The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Digital Library

Selected Documents on the 1976 Presidential Campaign

The Ford Library has extensive holdings concerning the 1976 presidential campaign from both Gerald R. Ford's White House papers and the records of the President Ford Committee, the president's campaign committee.  The Library's holdings on this topic are described in more detail in the handout Core Collections on the 1976 Presidential Campaign.

The items below are but a small selection of the Library's holdings. They are arranged chronologically from the earliest discussions of the campaign through its final outcome. Some key items include:

Ford campaign brochure

1975: Ford Campaign Early Planning and the Emergence of the Ronald Reagan Candidacy
January 23 Briefing paper on the initiation of campaign planning (author unidentified)
February 21 Staff Assistant Stephen Herbits writes a memo on early political staff functions
March 24 Political aide John Calkins calls for the formation of a campaign organization
March 25 Staff Assistant Fred Slight lays out concerns about the impact of election law reforms on campaign fundraising
April 3 Counsellor for political affairs Dean Burch writes about campaign organization and strategy, especially the Ronald Reagan threat
April 19 Longtime Ford political adviser Jack Stiles urges a quick start to the campaign to stave off a Ronald Reagan challenge
May 9 Counsellor for political affairs Dean Burch lays out a 60-day campaign timetable
June 19

Analysis of the role of TV and radio in the campaign by television advisor Bob Mead

June 19 President Ford authorizes the President Ford Committee to solicit and receive contributions and to incur expenses
July 1 Advice to the President from key White House staff members on his candidacy announcement
July 8
(Text or Photos)
Gerald Ford announces his candidacy for the Republican nomination for President. This is the copy of the speech used in his three-minute statement
Weekly Reports View weekly reports from the President Ford Committee Chairman to President Ford
July 15 "Citizens for Reagan" committee is announced
August 26 Special Assistant Jerry Jones writes to Chief of Staff Don Rumsfeld and his deputy Dick Cheney an "Eyes Only" memo concerning President Ford Committee problems
September 26 Richard Nixon comments that Ronald Reagan is "a lightweight" and won't pose a challenge for the nomination
November 3
(Text or Photos)
Vice President Nelson Rockefeller meets with President Ford and submits a letter (with public release) to explain his decision not to run as Vice President
November 4 "Defusing the Reagan Challenge" - Strategy Paper No. 1 by Ford friend and advisor David Belin
November 12 Public opinion pollster Bob Teeter analyzes early research on perceptions, styles, and themes
November 20 Ronald Reagan announces his candidacy, denouncing the "buddy system" in Washington and pointing out the need for independent leaders
November 21 Communications Office aide James Shuman sees some advantages to having Ronald Reagan in the race
December 11 Public opinion pollster Bob Teeter writes concerning President Ford's leadership and perception problem
December 11 Special Assistant Jerry Jones writes an "Eyes Only" memo concerning recent polls and Bob Teeter's advice on slowing Ronald Reagan's momentum
December 17 Bruce Wagner from the President Ford Committee advertising operation complains about campaign problems caused by media reports
December 24 Public opinion pollster Robert Teeter shares his thoughts concerning national polls, campaign strategy, and voter perceptions of President Ford

President and Mrs. Ford wave from the rear of the train during their primary campaign whistle-stop tour of Michigan.  Durand, Michigan.  May 15, 1976.
January-July 1976: The Ford-Reagan Contest in the Primaries and Caucuses

Weekly Reports

View weekly reports from the President Ford Committee Chairman to President Ford

January 6

Memo on presidential campaigning in New Hampshire by Special Assistant David Gergen states that President Ford must emphasize that being President comes first
January 7 Memo on presidential travel to New Hampshire and perception of President Ford as a candidate by Scheduling Director Bill Nicholson
February 8 Photographs of President Ford campaigning in the New Hampshire primary
February 13 Ford friend and advisor David Belin submits Strategy Paper No. 4, "Projecting Leadership and Statesmanship - Some Major Opportunities"
February 24 Long-time Ford friend and former congressional campaign manager Jack Stiles writes a critical evaluation of the President Ford Committee
March 10 Wayne Valis from the Public Liaison Office states that Ronald Reagan's "attack strategy" indicates that he is not likely to drop out of the race
March 27 President Ford Committee Chairman Bo Callaway sends an evaluation of the staff and organization of the President Ford Committee to President Ford
March 29
(Text or Photos)
After conflict of interest charges are raised against President Ford Committee Chairman Bo Callaway arising from his former position as Secretary of the Army, he meets with President Ford for 45 minutes and then submits his letter of resignation. Callaway is later cleared of the charges. White House Counsellor Rogers Morton replaces him as PFC Chairman.
March 31 A national TV address by Ronald Reagan attacks Ford's economic, foreign, and military defense policies and raises vast sums ($1.5 million) for Reagan's continued campaign
April 1 White House political aide Gwen Anderson provides an analysis of Ronald Reagan's address
April 7 Bruce Wagner from the President Ford Committee advertising operation recommends attack advertising against Ronald Reagan for the Texas campaign and subsequent primaries
April 8 Press Ford Committee Press Secretary Peter Kaye responds to Bruce Wagner's April 7 message, complaining that it is the wrong strategy for the wrong time
May "An Explanation of the Reagan Victories in Texas and the Caucus States"
May 7 Barry Goldwater furnishes campaign advice to President Ford
May 7 White House Chief of Staff Dick Cheney recommends to President Ford a phone call to Missouri delegates to the Republican National Convention
May 21 Comprehensive convention strategy memo, written by Special Assistant Mike Duval
June 9 Vice Presidential staff member Peter Wallison discusses the question of whether convention delegates are truly bound to follow the results of their state's primary
June 11 Communications director David Gergen gives 10 reasons why President Ford should receive the nomination (seen by President Ford)
June 21 "Electability" memo written by President Ford Committee staff members Rob Quartel and Ralph Stanley
July 1 Even a President receives form letters from his own campaign committee asking for a donation!
July 17 Unattributed press background briefing about the campaign with a senior campaign official (President Ford Committee political office director Stu Spencer)

