The Past and Future of Presidential Debates

By Austin Ranney | Go to book overview

4
The 1976 Presidential Debates:
A Republican Perspective

Richard B. Cheney

The concept of debates between President Ford and Governor Carter was an integral part of the Ford general election campaign strategy in 1976. The decision to challenge Governor Carter to debate was based on the unique set of circumstances the Ford campaign faced in the summer of 1976 and on the experiences of the candidate and campaign staff in the contest for the Republican presidential nomination.


The Campaign for the Republican Nomination

At the beginning of 1976, President Ford began his campaign for reelection in an unusual situation for an incumbent. As a result of his having come to power under the Twenty-fifth Amendment, his name had never appeared on a ballot outside the Fifth Congressional District of Michigan. Since no national Ford organization was in place from a prior campaign, one had to be built, especially in key primary states.

Though the economy was improving, the nation was still experiencing the residue of high unemployment and high inflation after having weathered the worst recession in decades. The economic situation, the legacy of Watergate, and the Nixon pardon had served to erode the President's standing with the public. His approval rating, as measured by Gallup, had fallen sharply from August of 1974 to below 40 percent in the spring of 1975. It rose above 50 percent briefly at the time of the Mayaguez incident in the summer of that year but remained well under 50 percent throughout the rest of 1975.

In November, one year before the election, former Governor Ronald Reagan had announced that he would be a candidate for the Republican nomination for president; as events would later demon

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The Past and Future of Presidential Debates
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents *
  • Preface *
  • 1 - Presidential Candidate "Debates": What Can We Learn from 1960 1
  • Discussion 51
  • 2 - Historical Evolution of Section 315 56
  • Discussion 70
  • 3 - Presidential Debates: an Empirical Assessment 75
  • Discussion 102
  • 4 - The 1976 Presidential Debates: a Republican Perspective 107
  • Discussion 131
  • 5 - Did the Debates Help Jimmy Carter? 137
  • Discussion 147
  • 6 - The Case for Permanent Presidential Debates 155
  • Discussion 169
  • 7 - Debatable Thoughts on Presidential Debates 175
  • Discussion 187
  • 8 - Presidential Debates: an Overview 191
  • Discussion 206
  • Bibliography 215
  • Contributors 225
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