Reagan Elected President

Published: 1980
Play Audio Archive Story - UPI
Together to the delight of the Democratic Party, a smiling Sen. Edward Kennedy (L) had a warm greeting for president Jimmy Carter at Logan International Airport on August 21, 1980 as the president arrived to speak to an American Legion convention. Not long afterwards, Kennedy flew to Detroit and urged a gathering of American Federation of Teachers there to throw their support behind the Carter-Mondale ticket, while Pres. Carter spoke to the American Legion Convention in Boston. (UPI Photo/Staff/Files)

Ronald Reagan led in most popularity polls from the start of the campaign, and on election night, one State after another gave the electoral vote to Ronald Reagan. A former Governor, actor and a man many Europeans referred to as a Cow Boy. Gene Gibbons spent many hours on the political trail.

Gene Gibbons: The political ads makers weren't very high on Ronald Reagan's chances as the political season started. There was said the experts the issue of age, if elected Reagan would be the oldest President ever, and he had run for the office twice before prompting some to speculate he'd been to the well too many times. The ads makers also weren't sanguine about Jimmy Carter's prospects. Once Ted Kennedy decided to go after the Democratic nomination. Kennedy was the inheritor of Camelot and it was thought he would have much wider public appeal than an ex-Georgia peanut farmer.

But after a stumbling start Ronald Reagan confounded the experts and so did Jimmy Carter. Reagan easily outdistanced such primary rivals as George Bush, John Connelly and Howard Baker. While Carter was helped by a patriotic surge that resulted from the Iranian crisis and Kennedy's Chappaquiddick baggage.

So when the fall campaign got underway it was Reagan versus Carter. The issues were Carter's handling of the economy and Reagan's image as a super hawk. The race said the posters, was closed.

But the weekend before Americans went to the polls the nation was again disappointed when an effort to release the Iranian hostages stalled, that in faltering economy unloosening the political flood gates and the result was a Reagan landslide. The formal movie actor and California Governor accepted victory on an optimistic note.

Ronald Reagan: I aim to try and tap that great American spirit that opened up this completely undeveloped continent from coast to coast and made it a great nation, survived several wars, survived a great depression and we will survive the problems that we face right now.

Gene Gibbons: A disappointed Jimmy Carter urged his supporters to rally behind his opponent.

Jimmy Carter: He must now coming together as a united and a unified people to solve the problems that are still before us, to meet the challenges of a new decade.

Gene Gibbons: In the new decade the country is likely to be more conservative. 1980 saw the torch passed to the right, but the fact that it was passed showed again the democracy works. This is Gene Gibbons reporting.