The 1984 United States presidential election was the 50th quadrennial presidential election
. It was held on Tuesday, November 6, 1984. Incumbent Republican
President Ronald Reagan
defeated former Vice President Walter Mondale
, the Democratic
candidate in a landslide victory. In electoral votes, the final count was 525–13.
Reagan faced only token opposition in his bid for re-nomination by the Republicans, so he and Vice President George H. W. Bush
were easily re-nominated. Mondale defeated activist Jesse Jackson
and several other candidates in the 1984 Democratic primaries
before eventually choosing U.S. Representative Geraldine Ferraro
of New York
as his running mate, the first woman to be on a major party's presidential ticket.
Reagan touted a strong economic recovery from the 1970s stagflation
and the 1981–1982 recession
, as well as the widespread perception that his presidency had overseen a revival of national confidence and prestige. At 73, Reagan was, at the time, the oldest person ever to be nominated by a major party for president. The Reagan campaign produced effective television advertising and deftly neutralized concerns regarding Reagan's age. Mondale criticized Reagan's supply-side economic policies
and budget deficits and he called for a nuclear freeze
and ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment
Reagan won a landslide re-election victory, carrying 49 of the 50 states, making this the second election in the 20th century in which a party won 49 states. Mondale won only his home state of Minnesota with a 0.18% margin, and the District of Columbia.
Reagan won 525 of the 538 electoral votes, the most of any presidential candidate in U.S. history.
In terms of electoral votes, this was the second-most lopsided presidential election
in modern U.S. history; Franklin D. Roosevelt
's 1936 victory
over Alf Landon
, in which he won 98.5 percent or 523 of the then-total 531 electoral votes, ranks first. Reagan won 58.8 percent of the popular vote to Mondale's 40.6 percent. His popular vote margin of victory—nearly 16.9 million votes (54.4 million for Reagan to 37.5 million for Mondale)—was exceeded only by Richard Nixon
in his 1972 victory
over George McGovern
Reagan was also the first president since Dwight D. Eisenhower
to be re-elected while winning absolute popular vote majorities in both of his presidential campaigns.
At the age of 73, Reagan was the oldest person ever elected president at that point. He would be surpassed by Joe Biden
, 77 at the time of his election, in 2020
. As of 2021, no Republican candidate has since won New York
, or Rhode Island
would also not go Republican again until Donald Trump
carried the state in 2016
. This is also the most recent presidential election where the winner garnered a double digit margin of victory in the popular vote.
Republican Party candidates
* Ben Fernandez
, former Special Ambassador to Paraguay, from California
* Ronald Reagan
, President of the United States
* Harold Stassen
, former Governor of Minnesota
—the incumbent president
—was the assured nominee for the Republican Party, with only token opposition. The popular vote from the Republican primaries was as follows:
* Ronald Reagan (inc.): 6,484,987 (98.78%)
* Unpledged delegates: 55,458 (0.85%)
* Harold Stassen: 12,749 (0.19%)
* Benjamin Fernandez: 202 (0.00%)
Reagan was renominated by a vote of 2,233 delegates (two delegates abstained). For the only time in American history, the vice presidential roll call was taken concurrently with the presidential roll call. Vice President George H. W. Bush
was overwhelmingly renominated. This was the last time in the 20th century that the vice presidential candidate of either major party was nominated by roll call vote.
Democratic Party candidates
* Reubin Askew
, former Governor of Florida
* Alan Cranston
, U.S. senator from California
* John Glenn
, U.S. senator from Ohio
and former NASA astronaut
* Gary Hart
, U.S. senator from Colorado
* Ernest Hollings
, U.S. senator from South Carolina
* Jesse Jackson
, clergyman and civil rights activist from Illinois
* George McGovern
, former U.S. senator and 1972 Democratic nominee
from South Dakota
* Walter Mondale
, former Vice President
and former U.S. senator from Minnesota
Only three Democratic candidates won any state primaries: Mondale, Hart, and Jackson. Initially, Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy
, after a failed bid to win the 1980 Democratic nomination for president, was considered the ''de facto'' front-runner of the 1984 primary. However, Kennedy announced in December 1982 that he did not intend to run. Former Vice-President Mondale was then viewed as the favorite to win the Democratic nomination. Mondale had the largest number of party leaders supporting him, and he had raised more money than any other candidate. However, both Jackson and Hart emerged as surprising, and troublesome, opponents.
South Carolina Senator Ernest Hollings
's wit and experience, as well as his call for a budget freeze
, won him some positive attention, but his relatively conservative record alienated liberal Democrats, and he was never really noticed in a field dominated by Walter Mondale
, John Glenn
, and Gary Hart
. Hollings dropped out two days after losing badly in New Hampshire and endorsed Hart a week later. His disdain for his competitors was at times showcased in his comments. He notably referred to Mondale as a "lapdog", and to former astronaut Glenn as "Sky King
" who was "confused in his capsule."
