THE BEATEN PATH: One Bicentennial and Counting

A FOREWORD
The 1976 election is one of the most interesting to me, but yet it seems to have almost no presence in stories. Here we have a post-Watergate reaction in the form of a peanut-farming outsider, one that, alongside the Republican primary debacle, should've spelled doom for the GOP. Despite the Republican schism between moderation and full-throated conservatism, they persisted. Despite President Ford's baggage, they survived another day and won the White House back just four short years later. However, this primary schism got me thinking - why did the Democrats get a monopoly on plucky outsiders who'd shake up Washington? This question got me thinking, then researching, and before long I was here.

This timeline, my very first on this site, has been no small feat. I've worked on it, posted it, got through about two updates, stopped working on it, worked on it yet again, and eventually hit the point where I could no longer sit on it. That being said, I'd like to thank those who've test read, those who've talked over the implications of what I've actually done, and those who've generally helped me make this what it is. You may have expected me to be more long-winded in this intro, but let's save word limit abuses for the actual posts, now shall we?


Ladies, gentlemen, and beyond: I present to you...


THE BEATEN PATH or

THE BICENTENNIAL ELECTION, DERAILED

Crap, the budget is too low for a title card. Stupid stagflation.
 
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PROLOGUE: Part 1
PROLOGUE

TheConscience.jpg


“People tend to want to follow the beaten path. The difficulty is the beaten path doesn’t seem to be leading anywhere.”

- Senator Charles Mathias

———————————————————


In 1976, the senator from Maryland was, by all accounts, a soon-to-be political exile. He was of a dying breed, a liberal in an increasingly conservative party, a defender of integration among the champions of state’s rights. However, nobody ever told Senator Mathias that he was soon-to-be retired, that the party of Reagan would come and sweep him off his feet. And as such, he kept plodding along.

A NEW PATH FOR AMERICA: The Creation of the Sixth Party System, published in 2009


A STROLL FOR THE PRESIDENCY? SENATOR CHARLES MATHIAS ANNOUNCES A BID FOR THE REPUBLICAN NOMINATION

Maryland Senator Charles Mathias announced that he would be a candidate for President of the United States, competing with President Gerald Ford and California Governor Ronald Reagan. Current polling shows him in a distant third behind Ford and Reagan, where this is unlikely to change.

THE WASHINGTON POST, December 10th, 1975


IOWA CAUCUS: FORD WINS, REAGAN CLOSE BEHIND

THE AP, January 20th, 1976


Dan Rather: Let’s go to January 20th, 1976. This night was a major upset in the Republican primaries, and we have just one question for you - on the Mathias side, what happened? Polls showed you not clearing 5%, how did you hit 10%?
Lawrence Hogan: Well, the answer isn’t obvious at first. Nobody expected us to gain any traction in a moderate-to-conservative party. However, the Democrats were drifting to the center too. We saw an opening and used the fact that both parties were going down this path last year to reach out to a very traditionally Democratic bloc - young liberals. Mathias had campaigned across college campuses and made aggressive outreach to typically Democratic college students. Normally, this would never work as the McGovernites despised Nixon, but this time… there was a peanut-shaped issue for them in the form of Jimmy Carter. He turned off traditionally liberal young people, and Senator Mathias noticed this. By campaigning heavily for them, we were able to gain a bloc of “Mac or Bust” young voters, not dissimilar to Gene McCarthy’s base, who actively canvassed for us. While this would only bring us to 20% in Iowa, and President Ford would win New Hampshire by the skin of his teeth, the Vermont and Massachusetts primaries were coming, and these were prime opportunities for us.
DR: How did he gain these supporters?
LH: He said what he believed. He was opposed to Vietnam, a fierce supporter of integration, in favor of welfare, and overall highly liberal. In a moderate Democratic field headed by Carter, it was easy for him to seem more attractive. Plus, his honest demeanor and willingness to attack “the conservative consensus” endeared him further. Internal polling suggested only 15% of respondents viewed the Senator as untrustworthy. This air of credibility combined with a liberal platform was genuinely refreshing to these voters.

60 Minutes interview with Fmr. Mathias Campaign Chairman Lawrence Hogan, 1987


MATHIAS WINS UPSET IN MASSACHUSETTS, FORD CLAIMS VERMONT

The AP, March 3rd, 1976


Gerald Ford: “How do I feel about Senator Mathias’ string of wins? Well, to be honest, his positions scare me. It seems like he’s giving into the socialistic demands of George McGovern, and there’s no place for that in the Republican Party or in our government.”
Reporter: “What do you mean by socialistic, Mr. President?”
GF: “Well, er, I’m sure the Soviet Union would love nothing more than to see Mr. Mathias elected president.”

Gerald Ford at a press conference, March 10th, 1976


BTierJerry.jpg

Above: President Gerald Ford answering press questions.


“Yes, I heard what the president said. And frankly, I cannot abide by it. How is school integration socialistic, Mr. President? How is ensuring that every child in this country gets a quality education a Soviet plot to destroy us? We’re a beacon of liberty for the world because we take care of those less fortunate and give them the tools to use their freedom, not because we look down on our fellow man. Furthermore, the fact that the President, a supposed moderate, is using Ronald Reagan’s talking points, is indicative of what’s happened to us. If Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt saw what the conservative consensus behind their party had done, they’d be horrified. Our goals have always been to ensure that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are possible for all Americans, and there’s nothing socialistic about that!”

[CHEERING]

Senator Charles Mathias at a campaign rally at the University of Chicago, March 12th, 1976


REAGAN WINS ILLINOIS PRIMARY IN BITTER THREE-WAY CONTEST

"Governor Reagan's win in Illinois comes as a shock to pollsters, who were projecting a major win for Mathias here. Despite this, Mathias did clear 30% of the vote here, leaving little room between the three candidates."

THE AP, March 17th, 1976


Of course, I had my doubts about the good Senator from Maryland at first. I called his campaign a stroll for the presidency, after all. However, he’s outperformed all expectations. The President has only won one of the first six contests. Ronald Reagan carried Iowa and Florida, and appears poised to win North Carolina due to Jesse Helms’ vocal support. Against all odds, Mathias won Massachusetts, and came within a hair’s breadth of Vermont and Illinois. Truly, the Marylander should not be underestimated. He’s oft been compared to Gene McCarthy, but I disagree - his movement is far stronger than the anemic McCarthy campaign ever was. McCarthy never won a major contest.

A column by George Will in THE WASHINGTON POST, March 20th, 1976



WI: Gerald Ford wins the primaries in 1976

SuperWaffle1998 - August 4th, 2019

I know this one goes around a lot, but what if Gerald Ford actually won the nomination? Would he win the 1976 election?
JustBidenMyTime - August 4th, 2019

No, not a chance. He was too unpopular, and frankly I don’t see any way he could win barring no challenge from Reagan or Mathias. People were just too angry with Ford, and he had no base left in the GOP come 1976, as the liberals and disaffected centrists flocked to Mathias and the conservatives flocked to Reagan. In reality, this let Reagan rack up wins with 40-odd percent of the Republican Party on his side. You need to have no Mathias for Ford to even have a chance at beating Reagan, and no Reagan for Ford to win.
SpectreOverEurope - August 4th, 2019

Honestly, let’s just say he somehow wins - Carter would’ve crushed him in the general. There was no way he could win with the Republican Party in active revolt against him.
JustBidenMyTime - August 5th, 2019

Are we talking about the same Jimmy Carter here?

