4. November 6, 1984 — The Landslide
By 1984, there was little to no question that Ronald Reagan would run for a second term. Most of his policies were immensely successful, though you’d never know it from reading the press accounts of the day. He enjoyed considerable popularity, with a 58% approval rating, yet he never made many friends in the media.
Reagan captured nearly 99% of the vote in the primaries, with former Minnesota Governor Harold Stassen and Republican National Hispanic Assembly Chairman Ben Fernandez garnering paltry votes. (Remember those names for trivia night.) He faced Walter Mondale, who ran a Leftist campaign that was nearly the complete opposite or Reagan’s, in the general election.
The Reagan campaign was top-notch, of course, featuring memorable ads like the “Morning In America” commercial reminding everyone how much better off they were in 1984 than in 1980.
After what was called a disastrous first debate, Reagan rebounded in the second debate. When Reagan’s age was called in to question (at 73, he was the oldest serving president), the president with quick wit:
I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.
Even Mondale laughed.
But the Left wasn’t laughing on Election Day, when Ronald Reagan carried 49 of 50 states. Mondale only carried the District of Columbia and his home state of Minnesota. He carried Minnesota by less than 3,800 votes, meaning that Reagan was within a small town’s worth of votes of winning all 50 states.
In many ways, the 1984 election was a referendum on Ronald Reagan: his age, his policies, his popularity. The American public spoke up that November, and reelected Reagan in an unprecedented landslide. In his Second Inaugural Address, he said:
My fellow citizens, our nation is poised for greatness. We must do what we know is right and do it with all our might. Let history say of us, “These were golden years–when the American Revolution was reborn, when freedom gained new life, when America reached for her best.”
I believe the electorate made that declaration in November 1984.