California Senator Alan Cranston
hoped to galvanize supporters of the nuclear freeze movement that had called on the United States to halt the deployment of existing nuclear weapons and the development of new ones.
Glenn and Askew hoped to capture the support of moderate and conservative Democrats. None of them possessed the fundraising ability of Mondale nor the grassroots support of Hart and Jackson, and none won any contests.
Jackson was the second African-American
(after Shirley Chisholm
) to mount a nationwide campaign for the presidency, and he was the first African-American candidate to be a serious contender. He got 3.5 million votes during the primaries, third behind Hart and Mondale. He won the primaries in Virginia, South Carolina, and Louisiana, and split Mississippi, where there were two separate contests for Democratic delegates. Through the primaries, Jackson helped confirm the black electorate's importance to the Democratic Party
in the South at the time. During the campaign, however, Jackson made an off-the-cuff reference to Jew
s as "Hymies" and New York City as "Hymietown", for which he later apologized. Nonetheless, the remark was widely publicized, and derailed his campaign for the nomination. Jackson ended up winning 21% of the national primary vote but received only 8% of the delegates to the national convention, and he initially charged that his campaign was hurt by the same party rules that allowed Mondale to win. He also poured scorn on Mondale, saying that Hubert Humphrey
was the "last significant politician out of the St. Paul-Minneapolis" area.
Hart, from Colorado, was a more serious threat to Mondale, and after winning several early primaries it looked as if he might take the nomination away from Mondale. Hart finished a surprising second in the Iowa caucuses
, with 16.5% of the vote. This established him as the main rival to Mondale, effectively eliminating John Glenn, Ernest Hollings and Alan Cranston as alternatives. Hart criticized Mondale as an "old-fashioned" New Deal
Democrat who symbolized "failed policies" of the past. Hart positioned himself (just as Bill Clinton
would eight years later) as a younger, fresher, and more moderate Democrat who could appeal to younger voters. He emerged as a formidable candidate, winning the key New Hampshire, Ohio, and California primaries as well as several others, especially in the West. However, Hart could not overcome Mondale's financial and organizational advantages, especially among labor union leaders in the Midwest and industrial Northeast.
Hart was also badly hurt in a televised debate with Mondale during the primaries, when the former vice president used a popular television commercial slogan to ridicule Hart's vague "New Ideas" platform. Turning to Hart on camera, Mondale told Hart that whenever he heard Hart talk about his "New Ideas", he was reminded of the Wendy's
fast-food slogan "Where's the beef?
" The remark drew loud laughter and applause from the viewing audience and caught Hart off-guard. Hart never fully recovered from Mondale's charge that his "New Ideas" were shallow and lacking in specifics.
At a roundtable debate between the three remaining Democratic candidates moderated by Phil Donahue
, Mondale and Hart got into such a heated argument over the issue of U.S. policy in Central America that Jackson had to tap his water glass on the table to help get them to stop.
Mondale gradually pulled away from Hart in the delegate count, but, as ''Time
'' reported in late May, "Mondale ... has a wide lead in total delegates (1,564 to 941) ... because of his victories in the big industrial states, his support from the Democratic Establishment and the arcane provisions of delegate-selection rules that his vanguard helped draft two years ago." After the final primary in California, on June 5, which Hart won, Mondale was about 40 delegates short of the total he needed for the nomination. However, at the Democratic National Convention
in San Francisco on July 16, Mondale received the overwhelming support of the unelected superdelegate
s from the party establishment to win the nomination.
Mondale's nomination marked the second time since the nomination of former Governor of Georgia Jimmy Carter
and the fourth time since the nomination of former Representative John W. Davis
that the Democratic Party
nominated a private citizen for President (i.e., not serving in an official government role at the time of the nomination and election). Mondale was the last private citizen to be nominated for president by the Democratic Party until former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
. Mondale was also the last former Vice President
to be nominated for president by the Democratic Party after leaving office until Joe Biden
This race for the Democratic Party presidential nomination was the closest in two generations, and, as of 2020, it was the last occasion that a major party's race for the presidential nomination went all the way to its convention.
Note: These are only those endorsements which occurred during or before the primary race.
This was the convention's
When he made his acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention, Mondale said: "Let's tell the truth. Mr. Reagan will raise taxes, and so will I. He won't tell you. I just did." Although Mondale intended to expose Reagan as hypocritical and position himself as the honest candidate, the choice of raising taxes as a discussion point likely damaged his electoral chances.
