were the case, he'd have been pigeonholed as a reactionary Senator with a voting record to support the label and he'd have lost in a landslide to Carter; the reasonable moderate versus the dangerous kook.  Reagan beat Carter because the path he took enabled him to avoid being pigeonholed and because it was the incompetent Carter, and not the moderate and reasonable Carter that Reagan ran against in 1980.

Uh, I think you misread the thing, it has Reagan remaining a Liberal Democrat and facing Carter in the general. But on the scenario, I think Reagan beats him handidly. Another interesting scenario is a Speaker of the House Ronald Reagan facing Nelson Rockefeller.
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bagelman
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« Reply #3 on: November 22, 2020, 02:16:59 PM »

Reagan landslide. Ford's a nice guy but he's no match for the Gipper.
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Fuzzy Bear
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« Reply #4 on: November 22, 2020, 02:56:09 PM »

Reagan would have been an obscure Senator and he would have been defeated for re-election in 1974.

Why was Reagan a big deal?  He was a big deal because he was Governor of California since 1966.  The timing is crucial; his 1966 election enabled him to put on a last minute candidacy for President in 1968 (after months of conservatives wishing he'd put his hat in the ring).  He was re-elected in 1970 by avoiding the cultural issues and the Vietnam War issue because he was Governor.  Let's not forget that in 1968 and 1970 California rejected hawkish Republicans for dovish Democrats in their US Senate races.  A non-incumbent Reagan would have lost both races.

The key for Reagan to be a viable Presidential candidate was his 1966 Gubenatorial win.  Reagan didn't run for the Senate in 1974 because at that time he was considered unelectable in California.  His Presidential campaigns rehabilitated his image with the home folks, as did the ebbing of the Vietnam War and the cultural/countercultural issues surrounding it.

The Reagan you created would not have won the primary against Ford in 1976.  But let's say that he had.  If that were the case, he'd have been pigeonholed as a reactionary Senator with a voting record to support the label and he'd have lost in a landslide to Carter; the reasonable moderate versus the dangerous kook.  Reagan beat Carter because the path he took enabled him to avoid being pigeonholed and because it was the incompetent Carter, and not the moderate and reasonable Carter that Reagan ran against in 1980.

Uh, I think you misread the thing, it has Reagan remaining a Liberal Democrat and facing Carter in the general. But on the scenario, I think Reagan beats him handidly. Another interesting scenario is a Speaker of the House Ronald Reagan facing Nelson Rockefeller.

It's notable that the only Hollywood stars that made it big in California politics (Reagan and song-and-dance man George Murphy) were Republicans.  Murphy was already a Senator in 1968, so it's questionable that California would have elected two (2) showbiz types for their Senate seats at the same time.

Reagan stood out as a Republican in ways that he never would have stood out as a Democrat.  As a Democrat he would have been little different from, say, James Roosevelt, FDR's son and a California Congressman that lost a Senate bid.  (Jimmy Roosevelt was one of John Connally's Democrats for Nixon in 1972, and it's quite possible that Reagan may have been one of them in 1968.)  He'd have been lost in the shuffle, and he would not have had Southern appeal.  He would have been a very ordinary candidate, and there would have been little to distinguish him from any of the other liberal Democrats running in 1976.

How would a Sen. Ronald Reagan (D-CA) differed from Sen. Birch Bayh (D-IN), Rep. Morris Udall (D-AZ), Gov. Milton Shapp (D-PA), Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-TX), Ambassador Sargent Shriver (D-MD), former Sen. Fred Harris (D-OK), or Sen. Frank Church (D-ID)?  How would he have differed from Gov. Jerry Brown (D-CA)?  How would he have differed from Gov. Jimmy Carter (D-GA), Gov. Terry Sanford (D-NC) or Governor George Wallace (D-AL).

The answer is simple:  He would only differ from Carter, Bentsen, Wallace, and (possibly) Sanford in that those were the only candidates that had appeal from the South.  He would differ from ONLY Carter in the sense that only Carter could defeat George Wallace in the South.



This 293-245 map shows the best possible outcome for this bland, non-distinctive Democratic Reagan.  That's an optimistic outcome.  It is hard to tell how much of the disappointing showing of the Democrats in the Northeast and Midwest in 1976 was a result of Carter being seen as not liberal enough and there being a lack of enthusiasm for Carter with the Democratic base after closer inspection and how much of that was due to the country having moved to the right and a good portion of that not going away just because Nixon screwed up.  He could have won.  But it wouldn't have been a big victory and he might have lost.  Instead of convincing the country that Carter was wishy-washy, Gerald Ford could have convinced the country that this liberal Democrat from California was more liberal than they were.
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Fuzzy Bear
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« Reply #5 on: November 22, 2020, 03:13:58 PM »

A Democratic Reagan would have had his communications skills and his Republican opponent would not have.  That might have saved him in 1980.  Then, too, a liberal Democratic Reagan would have done SOME things differently than Carter that would have reinforced the Democratic base.  He would likely have not faced a Kennedy primary challenge.  If he had governed as a liberal President and not tried to be a moderate he may well have not been challenged at all for the nomination.

Such a Reagan would not have made inroads in the South, however.  Such a Reagan would not have been supportive of him in 1976 (as he was of Carter) and would likely encouraged Southern Democrats to not endorse him.  It's possible that Reagan, the Democrat, would have made personal friendships with Southern Democratic Governors and Senators to stick with him, but that support would have been rather limited.  A lot would have depended, of course, as to whether Reagan, the Democrat was a Scoop Jackson liberal, a Hubert Humphrey liberal, or a Walter Mondale liberal.  The Scoop Jackson liberal would have maneuvered through the Hostage Crisis more deftly than Carter; indeed, there may not have been a hostage crisis.  There WOULD have been an Energy Crisis, however, and there WOULD have been the stagflation that undid Carter.

Then, again, it would matter who Reagan, the Democrat's 1980 opponent was.  Ford, in a rematch?  Probably the strongest pick. 


If a newer Republican face had challenged the Democratic President Reagan the result may have been more faovrable.
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bagelman
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« Reply #6 on: November 23, 2020, 12:11:14 AM »

Carter was a disaster of a candidate who accepted an interview from playboy.

Ronald W. Reagan wins a landslide in 1976 and could defend the White House in 1980. He does not magically become dull and boring due to not becoming a right winger.
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