SuperWaffle1998 and 13 other people liked this.
 
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PROLOGUE: Part 2

Ford needed a win. He was in a dismal third, far behind two challengers - this was obviously quite an issue for him, seeing as primary challengers didn’t tend to do this well. After Jesse Helms’ endorsement, North Carolina was a shoo-in for Reagan, so Ford and then-Chief of Staff Dick Cheney focused his campaign efforts on Wisconsin in a bid to revive the dying campaign.

A NEW PATH FOR AMERICA: The Creation of the Sixth Party System, published in 2009


Look, it may seem appealing to vote for one of these thunderous ideologues. I get it, I really do. It’s exciting. However, do they honestly have the experience to run this country? I’ve been president, I know the toll this office takes. I know the difficult decisions it forces you to make. Neither of them can say to know that. Only a select few can. I can bring stability in these uncertain times. This nation has been through a major ordeal in the past few years, one that requires extensive healing - healing I don’t believe Reagan or Mathias could bring.

President Gerald Ford at a rally in Milwaukee, April 4th, 1976


PRESIDENT FORD WINS WISCONSIN

THE AP, April 7th, 1976


JOHN CONNALLY WINS TEXAS

"Connally, largely believed to be standing as a favorite son, has claimed the delegates from his home state of Texas tonight. While this was expected, his win was by a far narrower margin than expected, with Governor Reagan in a close second."

THE AP, May 2nd, 1976


REAGAN CLAIMS GEORGIA AND INDIANA

"...John Connally was expected to perform well in these states after his late entry, but this has not come to pass for the Texan."

THE AP, May 5th, 1976




Dan Rather: Some say that Wisconsin was a turning point in the primaries. Do you agree?
Lawrence Hogan: Those people are somewhat correct. Not only did it revive the Ford campaign, but it showed that Ford could win the battleground states for the general election. Jimmy Carter, who by then had all but run away with the nomination, wasn’t winning in the Midwest. As a southern evangelical, he didn’t have a receptive base in states like Wisconsin. Ford winning there proved that he might have a shot after all. His next win in Pennsylvania only cemented this.
DR: And what of John Connally?
LH: He's just an opportunist. He truly was running for Vice President, as he entered in Texas. All he did was provide a thorn in Reagan's side in the south, but outside of Texas, he wasn't anywhere near enough to harm Reagan's momentum.
DR: Of course, this changed very little in the standings, as Reagan kept winning despite Ford's resurgence and Connally's entry. However, Mathias would win Maryland and Ford Michigan on May 18th. The battle was still very much between three candidates, with Reagan narrowly on top.
LH: Yes. That’s when President Ford decided to call us...

60 Minutes interview with Fmr. Mathias Campaign Chairman Lawrence Hogan, 1987


Gerald Ford: Senator. I need to talk with you about this primary campaign.
Charles Mathias: Alright, go ahead.
GF: Well, the thing is, you may be handing this whole thing to Reagan. Our guys ran the numbers and found that I would’ve won Iowa, Massachusetts, Vermont, and narrowly Florida if it was a two-man contest. You hate the rise of hardline conservatism as much as anyone, but your campaign is enabling it.
CM: ...with all due respect, Mr. President, I don’t trust your numbers, and I especially don’t trust this. You’re asking me to drop out, to subvert the will of the people, just to stop Ronald Reagan? It’s not like my supporters will instantaneously vote for you.
GF: I know. Look, Nelson doesn’t want another term as Vice President. I’m willing to put you on the ticket. Will that work if it means we can get rid of Reagan?
CM: I’m beginning to feel uncomfortably like the protagonist of a Greek tragedy. Frankly, I will not sell my soul for the sake of power, and I will not drop out so long as there’s a single person in this party who wants to hear my message.
GF: ...good talking to you, Mac.
CM: [HANGS UP]
GF: to Chief of Staff Cheney I’m going to whip his ass, Dick.

Excerpt from a call between President Gerald Ford and Senator Charles Mathias, May 20th, 1976


FORD ATTACKS MATHIAS’ “RECKLESS” PLANS

In an apparent shift in strategy, President Ford honed in on Senator Mathias in his most recent speech. The President slammed the Senator’s approach in various realms as “forcing busing on communities that may not even want such a disruptive act” and “denying the realities of our foreign policy. Sure, if you waved a magic wand we could’ve ignored Vietnam, but that’s just not the case.” Senator Mathias has not yet responded for comment.

THE NEW YORK TIMES, May 23rd, 1976


I’ll be honest, and don’t y’all quote me on this - Ford’s attacks on Mathias were absolutely asinine. Reagan was the elephant in the room at the time, and by focusing on an annoyance to his left that would’ve fizzled without any intervention, he caused three things. First, he gave Mathias’ anti-establishment message credibility. Second, he dragged himself to the right attacking Mathias, which helped kill his support with moderates as Mathias was suddenly the best of a few bad options. Third, he kept both himself and Mathias low enough to let Reagan keep winning. Really, I don’t know how Ford, that damn fool, ever ended up in the Oval Office with his lack of political instincts.

Comments made by Lee Atwater to Michael Wolff in 1982, later published by Wolff in "Three Days in the Lion's Den" in 2015 following Atwater's death


PRESIDENT REAGAN? THE GIPPER SWEEPS MAY 25TH PRIMARIES

"Ronald Reagan has claimed four states tonight, winning Arkansas, Oregon, Nevada, and Idaho with clear majorities of the vote. The other two contests, Kentucky and Tennessee, went to President Ford. Reagan is just shy of a majority of delegates, and it all comes down to his home state of California..."

THE AP, May 26th, 1976

Ronnie.jpg

Above: Fmr. Gov. Ronald Reagan (R-CA) celebrating his primary victories.


Cheney knew one thing going into June: after his string of prior victories, Reagan could not win California. He reportedly said as much in a campaign meeting in the White House:
“If Reagan wins California, all of us are out of a job. It’s his home state, so resistance will be stiff. However, we need to keep him from winning, or else this whole nomination is gone. He can get enough at the convention if he has California. If he loses, we can drag this out at the convention and hopefully get Mathias on our side.”
Ford would not ultimately listen to Cheney, campaigning aggressively against Mathias as he had before. However, everyone was still watching intently to see if Reagan could clear the magic number, dismissing Ford’s spat as a sideshow.

THE POLITICS OF POWER: the Rise and Fall and Rise of Dick Cheney, published in 2017


“I’ve fought the rise of conservatism in this party my whole career. I feel that the ideology pushed by Ronald Reagan is dangerous to this country and its weakest people. This primary is our last shot. This is how we stop Ronald Reagan. If he wins here, everything we’ve fought for was in vain. I believe in all of you, though. I believe in the hope I’ve seen across this country. I saw this hope in Rhode Island, where we won despite all polls showing we wouldn’t, and that Ford would claim the state. I know this dream can be realized. I believe in every single one of you to vote for a new path for America!”

Senator Charles Mathias at a rally on UC Berkeley’s campus, June 7th, 1976


REPUBLICAN PRIMARY POLLING SHOWS DEAD HEAT

Despite the fact that California is Ronald Reagan's home state, a major fight by all three candidates has left its mark. Each Republican candidate is polling at 31%, with 7% of voters undecided. This is in contrast to the Democratic primary, where Governor Brown is largely expected to defeat Jimmy Carter. However, Carter’s delegate lead is considered to be insurmountable at this point...

