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December 03, 2020, 03:19:39 AM
News: 2020 Election day live thread: https://talkelections.org/FORUM/index.php?topic=409870.0

  Talk Elections
  Presidential Elections - Analysis and Discussion
  U.S. Presidential Election Results (Moderator: ON Progressive)
  1976 Presidential election: why was it so close?
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Author Topic: 1976 Presidential election: why was it so close?  (Read 904 times)
c r a b c a k e
CrabCake
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« on: November 22, 2020, 03:00:23 PM »

The conventional answer is that Ford had a good campaign and led the Bicentennial parades; but i find the results quite shocking given how many things were seriously weighing down Ford (lousy economy, disgraced former president being pardoned etc). Has anybody seriously studied this election?
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Hnv1
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« Reply #1 on: November 22, 2020, 03:16:25 PM »

Maybe inexperienced Carter didnít really signal enough confidence and competence with voters?
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buritobr
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« Reply #2 on: November 22, 2020, 03:18:00 PM »

1976 was the best year for the democrats in a period of republican dominance in presidencial elections (1968-1988)
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dw93
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« Reply #3 on: November 22, 2020, 04:45:10 PM »

It came down to the General Election Campaigns. Carter's, while brilliant in the primaries, was weak in the general, whereas Ford's was one of the best run campaigns by a losing candidate in history. If it weren't for the "Soviet Domination" gaffe, Ford might've pulled it off.
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President Johnson
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« Reply #4 on: November 22, 2020, 04:53:07 PM »

By 1976, the economy was actually not that bad, it was on the upturn. Especially compared to 1974 and 1975. I think Ford also benefited from relative peace around the world and Carter being an inexperienced candidate. Ford also ran a strong general election campaign and had the momentum in the final weeks, despite his "no Soviet domination" gaffe. I read some political scientists actually thought Ford would have won if the campaign went on for another week. And while Ford received criticism for the pardon, Carter didn't attack him for it. Also, the country knew that Ford himself was not involved in Watergate and that he was indeed a decent person.

Another factor may have been the Democratic Party became toxic at the presidential level after 1968 because many Americans, for the wrong reasons, felt liberalism had failed them. After 1968, the New Deal coalition quickly fell apart since Southern whites found their new home in the Republican Party (at least in non-statwide races; Democrats still dominated statewide until the 1990s) and unions losing power and influence. Plus, the New Deal coalition de facto became leaderless after there was no one left with either Lyndon Johnson's political skills nor Bobby Kennedy's charisma. Jimmy Carter was neither full of charisma, nor was he a master politican and tactician. While he's a person of great character, he proofed to be ineffective as president, leaving a nation full of pessimism and selfdoubt. That haunted them for over a decade to come.

In retrospect, it would have been better for the Democrats, as well as the USA, if Ford actually went on to win the 1976 presidential election, but that's a discussion for another thread.
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DabbingSanta
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« Reply #5 on: November 22, 2020, 06:33:00 PM »

It came down to the General Election Campaigns. Carter's, while brilliant in the primaries, was weak in the general, whereas Ford's was one of the best run campaigns by a losing candidate in history. If it weren't for the "Soviet Domination" gaffe, Ford might've pulled it off.

Definitely. Carter had a 32 point lead in July.  It was amazing how close it turned out.
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L.D. Smith
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« Reply #6 on: November 22, 2020, 07:30:28 PM »

one word: Playboy.
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Alben Barkley
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« Reply #7 on: November 22, 2020, 11:52:04 PM »


Canít believe how long it took to get to the correct answer in this thread.
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Catalyst138
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« Reply #8 on: November 23, 2020, 02:22:34 AM »

It came down to the General Election Campaigns. Carter's, while brilliant in the primaries, was weak in the general, whereas Ford's was one of the best run campaigns by a losing candidate in history. If it weren't for the "Soviet Domination" gaffe, Ford might've pulled it off.

Definitely. Carter had a 32 point lead in July.  It was amazing how close it turned out.

Biden going from +8 to +4 doesnít seem so bad now. Being up by 32 is insane, no candidate could ever get close to that today.
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President Johnson
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« Reply #9 on: November 23, 2020, 04:39:31 AM »


Well, most Southern conservatives still voted for Carter. I doubt he would have won much bigger without the incident.

Also crazy to think about the "scandals" of the early days now compared Trump. Just like Poppy dared to check his watch during a debate.
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« Reply #10 on: November 23, 2020, 07:19:06 AM »


Well, most Southern conservatives still voted for Carter. I doubt he would have won much bigger without the incident.

Also crazy to think about the "scandals" of the early days now compared Trump. Just like Poppy dared to check his watch during a debate.

??

Assuming you are referring to White Southern conservatives only here... Carter very likely lost the non-Hispanic White Southern vote in 1976, and considering that some White liberals existed... I have to give it a no.
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Urbanbluedog
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« Reply #11 on: November 23, 2020, 08:54:01 AM »


Well, most Southern conservatives still voted for Carter. I doubt he would have won much bigger without the incident.