Ford-Dole campaign button
June-August 1976: Planning the Fall Election Campaign
June 5 White House consultant Jim Reichley advises about the campaign's need for support among various religious, ethnic, and racial groups
June 11 Staff Assistant Stef Halper describes a discussion with George Will concerning President Ford's campaign strategy
June 14 White House consultant Jim Reichley discusses the need for "theme speeches" to show leadership and philosophy
June 21 "The Politics of Presidential Travel" - A study of the impact of presidential travel on public opinion poll approval ratings conducted by Communications Office assistant George Van Cleve
June 25 White House consultant Jim Reichley analyzes which constituency groups President Ford will need to win in November
July 5 “The General Election -- Part 1" by Communications Office assistant George Van Cleve
July 15 Television Advisor Bob Mead analyzes the effectiveness of Jimmy Carter's style
July 26 Press office aide Dorrance Smith writes a review of advance operations and presidential travel during the primaries with suggestions for improvements
August Final campaign strategy document compiled by Special Assistant Mike Duval - as discussed during the post-convention meetings in Vail, Colorado
August 5 Barton Cummings of Compton Advertising offers an election strategy for President Ford
August 6 Ford friend and advisor David Belin submits Strategy Paper No. 10 "The Five Keys to Victory in November"
August 6 Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's suggestions for President Ford's acceptance speech at the convention
August 9 Treasury Secretary Bill Simon writes to President Ford urging a debate with Jimmy Carter and offering suggestions
August 16 Public opinion pollster Robert Teeter's memo concerning a national poll on five Vice Presidential possibilities
August 17 1976 Republican Party Platform

August 19
(WAV or MP3)

Audio file of President Ford's remarks at the 2:05 a.m. press conference with Ronald Reagan after receiving the Republican nomination
August 19 President Ford announces to the media his selection of Senator Robert Dole as his running-mate
August 19
(Text or Photos)
President Ford's Remarks Upon Accepting the Republican Presidential Nomination
August 21 "Preliminary Media Plan for President Ford Committee" by Doug Bailey and John Deardourff
August 24 President Ford meets with reporters to discuss timing and format of the debates
August 27 Vail, Colorado press conference about the campaign featuring President Ford, Vice President Rockefeller, Bob Dole, John Connally, and Rogers Morton

Ford campaign brochure
September-November 1976: Gerald Ford's Campaign Against Jimmy Carter
September Sheet music for "I'm Feeling Good About America" - the Ford campaign song used in advertising throughout the fall campaign
September Notes from Lee Auspitz on "Cross-Cutting Leadership Themes in the Debates"
September 7 Ford friend and advisor David Belin submits Strategy Paper No. 11, "The Ford-Carter Debates: Key Strategy Considerations"
September 8 President Ford Committee Chairman Jim Baker writes to the Cabinet concerning advocate travel
September 8 Updated "President Ford '76 Factbook" distributed by President Ford Committee

September 15
(WAV or MP3)

Audio file of President Ford's campaign kickoff speech at the University of Michigan's Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor, Michigan
September 18 "Debate Strategies" challenges "presidential" strategy of avoiding attack (David Gergen memo, "Highly Confidential")
September 23
(Text or Photos)
Presidential campaign debate transcript (domestic policy)
September 24 White House aides Jerry Jones and David Gergen write to President Ford about his objectives in traveling to the South now that it appears he has a chance there
October 1 Ford friend and advisor David Belin submits Strategy Paper No. 12, "Final Strategy Considerations for Victory in November"
October 4 Compilation of congressional assessments of the first debate
October 6 Presidential campaign debate transcript (foreign policy)
October 6 Post-debate press conference with Dick Cheney, Brent Scowcroft, Mike Duval, and Stu Spencer
October 8 Deputy Special Assistant Milt Mitler reports on the reactions of a group of law students to the second debate
October 10 President Ford Committee Chairman Jim Baker holds a press conference to discuss campaign progress and factors slowing recent momentum
October 17 Communications Director David Gergen says President Ford should give up on articulating a vision and run on experience in the third debate
October 18 Special Assistant Mike Duval makes suggestions to the President for the last debate
October 19 President Ford Committee Newsletter - the lead story is "President Ford is Gaining in the Polls"
October 20 White House Chief of Staff Dick Cheney's advice to President Ford for his press conference
October 22 Presidential campaign debate transcript
October 23 Press conference with President Ford Committee officials Stu Spencer and William Greener to announce the "Garagiola" ad series and new radio statements
October 28 Operation "Over the Top" to gain momentum in closing days
November 1 Counsellor Jack Marsh suggests speech themes for the return home to Michigan
November 2 Special Assistant Mike Duval's election challenge contingency memo
November 3 Electoral vote map

November 3
(Text or WAV or MP3 or Photos)

Election concession statement read by First Lady Betty Ford
November 3 Gerald Ford telegram to Jimmy Carter conceding the election (with draft)
November 3 Jimmy Carter letter starting the transition process
November MOR [Market Opinion Research] Summary Report analyzing the results of the 1976 Presidential Election

Other Resources