THE LOS ANGELES TIMES, June 7th, 1976
 
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PROLOGUE: Part 3
Despite his presence at the front of the pack, one candidate who spent the primaries noticeably under the radar was Ronald Reagan. Normally, he’d be out in front slamming the President, but he recognized something different about this primary - so long as Mathias and Ford were focusing on each other, he could just keep up his conservative rhetoric and maintain 40-odd percent of the Republican base. So long as he had 40% and fractured opposition, he could quietly amass delegates and catch both campaigns by surprise. In fact, it was only until California, where Reagan had the strongest advantage, that Ford and Mathias truly noticed how powerful Reagan’s lead had become...

A NEW PATH FOR AMERICA: The Creation of the Sixth Party System, published in 2009


REAGAN WINS CALIFORNIA IN BLOWOUT

Despite polling showing a close race, Ronald Reagan has carried his home state by an overwhelming margin, defeating Senator Mathias and President Ford by over 30 points. Coupled with his win in Ohio, this places Ronald Reagan in the position of presumptive nominee.

THE AP, June 9th, 1976


Dan Rather: It was widely considered to be over as soon as Reagan won California. While he was barely above 1130 delegates, it was assumed that he’d win enough at the convention to gain nomination on the first or second ballot. Why did you remain in the race?
Lawrence Hogan: It isn’t over until the last bell rings. We figured that if we could deny Reagan a majority, eventually delegates would defect from him.
DR: Conservative delegates flipping to Mathias? Doesn’t that seem a bit far-fetched?
LH: I never said that they’d go to us. We were honestly hoping for either us or Ford - but that depends on the individual delegate. Some hated Ford above all else, some were ideologically more in step with Reagan and willing to compromise and take Ford if it meant our “dangerous values” wouldn’t win. Either way, the main goal was to stop Ronald Reagan by then.
DR: So then why did this Stop-Reagan movement never coalesce? Do you feel you should’ve dropped out to ensure Ford would win at the convention?
LH: Everyone asks why we stayed in the race, and frankly, it’s getting tiresome. Why did President Ford remain in the race? Why didn’t he drop out for us? He wasn’t that far ahead in the delegate count, and before Wisconsin, it truly looked like he was Lyndon Johnson. It’s convenient to blame us, though, so people always ask that question.
DR: But Ford would’ve won a number of state delegations without dissenting votes for Mathias-
LH: Yes, and I’m sure we would’ve won those delegations without dissenting votes for Ford.


60 Minutes interview with Fmr. Mathias Campaign Chairman Lawrence Hogan, 1987


CARTER NOMINATED ON FIRST BALLOT

Despite an effort to defeat him, former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter has been nominated as the Democratic candidate for President on the first ballot. The DNC has attempted to make this convention a display of unity, which has been a success for the majority of the convention. One such moment was the keynote address by Barbara Jordan, which brought the hall to its feet in applause. However, this bid for unity fell apart when Carter announced his selection for Vice President: Scoop Jackson. The hawkish Washington Senator spurred outrage by liberal delegates, who attempted a brief unsuccessful rebellion to place Frank Church on the ticket. Despite this, Jackson was nominated on the first ballot, creating the final Democratic ticket. Currently, Carter and Jackson are polling at 64% against Ronald Reagan, 62% against Gerald Ford, and 62% against Charles Mathias.

THE WASHINGTON POST, July 15th, 1976


Above: Fmr. Gov. Jimmy Carter (D-GA) accepting the Democratic nomination with his wife Rosalynn.


Above: Sen. Scoop Jackson (D-WA), the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee.


By July, it seemed like Jimmy Carter had an insurmountable lead. He was polling in the 60s, which would have him even surpass Richard Nixon’s totals in 1972. However, with this lead, Carter got sloppy. In particular, he made two mistakes. First was resting on his laurels once he was nominated. He had fought hard and proven himself an adept campaigner in the primaries, but that organization was all but gone after the convention. He didn’t think he had to campaign often to win, considering the GOP’s dismal numbers. Second was his selection of Scoop Jackson. With Reagan looking like the presumptive nominee, Carter felt he had to protect his right flank from the arch-conservative at all costs. He assumed that labor, in particular, wouldn’t vote so drastically against what he perceived as their best economic interests, and he assumed the left would simply fall in line. As such, he focused on the right at the expense of labor and the left. While not a fatal mistake, this would cause his once-insurmountable lead to tighten dramatically, shrinking to 55% by the Republican Convention.


THE GRIN WILL WIN: The Jimmy Carter Story, published in 1993


Nobody was working harder than Dick Cheney in Kansas City. If a delegate was so much as thinking they’d change their vote, Dick Cheney would show up within minutes to make offers. He used every last resource of the Oval Office, seeing as it afforded unique opportunities in dealmaking. This was so much the case that President Ford even joked that “I’m pretty sure I don’t even own a single square foot of the Rose Garden anymore” in reference to Cheney’s personal style when it came to wooing delegates.

Despite all of the commotion for delegate counts, it was mostly a show, as there was little mathematical possibility of tearing Reagan’s lead down. John Connally was a good opportunity as a favorite son in a large state, but his demands of the Vice Presidency largely drove Cheney to ignore him after talks broke down. Instead, Cheney’s dream, his white whale, was Senator Mathias. He appealed at least ten times a day to the Senator’s team, meeting with the Senator three of those times. According to Mathias, he brought the prospective Reagan nomination to the forefront of those discussions in an attempt to appeal to his hatred of Reagan’s conservatism. Reportedly, he even offered the Vice Presidency or Mathias’ pick of a cabinet post during their last meeting. Just like the prior call between himself and Ford, Mathias curtly rebuffed the President. There would be no concessions from the Marylander.

By 7:00 that evening, it seriously looked deadlocked. However, President Ford would come to make a speech, and that was when the tide turned...


THE POLITICS OF POWER: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Dick Cheney, published in 2007


“...The strides this administration has undertaken cannot and should not be ignored.“
[Delegate shouts: Like the economy?!]
“Well, ah... despite some disagreements, we can agree that the fundamentals of our economy are strong.”


President Ford’s speech at the Republican National Convention, August 20th, 1976


THE GIPPER TRIUMPHANT: REAGAN NOMINATED ON THE FIRST BALLOT

Governor Ronald Reagan will be the Republican nominee for President. Last night, he was voted for by 1,326 of the delegates present, well over the 1,130 threshold. Gerald Ford attained 654, Charles Mathias 197, and John Connally 81. Reagan would deliver a stirring acceptance speech, bringing his ever-sunny attitude to a glum crowd. Despite the widespread perception of the GOP as doomed, Reagan seemed to renew the vigor in the party, if only for a moment.

Notably, Reagan would even pause his speech to invite Ford to the podium, allowing the defeated president a chance to address the convention one last time. Notably, neither candidate mentioned Charles Mathias.

THE NEW YORK TIMES, August 21st, 1976


Above: Fmr. Gov. Ronald Reagan (R-CA) delivering his acceptance speech alongside Pres. Gerald Ford (R-MI).


Thank you very much.

Mr. President, Mrs. Ford, Mr. Vice President, Mr. Vice President-to-be, the distinguished guests here and you ladies and gentlemen:

With a deep awareness of the responsibility conferred by your trust, I accept your nomination for the Presidency of the United States.

