Three Times The Charm; Ronald Reagan’s Bid For The White House Began In 1968

Ronald Reagan was many things during his time on Earth, an actor, a jelly bean fanatic, and he was “the Gipper.” According to 19-year-old Shirley Temple, the then 39-year-old Reagan was also the best on-screen kisser.


For most people, he was the president of the 1980s. Sorry, Carter and Bush. Next to JFK, he’s also one of the most prominent presidents we associate with the Cold War.

It was Reagan who said to the USSR, referring to the Berlin Wall, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

It took more than handfuls of jelly beans and tremendous acting talent to get that far. Like anyone who ever scored (Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan?) Reagan learned that he would have to fail along the way to victory.

Three times he made a go at the White House, but it wasn’t until he was old enough to be the oldest elected president at the time that he finally landed the Oval Office.

Donald Trump just beat him for the oldest president. That guy wins everything!

1968 The Silent Attempt

1967 Governor Ronald Reagan |

In 1968, Reagan had just won the governor’s seat in California, earning him the title as California’s “favorite son.”

Prior to that, the only leadership role he’d taken was the president of the Screen Actors Guild in the late ‘40s. Reagan also functioned as a Hollywood informant to the FBI during that time, which made for an interesting transition into politics.

As a candidate for the presidency, he never announced anything officially, but he made his interest known to the right people.

People close to him knew. Republicans knew he had his eye on the White House. He’d hoped they would ask him to run if they couldn’t find anyone else, but they found someone: Nixon.

Reagan went on to serve two terms as governor, electing not to run for a third, before “making his interest known” again.

1976 The Run To Unseat Ford

Conceding to Ford |

Ford was the sitting president when Reagan rolled up his sleeves to take the White House. Next to Ford, Reagan was the more conservative of the two, which swayed many hardline republican voters his way.

Other than being more republican, his strategy was to damage Ford early in the primaries, which he did in several key elections.

Later in the primaries, Reagan named a moderate running candidate to close the gap, Richard Schweiker of Pennsylvania.

It was close, but Ford took the bid, 1,1187 to Reagan’s 1,070. He conceded the party’s nomination like a gentleman. Reagan would get his chance again.

Carter beat Ford for the White House in ’76, proving to the republicans twice that they backed the wrong horse. The picked Ford over Reagan, who then lost to Carter. Then, when everyone grew fed up with Carter, the nation picked Reagan over him.

Ronnie had to be thinking, See? I was the right guy back in ’76.

1980 The Win

The political climate of the 1980 election was a familiar one. There was tension in the middle east.

Adding to his problems, and despite being an eloquent speaker, President Carter struggled to get congress to work with him. The public had lost faith that the democrats had the tenacity to empower the economy to grow.

Ronald Reagan promised all the things Americans wanted to hear, lower taxes, less government, and a strong national defense.

On top of everything, the Cold War loomed over our heads. Soviets had kicked our butts in the Space Race, and people were afraid of an attack from outer space. They were so afraid, Reagan crushed Carter winning 44 of the electoral states.

He did it, finally. Jellybean makers everywhere lost their collective minds imagining the profits they would rake in.

Ronnie would go on to win a second term, then see his vice president, George Herbert Walker Bush elected to the White House next; what many considered part two of the same administration.

In the end, Reagan would lose his life to Alzheimer’s, but for some Americans, he was one of the best presidents we ever had. No surprise, not everyone agrees.

Source: History Extra