The 1984 Presidential Primaries

In 1984, Reagan did not face any significant challenge for the Republican nomination. This shielded him from much of the intraparty fighting that usually occurs during primary races. The Democrats represented an antithesis of the Republicans. Four major Democratic candidates emerged: Walter Mondale, Gary Hart, John Glenn, and Jesse Jackson. Walter Mondale was Vice-President of the country during Jimmy Carter's administration. Gary Hart was a Senator from Colorado. John Glenn was a Senator from Ohio, who had orbited the earth three times during his days as an astronaut. The Reverend Jesse Jackson was a social activist, who headed Operation PUSH.

The race for the Democratic nomination was hotly contested. Hart won an early victory in New Hampshire and followed up with wins in Vermont and Maine. On Super Tuesday, Hart won victories in Florida, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Washington. Mondale won in only two states: Georgia and Alabama. Shortly after Super Tuesday, John Glenn withdrew from the race. As the race progressed, Mondale drew ahead. He won a large victory in the New York primary; in this vote, Jackson finished a strong third. This set Jackson up as an important candidate, because although he did not possess enough voter draw to win the nomination himself, he was strong enough to influence the race between Hart and Mondale. Mondale followed this with a string of victories, which positioned him as the front runner. When it appeared that Hart's candidacy was dead in the water, he won the Ohio, Indiana, and Nebraska primaries. After this, Hart won in California and Mondale won in New Jersey. In June, Mondale had finally accumulated enough delegates to clinch the Democratic nomination. Instead of conceding at this point, Hart announced: "Welcome to overtime . . . The one thing that can be said about this nomination contest is that it is not over" (Slansky 1989: 96). At the convention itself, Hart still predicted that he would prove victorious.

Although Walter Mondale won the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984, he did not do so in a way that strengthened his prospects for winning the general election. Mondale clinched the nomination in June, a mere 5 months away from the election. Now that the stage has been set for the Mondale-Reagan race, the two campaigns will now be examined.


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Created by Andrew Van Alstyne