I do so with deep gratitude. And I think also I might interject on behalf of all of us our thanks to Kansas City and the people of Missouri and to this city for the warm hospitality that we've enjoyed. And I thank you for your whole-hearted response to my recommendation in regard to Howard Baker as the candidate for Vice President.

I am going to say fellow Republicans here, but those who are watching from a distance—all of those millions of Democrats and independents who I know are looking for a cause around which to rally and which I believe we can give them.

Mr. President, before you arrived tonight, these wonderful people here, when we came in, gave Nancy and myself a welcome. And that, plus this, plus your kindness and graciousness despite our differences, will give us a memory that will live in our hearts forever.

Watching on television these last few nights, and I've seen you also with the warmth that you greeted Nancy, and you also filled my heart with joy when you did that.

May I just say some words. There are cynics who say that a party platform is something that no one bothers to read and it doesn't very often amount to much.

Whether it is different this time than it has ever been before, I believe the Republican Party has a platform that a banner of bold, unmistakable colors with no pale pastels.

We have just heard a call to arms based on that platform. And a call to arms to really be successful in communicating and reveal to the American people the difference between this platform and the platform of the opposing party, which is nothing but a revamped and a reissue and a running of a late, late show of the thing that we've been hearing from them for the last 40 years.

If I could just take a moment—I had an assignment the other day. Someone asked me to write a letter for time capsule that is going to be opened in Los Angeles a hundred years from now, on our Tricentennial.

It sounded like an easy assignment. They suggested I write something about the problems and issues of the day. And I said I could do so, riding down the coast in an automobile, looking at the blue Pacific out on one side and the Santa Ines Mountains on the other, and I couldn't help but wonder if was going to be that beautiful a hundred years from now as it was on that summer day.

Then, as I tried to write—let your own minds turn to that task. You're going to write for people a hundred years from now who know all about us. We know nothing about them. We don't know what kind of a world they'll be living in.

And suddenly, thought to myself as I write of the problems, they'll be the domestic problems of which the President spoke here tonight; the challenges confronting us; the erosion of freedom that has taken place under Democrat rule in this country; the invasion of private rights; the controls and restrictions on the vitality of the great free economy that we enjoy. These are our challenges that we must meet.

And then again there is that challenge of which he spoke, that we live in a world in which the great powers have poised and aimed at each other horrible missiles of destruction, nuclear weapons that can in a matter of minutes arrive in each other's country and destroy virtually the civilized world we live in.

And suddenly it dawned on me, those who would read this letter a hundred years from now will know whether those missiles were fired. They will know whether we met our challenge.

Whether they had the freedom that we have known up until now, will depend on what we do here. Will they look back with appreciation and say, thank God for those people in 1976 who headed off that loss of freedom; who kept us now a hundred years later free; who kept our world from nuclear destruction? And we fail, they probably won't get to read the letter at all because it spoke of individual freedom and they won't he allowed to talk of that or read of it.

This is our challenge. And this is why we’re here in this hall tonight. Better than we've ever done before, we've got to quit talking to each other and about Inch other and go out and communicate to the world that we may be fewer in numbers than we've ever been. But we cry the message they're waiting for.

We must go forth from here united, determined, that what a great general said a few years ago is true: There is no substitute for victory.

Thank you.


Ronald Reagan’s acceptance speech, August 21st, 1976


“My god... I wasn’t so sure about [Reagan], but if this is what we’ve got going into November, we have a real chance.”

An unnamed delegate after Reagan’s speech, August 21st, 1976


Dan Rather: Now, onto the convention. It’s generally agreed that Ronald Reagan won once Ford gave his infamous “fundamentals” gaffe. Do you agree?
Lawrence Hogan: No. That was part of it, but the largest decider was the Reagan camp closing negotiations with the southern delegations. They had been discussing a deal for the whole day, and it came together that night: Reagan would select Howard Baker as his running mate, and in return the southern delegates would vote for him.
DR: As for the Mathias campaign, what drove the senator to refuse to endorse the Reagan-Baker ticket?
LH: Frankly, the speech. We had an endorsement planned before that damned speech. Nobody noticed the side portions because Reagan captivated everyone in the room, but there was one key moment that drove us off. Reagan inviting Ford up was a show of unity, but ignoring us in that invitation just drove the point home to the Senator: the Rockefeller Republicans were no longer welcome in the GOP. I remember Senator Mathias telling me, “Abraham Lincoln is looking down in shame” after they shafted him. He tore that endorsement speech up and left Kansas City that night after doing one thing.
DR: And what would that be?
LH: Well, we started to build a contingency plan ever since President Ford called us. By the time Kansas City rolled around, all we had to do was pull the trigger. After that speech, we did just that - we set up a press conference with Jacob Javits.


60 Minutes interview with Fmr. Mathias Campaign Chairman Lawrence Hogan, 1987
 
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Looks great. Well written and revolving around one of my favourite under explored PODs of American politics. Not entirely certain Mathias could have done that well, but I haven’t done enough research to adequately support my hunch. Subscribed and best wishes!
 
Looks great. Well written and revolving around one of my favourite under explored PODs of American politics. Not entirely certain Mathias could have done that well, but I haven’t done enough research to adequately support my hunch. Subscribed and best wishes!
Admittedly it may be a bit far-fetched but not outside of the realm of reasonable possibility - after all, Ford’s approval was tanking, and surely not everyone who disapproved in the GOP was a Reaganite. There’s certainly room for disaffected moderates who either stuck with Ford as the lesser of two evils or protest-voted for Reagan. In addition, I had to account for the number of student activists Mathias drags into the GOP fold (consider how they feel - the Democrats are largely moderating like hell post-McGovern, and Jimmy Carter isn’t exactly exciting to passionately liberal 20somethings - Mathias could feasibly hold enough attention to get them rallying around him if the Dems keep up the waffling). Plus, he burns out pretty quickly, only winning a few states then serving more as a nuisance to Ford. The comparison to Gene McCarthy is intentional - he really does serve as a slightly stronger version of that, with the additional strength mostly dependent on Ford being far weaker than LBJ. It’s the perfect storm for Mathias, really.

Either way, I’m glad you’re enjoying it!
 
