Nancy Reagan - Role in 1976 and 1980 Presidential Campaigns

Role in 1976 and 1980 Presidential Campaigns

Governor Reagan's term ended in 1975, and he did not run for a third; instead, he met with advisors to discuss a possible bid for the presidency in 1976, challenging incumbent President Gerald Ford. Reagan still needed to convince a reluctant Nancy before running, however. She feared for her husband's health and his career as a whole, though she felt that he was the right man for the job and eventually approved. Nancy took on a more traditional role in the campaign, holding coffees, luncheons, and talks with senior citizens. With that, she oversaw personnel, monitored her husband's schedule, and occasionally provided press conferences. The 1976 campaign included the so-called "battle of the queens", contrasting Nancy with First Lady Betty Ford. They both spoke out over the course of the campaign on similar issues, but with different approaches. Nancy was particularly upset by the warmonger image that the Ford campaign had drawn of her husband.

Though he lost the 1976 Republican nomination, Reagan ran again for the presidency in 1980 and succeeded in winning the nomination and election. During this second campaign, Nancy played a very prominent role and her management of staff became more apparent. She arranged a meeting among feuding campaign managers John Sears and Michael Deaver and her husband, which resulted in Deaver leaving the campaign and Sears being given full control. After the Reagan camp lost the Iowa caucus and fell behind in New Hampshire polls, Nancy organized a second meeting and decided it was time to fire Sears and his associates; she gave Sears a copy of the press release announcing his dismissal. Her influence on her husband became particularly notable; her presence at rallies, luncheons, and receptions increased his confidence.

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