Also crazy to think about the "scandals" of the early days now compared Trump. Just like Poppy dared to check his watch during a debate.

??

Assuming you are referring to White Southern conservatives only here... Carter very likely lost the non-Hispanic White Southern vote in 1976, and considering that some White liberals existed... I have to give it a no.

At the very least, Ford won whites in Virginia, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Texas. Probably Florida too.
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Battista Minola 1616
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« Reply #12 on: November 23, 2020, 08:56:30 AM »


Well, most Southern conservatives still voted for Carter. I doubt he would have won much bigger without the incident.

Also crazy to think about the "scandals" of the early days now compared Trump. Just like Poppy dared to check his watch during a debate.

??

Assuming you are referring to White Southern conservatives only here... Carter very likely lost the non-Hispanic White Southern vote in 1976, and considering that some White liberals existed... I have to give it a no.

At the very least, Ford won whites in Virginia, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Texas. Probably Florida too.

He definitely won them in Florida and Louisiana. And he probably did in Alabama, North Carolina and South Carolina as well.
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DabbingSanta
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« Reply #13 on: November 23, 2020, 09:41:41 AM »


Well, most Southern conservatives still voted for Carter. I doubt he would have won much bigger without the incident.

Also crazy to think about the "scandals" of the early days now compared Trump. Just like Poppy dared to check his watch during a debate.

??

Assuming you are referring to White Southern conservatives only here... Carter very likely lost the non-Hispanic White Southern vote in 1976, and considering that some White liberals existed... I have to give it a no.

At the very least, Ford won whites in Virginia, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Texas. Probably Florida too.

He definitely won them in Florida and Louisiana. And he probably did in Alabama, North Carolina and South Carolina as well.

Yup, this has been discussed before on this board. Carter apparently lost the white vote in the South, despite winning nearly all the counties. In reality, I think there should be a footnote here, as Carter did pretty damn well with rural whites ó this was offset by losing badly in the suburbs.
https://talkelections.org/FORUM/index.php?topic=392676
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Cath
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« Reply #14 on: November 23, 2020, 11:37:55 AM »


Well, most Southern conservatives still voted for Carter. I doubt he would have won much bigger without the incident.

Also crazy to think about the "scandals" of the early days now compared Trump. Just like Poppy dared to check his watch during a debate.

??

Assuming you are referring to White Southern conservatives only here... Carter very likely lost the non-Hispanic White Southern vote in 1976, and considering that some White liberals existed... I have to give it a no.

>tfw you confuse "most Southern conservatives" with "most Southerners".
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Cath
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« Reply #15 on: November 23, 2020, 12:36:58 PM »


Did Ford's centerfold leak or something? Huh
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RINO Tom
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« Reply #16 on: November 23, 2020, 01:08:26 PM »


Well, most Southern conservatives still voted for Carter. I doubt he would have won much bigger without the incident.

Also crazy to think about the "scandals" of the early days now compared Trump. Just like Poppy dared to check his watch during a debate.

As has been stated below, this is ridiculous and comes from the lazy assumption that "White Southerner" = "conservative."  That cheapens an interesting political history and wreaks of pushing our current political realities on past eras where they simply didn't dominate...

Of "White Southern Democrats" - even among those who were religious or supported segregation in the past - not all were "conservative," which should be ridiculously obvious.  Those who were voting for Jimmy Carter in 1976 (let alone the very large minority who stuck with him in 1980) were hardly right-wingers, and it's obvious that Ford won "Southern conservatives" by huge margins.  "Southern populists" or "rural Southerners" or any other not-synonym?  Perhaps another story.
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Pericles
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« Reply #17 on: November 23, 2020, 03:04:55 PM »

Ford's approval ratings were respectable for most of 1976, 538 says it was slightly net positive actually and in the low to mid 40s. So while he was weighed down, he was never weighed down by enough to lose in a landslide. Carter's big polling leads were probably just one of those huge old convention bounces, and Ford was also being weighed down by his divisive primary earlier in the year. Ford ran a good campaign, but Carter wasn't exceptionally weak that year either-I'm guessing a liberal Northern Democrat would have lost.
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President Elect Biden!!
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« Reply #18 on: November 23, 2020, 03:15:38 PM »

https://youtu.be/8mILEkcrHvQ

While this ad was never aired, it was the tone and message repeated by Fordís campaign over and over and over.
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Catalyst138
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« Reply #19 on: November 23, 2020, 04:21:04 PM »


Well, most Southern conservatives still voted for Carter. I doubt he would have won much bigger without the incident.

Also crazy to think about the "scandals" of the early days now compared Trump. Just like Poppy dared to check his watch during a debate.

As has been stated below, this is ridiculous and comes from the lazy assumption that "White Southerner" = "conservative."  That cheapens an interesting political history and wreaks of pushing our current political realities on past eras where they simply didn't dominate...

Of "White Southern Democrats" - even among those who were religious or supported segregation in the past - not all were "conservative," which should be ridiculously obvious.  Those who were voting for Jimmy Carter in 1976 (let alone the very large minority who stuck with him in 1980) were hardly right-wingers, and it's obvious that Ford won "Southern conservatives" by huge margins.  "Southern populists" or "rural Southerners" or any other not-synonym?  Perhaps another story.