Admittedly it may be a bit far-fetched but not outside of the realm of reasonable possibility - after all, Ford’s approval was tanking, and surely not everyone who disapproved in the GOP was a Reaganite. There’s certainly room for disaffected moderates who either stuck with Ford as the lesser of two evils or protest-voted for Reagan. In addition, I had to account for the number of student activists Mathias drags into the GOP fold (consider how they feel - the Democrats are largely moderating like hell post-McGovern, and Jimmy Carter isn’t exactly exciting to passionately liberal 20somethings - Mathias could feasibly hold enough attention to get them rallying around him if the Dems keep up the waffling). Plus, he burns out pretty quickly, only winning a few states then serving more as a nuisance to Ford. The comparison to Gene McCarthy is intentional - he really does serve as a slightly stronger version of that, with the additional strength mostly dependent on Ford being far weaker than LBJ. It’s the perfect storm for Mathias, really.
This unfortunately runs into a number of pitfalls that I encountered when I myself flirted with the idea of writing up a Mathias campaign in 1976, though in that case as an Independent.
  • Nelson Rockefeller remained a potent political force in the 1975-1976 period, and had opted to back Gerald Ford to the hilt even though he was no longer going to be on the national ticket (in fact he himself offered to step down, knowing his presence provided fuel for Reagan). The calculus would change somewhat with Mathias in the race, but only insofar as whether to drop Rockefeller from the ticket; there may be more hemming and hawing over whether to do so, but the decision will likely be the same, if made later. This in turn means that Mathias's potential as an insurgent candidate is severely weakened, as while not everyone is liable to follow Rockefeller's lead in supporting Ford, the majority will.
  • Mathias will draw his support primarily from Ford, and Reagan wouldn't take much of a hit (if at all). While an argument can be made that Mathias would bring additional voters into the primary, much of his support will be derived from Rockefeller Republicans who historically supported Ford, whereas I don't see any particular bloc which Reagan and Mathias could share of any substance. Mathias's presence would also largely preclude moves made by Ford to shift his campaign to the Right given he is now being attacked from both directions, which again puts Reagan in a better position then he was. The end result would likely be that Reagan wins the nomination handily.
    • The caveat to this is that, with the expectation that Gerald Ford was going to do poorly in the primaries, former Texan Governor John Connally was to jump into the race as the "electable alternative" candidate. I'm not sure of his actual strength as a candidate in 1976 (though his performance in 1980 leaves a lot to be desired), but he was also something of a universal choice for the Vice Presidency (supported by a lot of Reaganites principally, but lots of crossover).
    • Senator Howard Baker was not a strong contender for the Vice Presidential nomination among the Reaganites, least as far as I'm aware, but he definitely was the point-man on a campaign within the Republican Party to try and create a Ford-Reagan ticket in the Summer, and it would not be out of the question for Reagan to name him as something of an olive-branch to more Moderate Republicans.
  • Students have quite a few Liberal candidates to play around till at least the end of Spring, with the presence of Mo Udall, Fred Harris, Birch Bayh, Frank Church …. so I don't believe they'd have a major impact for some time at least.
  • Mathias was nearly denied a seat within the Maryland delegation, and I can easily see enough Ford Republicans being offended by his candidacy that they fail to deflect that sentiment, leaving him outside the Convention.
This is certainly one of the lesser explored turning points out there and I'd like for you to continue, though I still suspect you have Mathias far stronger then he realistically should be.

I also need a moment to reflect on the conduct of a Third Party campaign by Mathias in this scenario, as he is inevitably going to run into a number of "sore-loser" laws; that didn't interrupt Anderson's campaign historically, but I believe that was because he spent a lot of money and time fighting court cases across the country to do so. Also, John Anderson would not be the go to for Charles Mathias given the former largely would have deferred to President Ford; you have a better bet in Senator Jacob Javits of New York, who was similarly concerned, vocally so, about the rising influence of Conservatism within the Republican Party.


 
This unfortunately runs into a number of pitfalls that I encountered when I myself flirted with the idea of writing up a Mathias campaign in 1976, though in that case as an Independent.
  • Nelson Rockefeller remained a potent political force in the 1975-1976 period, and had opted to back Gerald Ford to the hilt even though he was no longer going to be on the national ticket (in fact he himself offered to step down, knowing his presence provided fuel for Reagan). The calculus would change somewhat with Mathias in the race, but only insofar as whether to drop Rockefeller from the ticket; there may be more hemming and hawing over whether to do so, but the decision will likely be the same, if made later. This in turn means that Mathias's potential as an insurgent candidate is severely weakened, as while not everyone is liable to follow Rockefeller's lead in supporting Ford, the majority will.
  • Mathias will draw his support primarily from Ford, and Reagan wouldn't take much of a hit (if at all). While an argument can be made that Mathias would bring additional voters into the primary, much of his support will be derived from Rockefeller Republicans who historically supported Ford, whereas I don't see any particular bloc which Reagan and Mathias could share of any substance. Mathias's presence would also largely preclude moves made by Ford to shift his campaign to the Right given he is now being attacked from both directions, which again puts Reagan in a better position then he was. The end result would likely be that Reagan wins the nomination handily.
    • The caveat to this is that, with the expectation that Gerald Ford was going to do poorly in the primaries, former Texan Governor John Connally was to jump into the race as the "electable alternative" candidate. I'm not sure of his actual strength as a candidate in 1976 (though his performance in 1980 leaves a lot to be desired), but he was also something of a universal choice for the Vice Presidency (supported by a lot of Reaganites principally, but lots of crossover).
    • Senator Howard Baker was not a strong contender for the Vice Presidential nomination among the Reaganites, least as far as I'm aware, but he definitely was the point-man on a campaign within the Republican Party to try and create a Ford-Reagan ticket in the Summer, and it would not be out of the question for Reagan to name him as something of an olive-branch to more Moderate Republicans.
  • Students have quite a few Liberal candidates to play around till at least the end of Spring, with the presence of Mo Udall, Fred Harris, Birch Bayh, Frank Church …. so I don't believe they'd have a major impact for some time at least.
  • Mathias was nearly denied a seat within the Maryland delegation, and I can easily see enough Ford Republicans being offended by his candidacy that they fail to deflect that sentiment, leaving him outside the Convention.
This is certainly one of the lesser explored turning points out there and I'd like for you to continue, though I still suspect you have Mathias far stronger then he realistically should be.

I also need a moment to reflect on the conduct of a Third Party campaign by Mathias in this scenario, as he is inevitably going to run into a number of "sore-loser" laws; that didn't interrupt Anderson's campaign historically, but I believe that was because he spent a lot of money and time fighting court cases across the country to do so. Also, John Anderson would not be the go to for Charles Mathias given the former largely would have deferred to President Ford; you have a better bet in Senator Jacob Javits of New York, who was similarly concerned, vocally so, about the rising influence of Conservatism within the Republican Party.


I stated both candidates being pulled from just to be certain, but I didn’t think too many would come off of Reagan - that’s why his numbers don’t tend to be too absurdly different from OTL, as he’s not winning with clear majorities most of the time, just pluralities. Rockefeller is a good strike against Mathias, one that I might retcon a bit to help with. Maybe an accidental non-endorsement a la Thatcher in The Fourth Lectern?

As for Anderson, remember that this gets set up after Reagan’s nomination. Ford isn’t out of the picture as the party’s unofficial leader, but if his influence isn’t massively diminished there’s something wrong (and a guy who’d run TP against Reagan four years later OTL probably wouldn’t be too pleased in TTL). Javits could work, but I do see Anderson as a seriously eager partner.

Overall, I agree that Mathias required a boost in strength that he likely wouldn’t have gotten to get this point going, but to be frank, weird things occur all the time in politics. We can try to rationalize and generalize (which works in broad strokes, and that’s how TLs tend to go about it), but really predicting how people will think down to minute detail gets fuzzy. TTL, this’ll be one of those elections that people write postmortems about for years to come.
 
I stated both candidates being pulled from just to be certain, but I didn’t think too many would come off of Reagan - that’s why his numbers don’t tend to be too absurdly different from OTL, as he’s not winning with clear majorities most of the time, just pluralities. Rockefeller is a good strike against Mathias, one that I might retcon a bit to help with. Maybe an accidental non-endorsement a la Thatcher in The Fourth Lectern?
That seems relatively out of character for Rockefeller especially as he had thrown himself behind Ford so early in the race, and then turned the screws on the New York delegation to get them to line up behind Ford rather than himself (as they previously wanted to present him as a favorite son). There certainly would be a draw to Mathias and if Javits leads the charge a few delegates may be peeled off here and there, but the Rockerfellas will generally fall in line. It doesn't help that New York wasn't a traditional primary, with the voting involving the delegates directly and without specific affiliations listed; this more or less left it a "one party affair" with the New York GOP in control.

