Bicentennial Man: Ford '76 and Beyond

Bicentennial Man
"...though it wasn't until 4am that we got the final counts, and realized what a squeaker it was. Jerry Ford had pulled it out in Ohio by 7,000 votes and in Wisconsin by about 4,000. We couldn't believe it. We'd led by 33 points coming out of the DNC and we thought we had them when Bob Dole made that comment about "Democrat wars." And now, Ford - f**king Jerry Ford, unelected when he was inaugurated and now elected despite barely losing the popular vote, he must be the luckiest son of a bitch in America. Well, maybe not..."

-
Hamilton Jordan, strategist for Jimmy Carter's 1976 campaign
 
Hello all! Welcome to my second timeline on AH.com, exploring a scenario I've always been fascinated by - Gerald Ford and the 1976 election, and how America and the world would be different had he carried the day. I'm planning for now on using the same authorial style utilized in my Cinco de Mayo timeline, of newspaper and textbook excerpts to tell the story.
 
Might have saved Rhodesia or at least ended war three years earlier. Would have been more competent in foreign policy.
 
Would be interesting to see how he handles and reacts to the Iranian revolution in 1979 and if there is still an embassy hostage taking there.
 
Would Kissinger still keep his job after 1976? One proposal would be to send him to Beijing as ambassador, taking over from George Bush Senior. This would be a dream job for Henry and the Chinese really love him over there.
 
1976 Senate Elections
United States Senate Elections, 1976

Arizona - Dennis DeConcini (D) 52.5%, Sam Steiger (R) 44.8% (D+1)
California - SI Hayakawa (R) 51.7%, John Tunney* (D) 44.5% (R+1)
Connecticut - Lowell Weicker* (R) 60.0%, Gloria Schaffer (D) 38.1%
Delaware - William Roth* (R) 56.8%, Thomas Maloney (D) 42.6%
Florida - Lawton Chiles* (D) 61.5%, John Grady (R) 38.5%
Hawaii - Spark Matsunaga (D) 52.2%, William F. Quinn 42.1% (D+2)
Indiana - Richard Lugar (R) 60.3%, Vance Hartke* (D) 39.0% (R+2)
Maine - Ed Muskie* (D) 59.2%, Robert Monks (R) 40.8%
Maryland - Paul Sarbanes (D) 55.0%, John Glenn Beall Jr.* (R) 40.3%) (D+3)
Massachusetts - Ted Kennedy* (D) 68.8%, Michael Robertson (R) 29.5%
Michigan - Donald Riegle (D) 50.5%, Marvin Esch (R) 48.8%
Minnesota - Hubert H. Humphrey* (D) 67.5%, Gerald Brekke (R) 25.0%
Mississippi - John Stennis* (D) unopposed
Missouri - John Danforth (R) 58.4%, Warren Hearnes (D) 41.0% (R+3)
Montana - John Melcher (D) 62.2%, Stanley Burger (R) 37.8%
Nebraska - Edward Zorinsky (D) 50.4%, John McCollister (R) 49.5% (D+4)
Nevada - Howard Cannon* (D) 61.5%, David Towell (R) 32.9%
New Jersey - Harrison Williams* (D) 60.7%, David Norcross (R) 38.0%
New Mexico - Harrison Schmitt (R) 57.8%, Joseph Montoya* (D) 41.7% (R+4)
New York - Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D) 52.7%, James Buckley* (R) 46.4% (D+5) [1]
North Dakota - Queintin Burdick* (D) 61.1%, Robert Stroup (R) 37.6%
Ohio - Robert Taft Jr.* (R) 48.0%, Howard Metzenbaum (D) 48.0% [2]
Pennsylvania - John Heinz (R) 53.9%, William Green III (D) 45.3%
Rhode Island - John Chafee (R) 58.7%, Richard Lorber (D) 41.0% (R+5)
Tennessee - James Sasser (D) 51.0%, Bill Brock* (R) 48.5% (D+6)
Texas - Lloyd Bentsen* (D) 55.8%, Alan Steelman (R) 43.2%
Utah - Orrin Hatch (R) 54.7%, Frank Moss* (D) 43.8% (R+6)
Vermont - Robert Stafford* (R) 51.0%, Thomas Salmon (D) 44.3%
Virginia - Harry Byrd* (I) 57.2%, Elmo Zumwalt (D) 38.3%
Washington - Henry M. Jackson* (D) 70.8%, George Brown (R) 25.2%
West Virginia - Robert Byrd* (D) unopposed
Wisconsin - William Proxmire* (D) 70.2%, Stanley York (R) 29.0%
Wyoming - Malcolm Wallop (R) 55.7%, Gale McGee* (D) 44.4% (R+7)