On social issues I do think most white southerners were conservative, or at least center-right, as opposed to liberal. Carter himself was fairly moderate (or at least presented that way) so he could appeal to them, in a way that McGovern couldnít at all. Ford still won this group but not by that much.

On economic issues youíre 100% correct, plenty of people all across that spectrum in the south and the left-wingers voted for Carter.
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L.D. Smith
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« Reply #20 on: November 23, 2020, 05:11:17 PM »

Ford's approval ratings were respectable for most of 1976, 538 says it was slightly net positive actually and in the low to mid 40s. So while he was weighed down, he was never weighed down by enough to lose in a landslide. Carter's big polling leads were probably just one of those huge old convention bounces, and Ford was also being weighed down by his divisive primary earlier in the year. Ford ran a good campaign, but Carter wasn't exceptionally weak that year either-I'm guessing a liberal Northern Democrat would have lost.

Disagreed.

While Playboy probably was the big even-outter, the year was a low turnout year. Methinks a liberal Dem would've received more votes overall thanks to fewer liberals staying home.
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Bomster
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« Reply #21 on: November 23, 2020, 05:13:56 PM »

The Misery Index is a pretty nifty gauge of how well-off an economy is. It is computed by adding the inflation rate and unemployment rate together. Since the economy tends to be the biggest issue on voter's minds, it often predicts who will win elections. If the Misery Index increases from the year prior to the election year, the incumbent party will most likely lose. If it decreases, then the incumbent party will most likely win. The index actually fell from 1975-1976, so that probably explains why the election was so close, with the biggest reason for Ford's defeat probably being a desire for an outside among the American people after the stink of Watergate.
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kcguy
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« Reply #22 on: November 23, 2020, 07:01:42 PM »


As a born-again Southern Baptist, Carter appealed to Southern evangelicals.

Then, he did an interview with Playboy, where he admitted to having "lust in his heart" for women other than his wife.
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Alben Barkley
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« Reply #23 on: November 23, 2020, 09:10:00 PM »


As a born-again Southern Baptist, Carter appealed to Southern evangelicals.

Then, he did an interview with Playboy, where he admitted to having "lust in his heart" for women other than his wife.

The thing is he was just quoting Jesus himself in saying no man is free from that, and was basically prodded into saying it by the interviewer. People who actually understand the Bible and the context of that line should have known there was no issue with what he said. But not just that line, also other parts of the Playboy interview (including bashing LBJ) and just doing the interview at all hurt his image somewhat as morally upright and honest, however unfairly. It was a turning point as it was one of the first things that made people raise their eyebrows and wonder if Carter was up to the job. Seems incredibly trivial and dumb by todayís standards, of course, but the impact at the time is undeniable.
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Alben Barkley
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« Reply #24 on: November 23, 2020, 09:22:21 PM »


Well, most Southern conservatives still voted for Carter. I doubt he would have won much bigger without the incident.

Also crazy to think about the "scandals" of the early days now compared Trump. Just like Poppy dared to check his watch during a debate.

??

Assuming you are referring to White Southern conservatives only here... Carter very likely lost the non-Hispanic White Southern vote in 1976, and considering that some White liberals existed... I have to give it a no.

At the very least, Ford won whites in Virginia, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Texas. Probably Florida too.

He definitely won them in Florida and Louisiana. And he probably did in Alabama, North Carolina and South Carolina as well.

Yup, this has been discussed before on this board. Carter apparently lost the white vote in the South, despite winning nearly all the counties. In reality, I think there should be a footnote here, as Carter did pretty damn well with rural whites ó this was offset by losing badly in the suburbs.
https://talkelections.org/FORUM/index.php?topic=392676

It was ďdiscussedĒ but no one making that claim actually provided any evidence whatsoever Carter lost the white vote in the South. I find that very hard, almost impossible frankly, to believe. He won most Southern states by extremely decisive margins, several in the double digits, that just wouldnít be possible if he wasnít winning whites. Especially since blacks werenít voting 10% or less for Republicans at the time, closer to 20%. And especially since states like AR, KY, TN, WV where he won easily donít even have that many non-whites, relatively speaking, and had an even smaller non-white population at the time. Plus he racked up huge margins in the same extremely white counties where Donald Trump racked up similar margins today.

Anyway, as for some actual data, Roper Center has exit polls from 1976 which show a few things of note:

1. Ford won whites for the country as a whole, but only 52-48.

2. Carterís best region was the South, 54-46.

3. Blacks voted 17% for Ford.

Add it all up and I donít see how itís possible Carter lost Southern whites. Maybe in some states like VA, OK, MS, but even then pretty narrowly. It was four years later when he collapsed with evangelical Southern whites (his own demographic ironically) who largely abandoned him for Reagan. But even then, he kept it closer in many of these states than any Democrat has since. And he collapsed much harder in states like AR than he did in states like MS, where he seems to have not done as well with whites in the first place.
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