As for Anderson, remember that this gets set up after Reagan’s nomination. Ford isn’t out of the picture as the party’s unofficial leader, but if his influence isn’t massively diminished there’s something wrong (and a guy who’d run TP against Reagan four years later OTL probably wouldn’t be too pleased in TTL). Javits could work, but I do see Anderson as a seriously eager partner.
Anderson's own concerns had not really been realized at this point yet; while his fights with the more Conservative Republicans had already begun by 1976, it was only after he fought off a major Conservative challenger in 1978 in a race that got semi-nationalized that he came around to Mathias's level of thinking. Before this point he is fairly comfortable where he is in the House, had no reason to suspect that his seat wasn't secure, was amongst the lower echelons of the Republican House leadership …. there isn't much reason for him to gamble that away.

While I have mentioned Javits, there are other candidates who may better serve a Mathias ticket; I'll just need to search them up as of the bloc of five or six Senators I'm thinking of, I can only remember Javits.

Correction: At a quick glance, Javits was the only Senator to encourage Mathias when he told the press he was considering a Third Party run.

Overall, I agree that Mathias required a boost in strength that he likely wouldn’t have gotten to get this point going, but to be frank, weird things occur all the time in politics. We can try to rationalize and generalize (which works in broad strokes, and that’s how TLs tend to go about it), but really predicting how people will think down to minute detail gets fuzzy. TTL, this’ll be one of those elections that people write postmortems about for years to come.
Yes and no ....

I generally hold to the belief that nothing is impossible, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't work within a certain level of elasicity. I'd hammer the numbers out but at the moment I'm not in a prime position to do so.

When I get back home I'll look over the New York Times archives to see how things were at the very least reported, see if I can pull some polling numbers, that kind of thing.
 
That seems relatively out of character for Rockefeller especially as he had thrown himself behind Ford so early in the race, and then turned the screws on the New York delegation to get them to line up behind Ford rather than himself (as they previously wanted to present him as a favorite son). There certainly would be a draw to Mathias and if Javits leads the charge a few delegates may be peeled off here and there, but the Rockerfellas will generally fall in line. It doesn't help that New York wasn't a traditional primary, with the voting involving the delegates directly and without specific affiliations listed; this more or less left it a "one party affair" with the New York GOP in control.


Anderson's own concerns had not really been realized at this point yet; while his fights with the more Conservative Republicans had already begun by 1976, it was only after he fought off a major Conservative challenger in 1978 in a race that got semi-nationalized that he came around to Mathias's level of thinking. Before this point he is fairly comfortable where he is in the House, had no reason to suspect that his seat wasn't secure, was amongst the lower echelons of the Republican House leadership …. there isn't much reason for him to gamble that away.

While I have mentioned Javits, there are other candidates who may better serve a Mathias ticket; I'll just need to search them up as of the bloc of five or six Senators I'm thinking of, I can only remember Javits.

Correction: At a quick glance, Javits was the only Senator to encourage Mathias when he told the press he was considering a Third Party run.


Yes and no ....

I generally hold to the belief that nothing is impossible, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't work within a certain level of elasicity. I'd hammer the numbers out but at the moment I'm not in a prime position to do so.

When I get back home I'll look over the New York Times archives to see how things were at the very least reported, see if I can pull some polling numbers, that kind of thing.
Alright, just shoot me a DM when you do. I’d be happy to hammer this out a bit, and probably switch Anderson for Javits.

Also I do agree with your elasticity bit, I may have phrased that badly but it's what I meant - Mathias would've been annoying without any larger boost, but just a small drag on Ford - certainly not enough for a major shift in the results.
 
I'm going to be making a few small retcons in a bit - shouldn't change anything of the main results, just adjusting primary numbers a bit (mostly weakening Mathias, as he was given a bit too much strength).

Changes:
- Ford narrowly wins Iowa and Vermont
- Mathias no longer wins Illinois, as it goes to Reagan in a bitter three-way contest
- John Connally makes a late entry in Texas as a favorite son and narrowly wins against Reagan, but tries his luck later and flounders in the rest of the contests
- California polling was inaccurate, as Reagan wins handily
 
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PROLOGUE: Interlude
The night of the 1976 Senate Primary was a truly monumental night. I don’t mean this in the sense of my father‘s overwhelming primary victory, although it would launch him far further. I mean it in the sense of that night was the closest brush I have ever had with death. That night, we were called by the party leadership once it was clear my father had won. They were holding a party in Kansas City, and being the nominee for senator, he was the guest of honor. Of course my father accepted, and we prepared to fly to Kansas City. However, our pilot, a wonderful man named Paul Rupp, noticed something during pre-flight preparation. A crankshaft had broken in the left engine, which would have caused the plane to crash as the engine broke down. My father decided to call the state party and tell them he would not be able to leave Chillicothe that night. If we had missed that crankshaft, I genuinely believe to this day that my family would’ve died and left this country on a darker path...

DIALOGUES WITH MY FATHER, written by Linda Litton, published in 2011


LITTON WINS SENATE PRIMARY IN UPSET

A very interesting Senate race is shaping up here in Missouri. The Democratic primary to determine who would potentially succeed Sen. Stuart Symington was held today, and Missouri’s 6th District Congressman Jerry Litton was declared victorious. He defeated both Symington’s son and former Governor Wendell Hearnes, gaining over 45% of the total vote. Litton will be facing off against state Attorney General John Danforth, where a bitterly close election is expected. Congressman Litton could not be reached for comment yet.


THE KANSAS CITY STAR, August 4th, 1976
 
President Jerry Litton in the future?

Interesting...
;) let’s not get ahead of ourselves, the 1976 election still hasn’t happened yet. Right now it’s still Carter/Jackson v Reagan/Baker, as of the end of the conventions.

Oh by the way, as a general announcement expect an extra long ‘76 general election post in a few days, it’s taking a while to write but I hope it’ll be worth the wait.
 
PROLOGUE: Part 4
Today, I have an announcement to make. This does not come lightly to me, and if I felt I had another choice I would not be here today. The rise of extreme conservatism in the Republican Party is truly dangerous to the most vulnerable people in this nation. Frankly, I cannot abide by watching my party, the party of Lincoln, go down this dark path. It stands against the equality and fairness we’ve stood for since our inception. As such, I will be taking one of two actions. First, I will be leaving the Republican Party. I will be caucusing as an independent in the US Senate. I wished to change the party from within, but this is no longer an option, and I know my colleagues agree with me, that Senator Javits agrees with me. Second, I am here today to announce that my fight is not done. My fight for sensible foreign policy, my fight for integration on every level, my fight for a fairer society, did not end in Kansas City. As far as I’m concerned, my fight has not ended. I’m here once more to announce that I have formed the Liberal Party, with myself and Senator Javits as its presidential nominees. Yes, I am running for the presidency of the United States of America!