Senate Before Election - 61D, 37R, 2I
Senate After Election - 60D, 39R, 1I

Senate Majority Leader - Robert Byrd
Senate Minority Leader - Howard Baker

[1] Buckley was elected in 1970 as a Conservative, ran in 1976 as a Republican
[2] The only result that differs from OTL
 
1976 US House of Representatives Elections
1976 US House of Representatives Elections

Will only include flipped seats and notable races

CA-4 - Albert Dehr (R) defeats Robert Leggett (D, inc) R+1 [1]
CA-16 - Leon Panetta (D) defeats Burt Talcott (R, inc) D+1
CA-34 - Dan Lungren (R) defeats Mark W. Hannaford (D, inc) R+2 [1]
CO-2 - Ed Scott (R) defeats Tim Wirth (D, inc) R+3 [1]
CO-3 - Melvin Takaki (R) defeats Frank Evans (D, inc) R+4 [1]
IL-10 - Samuel Young (R) defeats Abner Mikva (D, inc) R+5 [1]
IL-15 - Tom Corcoran (R) defeats Tim Lee Hall (D, inc) R+6
IN-4 - Dan Quayle (R) defeats J. Edward Roush (D, inc) R+7
IN-8 - Belden Bell (R) defeats David L. Cornwell (D) R+8 [1] [2]
IA-1 - Jim Leach (R) defeats Ed Mezvinsky (D, inc) R+9
IA-2 - Tom Riley (R) defeats Mike Blouin (D, inc) R+10 [1]
KS-4 - Garner Shriver (R, inc) defeats Dan Glickman (D) [1]
MI-5 - Harold Sawyer (R) defeats Ricard Van Der Veen (D, inc) R+11
MO-6 - Tom Coleman (R) defeats Morgan Maxfield (D) R+12
MT-2 - Ron Marlenee (R) defeats Thomas Towe (D) R+13
NE-2 - John J. Cavanaugh III (D) defeats Lee Terry (R) D+2
NJ-9 - Harry Hollenbeck (R) defeats Henry Helstolski (D, inc) R+14
NJ-13 - William Schluter (R) defeats Helen Meyner (D, inc) R+15 [1]
NY-29 - Joseph A Martino (R) defeats Edward Pattison (D, inc) R+16 [1]
OH-2 - Tom Luken (D) defeats Donald Clancy (R, inc) D+3 [3]
OH-13 - Donald Pease (D) defeats Woodrow Mathna (R) D+4
OH-19 - Charles Carney (D, inc) defeats Jack Hunter (R) [3]
PA-8 - John S. Renninger (R) defeats Peter Kostmayer (D) [1]
PA-17 - Allen Ertel (D) defeats HJ Hepford (R) D+5
PA-18 - Doug Walgren (D) defeats Robert J. Casey (R) D+6
PA-23 - Joseph Ammerman (D) defeats Albert Johnson (R, inc) D+7
PA-24 - Marc L. Marks (R) defeats Joseph Vigorito (D, inc) R+17 [4]
TX-5 - Jim Mattox (D) defeats Nancy Judy (R) D+8
TX-22 - Ron Paul (R, inc) defeats Robert Gammage (D) [1]
UT-2 - David Daniel Marriott (R) defeats Alan Howe (D, inc) R+18
VA-1 - Paul Trible (R) defeats Robert Quinn (D) R+19
WA-2 - John Nance Garner (R) defeats Lloyd Meeds (D, inc) R+20 [1]

