1976 Presidential Election

AN ONLINE EXHIBIT

Introduction

The American nation had never faced a presidential election quite like the one in 1976. Gerald Ford, the incumbent, had assumed the presidency in 1974 and had not previously campaigned for the office. This opened the door for fellow Republican Ronald Reagan to challenge Ford's nomination, the first time since 1912 that a sitting Republican president had faced a primary challenge. After a hard-fought primary campaign, Ford eventually won the Republican nomination. However, polls showed Ford trailing his Democratic opponent, Jimmy Carter.

In his race to win a full term as president, Ford faced challenges including the public's response to his pardon of former president Richard Nixon, a sluggish economy, and an anti-incumbent mood fed by many citizens' long-simmering mistrust in government leaders and institutions.

Though a veteran of many political campaigns, Ford, for the first time, found himself asking for the votes of people outside his Fifth Congressional District in Michigan. His campaign would stumble badly because of internal disorganization, his own gaffes, and events beyond his control. Still, by election day in November he had closed the gap with Carter and had a real chance of victory.

This online exhibit provides information on the 1976 presidential election, focusing on the 1976 Republican primary race. It highlights the holdings of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum. These resources include documents found in the records of the President Ford Committee (which managed the President's election activity), the textual collections of key individuals, and media resources.

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