[CHEERING]

I know this is a daunting task. The pathway to the presidency has always been through the corrupt organizations of the parties. However, there’s no sense in following this beaten path, as that path doesn’t lead anywhere. Instead, we must become trailblazers. We must offer the solutions we believe in and the country will follow suit. That’s why Senator Javits and I are running. Together, with your support, we’ll forge a new, brighter path for this nation, one free of the corruption of Nixon, the excesses of Reagan, and the spinelessness of Carter!

Senator Charles Mathias at his kickoff rally, August 29th, 1976


Above: Sen. Charles Mathias (L-MD) announcing the formation of the Liberal Party ticket.


Above: Sen. Jacob Javits (L-NY), the Liberal Vice Presidential nominee.


The Mathias-Javits ticket caused a tectonic shift in the race. In theory, it should’ve hurt the Republicans, being comprised of two Rockefeller Republicans. This should’ve lured moderate Republicans away from the conservative Reagan. However, it was more complex than that theory. Mathias had brought a horde of McGovernite young Democrats into the Republican primaries, and suddenly they were off the table for both parties. In addition, Democratic liberals who were disillusioned with the more conservative ticket of Carter and Jackson found an appropriate voice for their protests in the fiercely liberal Marylander - especially African-American voters, who never truly warmed to Carter.

A NEW PATH FOR AMERICA: How one election created the Sixth Party System, published in 2009


1976 ELECTION POLL

Jimmy Carter / Scoop Jackson - 48%
Ronald Reagan / Howard Baker - 37%
Charles Mathias / Jacob Javits - 9%
Undecided - 6%

THE AP, September 6th, 1976


Jimmy Carter made one simple mistake at the onset of the general election campaign: he checked his poll numbers. With 60%+ on his side and the “outsider” effect, he figured he would not have to aggressively barnstorm in the way that he did in the primary season. As such, Carter and Jackson both largely refrained from campaigning on a major level. While this may have worked against President Ford, who was not one for aggressive rallying, Ronald Reagan was no stranger to campaigning anywhere and everywhere, which caught Carter off guard until it was far too late. All Governor Reagan would need was an opening to truly drive a wedge through Carter’s broad base...

THE GRIN WILL WIN: The Jimmy Carter Story, published in 1993


CARTER PLAYBOY TALK STARTS ‘EM BUZZING

Jimmy Carter was finding out Tuesday that the electorate is less forgiving than he believes God is.

While his campaign workers tried to play down the controversy unleashed by Carter's comments in an interview with Playboy magazine, Marge Thurmond, chairman of the state Democratic Party, described the public's reaction as "bad, bad, bad."

"I've been everywhere today, and the reaction is uniformly negative," said Mrs. Thurmond. "I've heard it until I'm up to my ears in it."

In the Playboy interview, excerpts of which were published early Tuesday, Carter admitted to having “looked upon a lot of women with lust.”

THE ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, September 22nd, 1976


The Playboy interview was poison for the Carter campaign. It drove people to severely question his judgment, as he decided to both hold the interview and make the comments he did. Plus, he had this air of good ol’ boy Baptist charm, and his discussion of lust conflicted with that. Combine this with Reagan and his surrogates aggressively hammering Carter over these immoral comments, and his incorruptible aura was damaged irreparably.

THE GRIN WILL WIN: The Jimmy Carter Story, published in 1993


1976 ELECTION POLL

Jimmy Carter / Scoop Jackson - 44%
Ronald Reagan / Howard Baker - 39%
Charles Mathias / Jacob Javits - 13 %
Undecided - 4%

THE AP, September 26th, 1976


Edwin Newman: Governor Carter, you’ve been accused of supporting amnesty for draft dodgers by Governor Reagan. Would you agree that you believe they should all receive amnesty?
Jimmy Carter: As a matter of fact – now- I don’t advocate amnesty; I advocate pardon. There’s a difference in my opinion – uh and in accordance with the ruling of the Supreme Court and accordance with the definition in the dictionary. Amnesty means that what you did was right. Pardon means that what you did, whether it’s right or wrong, you’re forgiven for it. And I do advocate a pardon for draft evaders. I think it’s accurate to say that two years ago when President Ford put in this amnesty that three times as many deserters were excused as were the ones who evaded the draft. But I think that now is the time to heal our country after the Vietnam War and I think that what the people are concerned about is not the pardon or the amnesty of those who evaded the draft, but whether or not our crime system is fair. We’ve got a sharp distinction drawn between white-collar crime the big shots who are rich, who are influential uh very seldom go to jail; those who are poor and who have no influence quite often are the ones who are punished. And the whole subject of crime is one that concerns our people very much, and I believe that the fairness of it is what is a major problem that addresses our leader and this is something that hasn’t been addressed adequately by this administration. But I hope to have a complete uh responsibility on my shoulders to help bring about a fair criminal justice system and also to bring about an end to the divisiveness that has occurred in our country as a result of the Vietnam War.
EN: Governor Reagan, your response?
Ronald Reagan: Well, Mr. Carter, what’s the difference between your plan and amnesty? Is a pardon still not an implicit endorsement of their actions? You do not pardon someone because you think they’re incorrect, after all. And continuing off of this, why do they deserve a pardon? Thousands of young men did their patriotic duty to this country during the war, why should we let those who purposefully avoid their duty to their country off the hook? I can’t imagine why they deserve to not be prosecuted properly for their crimes.
EN: And Senator Mathias.
Charles Mathias: Frankly, I think that Mr. Carter is correct in that the draft dodgers should receive at least a pardon - however, we differ on the beliefs behind it. He refused to state that Vietnam was wrong or whether the draft dodgers did anything wrong, just a blanket pardon to promote some sense of unity. He refused to. I, however, will state this clearly - I would pardon the draft dodgers, as I feel they were simply avoiding a war that we should’ve never fought in the first place. I opposed the war from the beginning, and I’m not afraid to say it. Frankly, it can be patriotic to disagree with your nation and to passively protest an unjust law, and we should make it clear that what they did was justified in the face of overwhelming evidence that the draft and war, not the dodgers, were incorrect.

Excerpt from the first presidential debate between Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and Charles Mathias, October 12th, 1976


While a look at small-town Missouri may seem unnecessary in coverage of this election, we must do exactly that. Chillicothe became one of the most popular small towns in America in 1976. Sure, Missouri was a battleground state, and every vote counted. But why Chillicothe? In short, Jerry Litton was there. At that time, Litton ran Dialogues with Litton on Missouri Public Access. This was effectively a town hall with some major political figure and then-Congressman Jerry Litton, one enjoyed by those of all alignments across the state. If a presidential candidate wanted to reach Missouri at large, they would need to join Jerry Litton one of those months as a guest.

A NEW PATH FOR AMERICA: How one election created the Sixth Party System, published in 2009


Jerry Litton: Today’s show has a guest I’m sure all of you are familiar with. This man began as an actor in some of our favorite films, but after his decision to run for public in 1966, he became one of the most recognizable conservative political figures in this nation, even going so far as to defeat President Ford for the Republican nomination. Please join me in giving a warm Missouri welcome to Ronald Reagan, former Governor of California and Republican nominee for President of the United States.
[APPLAUSE AS REAGAN WALKS ON]
Ronald Reagan: Thanks for having me, Jerry. It’s really quite a public service you do by holding this show. Bringing more openness and honesty to the government is something I know we see eye to eye on.
JL: You’re familiar with our format, right?
RR: I’d say Hollywood has me used to talk shows. [BOTH LAUGH]
JL: Well, that’s good. In that case, let’s open the floor up to the public.