Seats Before Election - 291D, 144R
Seats After Election - 279D, 156R

Speaker of the House - Tip O'Neill (D-MA)
House Majority Leader - Jim Wright (D-TX)
House Majority Whip - John Brademas (D-IN)
House Minority Leader - John Rhodes (R-AZ)
House Minority Whip - Robert Michel (R-IL)

Much like IOTL, the GOP picks off ossified, long-term incumbents and a number of Watergate Babies who were swept in by the anti-GOP wave in 1974. However, with a *slight* national adjustment towards Ford by a percent or two (stronger in the Midwest and West, weaker in the South thanks to Carter), the Democrats lose more close races, both dropping more incumbents and failing to pick off a handful GOP incumbents they defeated IOTL. Thus, rather than Democrats going +1 in the House, Republicans use Ford's minimal coattails to net 12, still at a daunting disadvantage as Tip O'Neill takes over as Speaker for Carl Albert. Some notable races include Ron Paul in Texas surviving after his spring special election win; Pete Kostmayer not winning in PA despite the state otherwise being a bright spot for Democrats (this one is pretty small scale); and Dan Glickman, Tim Wirth and most prominently Abner Mikva not being in Congress.

[1] Result differs from OTL
[2] Here's a fun one - in OTL the previous Rep here, Watergate Baby Phil Hayes, challenges and loses to Vance Hartke in the Senate primary after one term, probably softening up the incumbent for Dick Lugar to beat him. Here, for his trouble, the open seat also flips R. Good work Phil!
[3] This race will come up in an entry on Ohio at the Presidential and Senate levels, too, due to its closeness
[4] The original Marky Mark ;)
 
Last edited:
US Gubernatorial Elections 1976
Arkansas - David Pryor (D) reelected
Delaware - Sherman Tribbett (D, inc) DEFEATED by Pete Du Pont (R) R+1
Illinois - Dan Walker (D, inc) DEFEATED in Primary. James Thompson (R) Elected R+2
Indiana - Otis Bowen (R, inc) Re-Elected
Missouri - Kit Bond (R, inc) Re-Elected [1]
Montana - Thomas Lee Judge (D, inc) Re-Elected
New Hampshire - Meldrim Thomson (R, inc) Re-Elected
North Carolina - James Holshauer (R, inc) Term-Limited; Jim Hunt (D) Elected D+1
North Dakota - Arthur Link (D, inc) re-elected
Rhode Island - Philip Noel (D, inc) Retired; J. Joseph Garrahy (D) Elected
Utah - Cal Rampton (D, inc) Retired; Scott Matheson (D) Elected [2]
Vermont - Thomas Salmon (D, inc) Retired to Run for Senate; Richard Snelling (R) Elected R+3
Washington - Daniel Evans (R, inc) Retired; Dixy Lee Ray (D) Elected D+2 [3]
West Virginia - Arch Moore (R, inc) Term Limited; Jay Rockefeller (D) Elected D+3

In essence, no change - each party picks up three gubernatorial mansions and Otis Bowen and Kit Bond are both reelected in prominent, Midwest state races for the GOP.

Democrats have 36 mansions, GOP has 13 (Maine had an Independent governor at this time).


[1] This is a different result than OTL. Slightly better numbers for Ford and Danforth in Missouri probably help Bond over the line, even though I kept Robert Young as the winner in MO-2
[2] Rare bright spot for Dems in '76 in Utah both OTL and TTL
[3] Somehow. She was... a character
 
The Ohio Recount
"...things got tricky in the week after the election when the Carter campaign - understandably, I should add - decided they were going to ask for recounts in Wisconsin and Ohio, the latter more so because the results were so narrow in a handful of races down that way. Bob Taft Junior had just gotten reelected by 700 votes. Tom Luken had knocked off an incumbent Congressman in the Cincinnati area by less than 100 votes. And up in Youngstown, Charles Carney won by the skin of his teeth as well - I don't remember the exact numbers, but it was something tiny, maybe 150 votes total? So with Jerry winning so narrowly, everybody is looking at Ohio, and the Democrats start wanting canvasses in the western part of the state, in the Columbus suburbs, down in Cincinnati. Dick [Cheney] had the idea that we should contest Cuyahoga County's count, look for "irregularities" as he called it. I'll give Wisconsin credit, Pat Lucey up there, the governor at the time, he had a good county operation. We sent some of our lawyers up there, some guys from the DoJ too, to take a look. They had their recount done in three days, and only two votes changed hands - towards us, actually. Pair of Ford-Proxmire voters, if you'll believe that. But Ohio... Ohio was a mess."

