The Role of Economics in the 1976 Campaign
James Earl Carter, Jr. ("just call me Jimmy") began running for president almost immediately after the crushing defeat of George McGovern in 1972. Having met most of his potential rivals from both parties, he concluded that he was as good as or superior to them, both in competence and in morality. In his autobiography, Why Not the Best?, he met "other presidential hopefuls, and I lost my feeling of awe about presidents." 1 Thus began one of the most remarkable crusades for a public office ever witnessed in the United States. For the next several years, a carefully designed strategy was developed to elevate an obscure governor of the relatively small state of Georgia to national attention and recognition.
As governor of Georgia from 1971 to 1974, his record alone would have been insufficient to warrant recognition for national office, except perhaps at the cabinet level. What earned him any consideration was a statement in his gubernatorial inaugural address: "I say to you quite frankly that the time for racial discrimination is over. . . . No poor, rural, weak, or black person should ever have to bear the additional burden of being deprived of the opportunity of an education, a job, or simple justice."2 This apparent liberal view astonished his audience, for Carter's record on civil rights was mixed, as was the case for many politicians in the South at the time. 3 Still, he attracted national media attention, and they began to tout him as a leader from the new South.
Even so, the notion that he was a serious contender for the presidency in 1972 and 1973 must have seemed preposterous, especially when such well-known rivals as Edward Kennedy, Scoop Jackson, Morris Udall, Birch Bayh, George Wallace, Frank Church, Hubert Humphrey, and Jerry Brown had indicated an interest in the job. So, the task was to establish his credentials with his peers and, at the same time, to gain name recog-