Fmr. Gov. Ronald Reagan (R-CA) on Dialogues with Litton, October 14th, 1976


[A YOUNG WOMAN WALKS UP TO THE MICROPHONE]
Jerry Litton: What’s your name?
Woman: Claire Cunningham, Mr. Litton.
Jimmy Carter: What’s your question, Claire?
CC: You’ve been hard to nail down on civil rights. To be completely clear, do you support or oppose busing?
[CARTER THINKS]
JC: Well, I’d say that I’m not necessarily opposed to it in theory, but I cannot say I support it either. If municipal governments wish to do it, they can, but I will not endorse or oppose it. Civil rights are very important to me, but it cannot be too disruptive. Now...

Jimmy Carter on Dialogues with Litton, October 28th, 1976

CA517A4F-C4C0-43C2-A7C4-106BDA3997E9.jpeg

Above: Rep. Jerry Litton (D-MO) and Fmr. Gov. Jimmy Carter (D-GA) during the October 28th episode of Dialogues with Litton.


Moderator: Governor Carter, you have been criticized for not answering the question directly. Keeping that in mind, why do you oppose the B-1 Bomber?
Jimmy Carter (played by Dan Akyroyd): Well, that’s a very complicated issue and I’d like to break that down into two parts. First off is the essential question “Why”, which has been asked by great minds such as Socrates, Thomas Aquinas, and Bob Dylan. I cannot begin to answer this in the allotted time, so I’ll move on to the second part, which is “Do you oppose the B-1 Bomber,” and the answer is yes, I do.
Moderator: Very well. Governor Reagan, we’ve been hearing that the defense build-up that you would associate yourself with would cost tens of billions of dollars more than is now contemplated. Assuming that the American people are ready to bear this cost, they nevertheless keep asking the following question: How do you reconcile huge increases in military outlays with your promise of substantial tax cuts and of balancing the budget, which in this fiscal year, the one that just ended, ran more than $60 billion in the red?
Ronald Reagan (played by Chevy Chase): Well, I believe it’s a necessity! The only way for us to defeat the Russian bear is to face it head-on with as much firepower as we can. Aggression is the only way to force the Soviets to back down. This is why I proposed that I take a state trip to Moscow and personally fight Leonid Brezhnev. I know American might can defeat anything the Soviets throw at us, including any punches from Mr. Brezhnev, which I will block like so.
Moderator: Thank you, Governor Reagan. And Senator Mathias, you have been criticized for your alleged use of conservatism as a scapegoat, accusing both major candidates of bowing to an ideology you’ve referred to as “dangerous,” “fatal to our national interests,” “insane,” “absurd,” “evil,” and “Satan’s illegitimate child with Adolf Hitler.” [AUDIENCE LAUGHTER] How do you respond to these accusations?
Charles Mathias (played by John Belushi): Well, to that I say that conservatism is the desire to rollback progress. It’s “state’s rights” as a trojan horse for anti-civil rights goals, it’s gutting our welfare programs, and this consensus is devastating. They gang up on politicians such as myself who dare to stand for something! Why, just today, while I was preparing backstage, I was eating a salad. Governor Reagan proceeded to walk up to me and spit in my salad. He spat in my lunch! Conservatism is dangerous, it threatens the weakest members of our society, and it spits in your salad. Need I say more?
RR: Well, there you go again! I didn’t spit in anyone’s salad-
CM: Oh, you liar, I saw you do it - Jimmy Carter was there, holding me back while you did!
JC: Now, let’s not take this too far, this country cannot take more infighti- [INTERRUPTED AS MATHIAS PUNCHES CARTER]
CM: Don’t pull that unity nonsense again, you flip-flopper!
[REAGAN LOOKS AROUND AND WALKS OFFSTAGE]
[AUDIENCE LAUGHTER]

Excerpt from Saturday Night Live’s “1976 Debate” sketch


Above: Jimmy Carter, as portrayed by a conspicuously-mustachioed Dan Akyroyd on Saturday Night Live.


“You know, I remember a story of a fellow who was down kind of in the ranch and farm area, much like the ones I’ve been visiting here in Wisconsin. He was running for office as a Republican. This was some years ago. He came by a farm, saw a fellow out there -- at least get in a lick with him. And when the farmer heard he was a Republican, his jaw dropped, and he said, “Wait right here while I go get Ma. She's never seen a Republican before.”

[LAUGHTER]

So, he went to get her. And the candidate, looking around, thought, well, when they come back, I'll give them a little Republican speech. When he couldn't find any platform -- well, the only thing he could find was a pile of that stuff that Bess Truman took 35 years trying to get Harry to call fertilizer. So, he got up on the mound. There he was when they came back, and he made his little speech. And at the end of it, the farmer said, “That's the first time I ever heard a Republican speech.” And the candidate said, “That's the first time I've ever given a Republican speech from a Democratic platform.”


[LAUGHTER]”

Ronald Reagan at his final campaign rally in Wisconsin, November 1st, 1976


“We must heal this nation if we are to continue on and survive what President Ford referred to as “our long national nightmare.” The worst of our corruption is behind us, but we are still badly divided. Ronald Reagan cannot do that. He only speaks to a small sect of Americans, a minority that does not care for the rest. Charles Mathias cannot do that. His proposals are also extreme, though he claims to combat extremism. I am sure any reasonable American could not stand by what he wishes to do in office. Tomorrow, when you enter the voting booth, remind yourself of who can bring this nation back together, not divide it further!”

Jimmy Carter at his final campaign rally in Ohio, November 1st, 1976


“I want you to honestly tell me what the difference is between the two parties right now. We’ve got Ronald Reagan, a conservative extremist who’s at least honest about his radical beliefs, and Jimmy Carter, who flips and flops every which way. Do you hear a lick of difference, other than Carter waffling as opposed to Reagan saying it outright? If you asked Jimmy Carter about his civil rights stances and why he’s been to rallies with George Wallace, he’ll give you some vague answer about national unity. To that, all I can say is to hell with that!”

[CHEERING]

“We cannot sacrifice our values in favor of some vague ideal of unity, and supporting such a horrendous man and his ideals is exactly that! I’m proud to say that I support busing, that I support civil rights in full, that I opposed Vietnam from the beginning! Where was Jimmy Carter on that? Where does Reagan lie on those issues but dangerously far to the right? We cannot just sit by and let this radical conservatism change our nation. All I’d like to ask you to consider before you pull that lever is who’s going to actually stand up for our values as a nation, the values of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and the Roosevelts?”

Charles Mathias at his final campaign rally in Maryland, November 1st, 1976


1976 ELECTION POLL

Jimmy Carter / Scoop Jackson - 42%
Ronald Reagan / Howard Baker - 40%
Charles Mathias / Jacob Javits - 15%
Undecided - 3%

THE AP, November 1st, 1976



HR: Good evening, I'm Harry Reasoner with ABC news at the election headquarters, and I'm here with Barbara Walters. We'll be here for as long as it takes to determine who will be the next President of the United States...

ABC News Broadcast on Election Night, November 2nd, 1976
 
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OOC: Sorry for the wait, I've been somewhat swamped irl and this was a long, difficult update to write. However, it's back, and expect both presidential and down-ballot results very soon!
 
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