- Excerpt from "Campaign '76" by James A. Baker

"...Ohio was the ballgame. Whoever came out of the recount there had the election. It was obvious Wisconsin had gone to Ford after that quick recount, but Ohio was not so obvious. Two days after the election, some county clerk down in Ohio Valley outside of Cincy finds two boxes of ballots that somebody forgot to deliver to the courthouse. There's a lawsuit from the Carter campaign in the Ohio Supreme Court about not certifying the results. Some of the younger, more radical liberal members of Congress start shouting about having a re-run of the election, which was, well, it was nuts. Governor Jim Rhodes goes on TV on November 14th, two weeks of county-by-county recounts rather than a statewide recanvass, and immediately throws his Secretary of State, Ted Brown, under the bus, criticizing him and declaring that Ford won the race. And he did. Barely, by less than 7,000 votes, it turned out that Carter actually netted out about 600 votes when all was said and done. Ford won the state fair and square, but the recounts, the protests in Columbus, Ronald freaking Reagan decides it would be helpful to fly in to hold a "Fair Count" rally in Lima and chop Ford off at the knees when the President is trying to cool the temperature down, everybody is worried there's gonna be a second Kent State and riots over the results... as if Jerry didn't have enough of an asterisk, those idiots down in Ohio just made it so, so much worse."

- Excerpt from "The Gatekeeper" by Richard B. Cheney

"...I was satisfied the results were legitimate. My advisors told me they were, and when the recounts in Ohio were done I flew to Washington to meet with the President so that everybody could see us on TV together, see me shaking his hand and congratulating him. I think it was the right thing to do. It took years for us to become friends, which we did eventually long after Gerald left office, and he told me, "Jimmy, that time you came and stood next to me at the White House, and we chatted... you really helped. Imagine what it would have done to America, otherwise." I think that may have helped soothe some wounds, at least with some people. I'm proud of the campaign we ran in 1976, the vision we presented to the American people. It pains me that we came so close, the good I think we could have done, but seeing what that full term was like for Gerald, well, sometimes I wonder if maybe it wasn't a bullet we dodged. Literally, perhaps, there at the end."

- Interview with Senator James Earl Carter, 1976 Democratic Nominee for President of the United States (11/15/1986, ABC News)

"...after Watergate, and the pardon of Nixon, and inflation and WIN and the fall of Saigon, to have the President reelected by only 11,000 voters in two Midwestern states to get him to 277 electoral votes, a bare win and without the legitimizing effect of a popular vote win, buffeted by the news media every night playing footage of protests in Ohio and conspiracies swirling about both the vote count for President and Senate, it poisoned the well between the White House and Congress further. Whatever legitimacy Ford had had with Democratic voters - which was not much after the pardon - was effectively gone after his win."

- "The Seventies: The Decade That Changed America"
 
The Thanksgiving Speech
"...humbled as I ever am by the awesome responsibilities of this office, I give thanks this year particularly to our Constitutional system, to the peaceful transfer of power at the heart of our democracy, and the confidence instilled by me by the people. While I recognize that I was inaugurated once under the most unique circumstances of any President, and will be inaugurated a second time in two months under circumstances not seen in a century, I ask you, the American people, as I did two years ago at the White House upon my swearing in, for your prayers. Whether I earned your vote, or whether I did not, let this narrow election season behind us serve not as a wound that will scar but as a reminder instead of the strength of our institutions, now in their third century, and continue to nourish and invest in them, together, as our forefathers did in Philadelphia in 1776, and as the first brave pilgrims to this land did at the first instance of this holiday we celebrate today. And so, without further ado, I hereby pardon BOTH turkeys before me today..."

- Gerald Ford's "Thanksgiving Speech," 1976
 
Top