Early in 1975 after two terms as the 33rd governor of California, Ronald Reagan began considering the possibility of running for president. The Republican Party was still reeling following Richard Nixon’s admitted involvement in the 1972 Watergate scandal and the subsequent pardon offered two years later by President Ford. Testing the waters, Reagan asked Laxalt what type of support he might expect from Republicans on Capitol Hill. The response Laxalt received from the Washington establishment was less than favorable. In fact, Laxalt seemed to be the only Republican Senator in support of Reagan’s initial proposal.
In November 1975, Reagan announced his candidacy with Laxalt acting as the chairman of the campaign. The campaign immediately gained more support than political pundits had anticipated. Regardless of his unpopularity in Washington, Reagan made a dramatic run for the Republican nomination against sitting president and incumbent Gerald Ford. His strategy of directly engaging the voters worked well during the primaries, and Reagan fell short by only a few votes at the 1976 Republican National Convention in Kansas City, Missouri.
In the end, Democrat Jimmy Carter defeated Gerald Ford in the general election by a small margin. Though the 1976 campaign resulted in a loss for Reagan, he had proven himself as a charismatic and viable Republican candidate for the future. The events of 1976 laid the groundwork for the 1980 presidential campaign and marked a period of revitalization in the conservative movement in America.
This project is made possible by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services, administered by the Nevada State Library and Archives. The physical collection is housed in Special Collections, a unit of the Libraries, at the University of Nevada, Reno. The digitized materials and website are brought to you by Digital Collections and the Web & Applications Technology departments of the Libraries at the University of Nevada, Reno.