Vice presidential nominee
Mondale chose U.S. Rep. Geraldine A. Ferraro
from New York
as his running mate, making her the first woman nominated for that position by a major party, and the first Italian American
on a major party ticket since Al Smith
. Mondale wanted to establish a precedent with his vice presidential candidate; although Tonie Nathan
of the Libertarian Party
had already figured as an Electoral-College candidate for vice-president (1972
), Ferraro would become the first woman to receive votes from all the electors of a state
. Another reason for the nominee to "go for broke" instead of balancing the ticket
was Reagan's lead in the polls. Mondale hoped to appeal to women, and by 1980, they were the majority of voters. In a "much criticized parade of possible Veep candidates" to his home in Minnesota, Mondale considered San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein
and Kentucky Governor Martha Layne Collins
, also female; Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley
, an African American; and San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros
, a Hispanic, as other finalists for the nomination. In addition to her sex, Mondale chose Ferraro because he hoped she would attract ethnic voters with her personal background.
Unsuccessful nomination candidate Jesse Jackson derided Mondale's vice-presidential screening process as a "P.R. parade of personalities", but praised Mondale for his choice, having himself pledged to name a woman to the ticket in the event he was nominated.
Mondale had wanted to choose New York Governor Mario Cuomo
as his running mate, but Cuomo declined and recommended Ferraro,
Mondale might have named Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis
as his running mate had he wanted to make a "safe" choice", while others preferred Senator Lloyd Bentsen
because he would appeal to more conservative Southern voters. Nomination rival Gary Hart
stated before Ferraro's selection that he would accept an invitation to run with Mondale; Hart's supporters claimed he would do better than Mondale against President Reagan, an argument undercut by a June 1984 Gallup poll that showed both men nine points behind the president.
National Unity Party nomination
The National Unity Party was an outgrowth of John Anderson's
presidential campaign from the 1980 presidential election
. Anderson hoped that the party would be able to challenge the "two old parties", which he viewed as being tied to various special interest groups and incapable of responsible fiscal reform. The intention was to organize the new party in California, Oregon, Washington, Illinois, the New England states, and others where his previous candidacy had proven to have experienced the most success. The party was also eligible for $5.8 million in Federal election funds, but its qualification depended on it being on the ballot in at least ten states; however, it remained unclear if National Unity could actually obtain the funds, or if it needed to be Anderson himself.
Anderson initially was against running, hoping that another notable politico would take the party into the 1984 election, and feared that his own candidacy might result in the party being labeled a "personality cult". However, no candidate came forward resulting in Anderson becoming the nominee in waiting. While Anderson had found equal support from the Republicans and Democrats in the 1980 election, the grand majority of the former had since switched back, resulting in the new party being supported principally by those who normally would vote Democratic, which it was feared might make him a spoiler candidate
. In light of this, in addition to difficulties in getting on the ballot in his targeted states (Utah and Kentucky were the only two, neither among those he intended to prominently campaign in), Anderson ultimately declined to run. Later he would endorse the Democratic nominee, Walter Mondale
Anderson had hoped that the party would continue to grow and later field a candidate in 1988 (which he declared would not be him), but it floundered and ultimately dissolved.
Libertarian Party nomination
* David Bergland
, Party Chairman from California
* Gene Burns
, talk radio
host from Florida
''(withdrew – August 26, 1983)''
* Tonie Nathan
, 1972 vice presidential nominee from Oregon
''(declined to contest)''
* Earl Ravenal
, foreign policy analyst, academic, and writer from Washington, D.C.
* Mary Ruwart
, research scientist from Texas
Burns was the initial frontrunner for the nomination, but withdrew, citing concerns that the party would not be able to properly finance a campaign. The remaining candidates were Bergland; Ravenal, who had worked in the Department of Defense under Robert McNamara
and Clark Clifford
; and Ruwart. Bergland narrowly won the presidential nomination over Ravenal. His running mate was James A. Lewis
. The ticket appeared on 39 state ballots.
Citizens Party nomination
ran in the 1984 presidential election, as the presidential candidate of the Citizens Party
, Pennsylvania's Consumer Party and California's Peace and Freedom Party
. Johnson received 72,161 votes (0.1%) finishing fifth. Her running mate for the Citizens Party was Richard Walton
and for the Peace and Freedom Party Emma Wong Mar
. One of her campaign managers, Mark Dunlea, later wrote a novel about a first female president, ''Madame President''.
Communist Party nomination
The Communist Party USA
ran Gus Hall
for president and Angela Davis
for vice president.
Mondale ran a liberal
campaign, supporting a nuclear freeze
and the Equal Rights Amendment
(ERA). He spoke against what he considered to be unfairness in Reagan's economic policies and the need to reduce federal budget deficit
While Ferraro's choice was popular among Democratic activists, polls immediately after the announcement showed that only 22% of women were pleased about her selection, versus 18% who agreed that it was a bad idea. 60% of all voters thought that pressure from women's groups had led to Mondale's decision, versus 22% who believed that he had chosen the best available candidate. Some members of the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church
criticized the Catholic Ferraro for being pro-choice
on abortion. Already fighting an uphill battle with voters, Ferraro also faced a slew of allegations, mid-campaign, directed toward her husband, John Zaccaro
. These allegations included Zaccaro's possible past involvement in organized crime, pornography distribution, and campaign contribution violations. Ferraro responded to these allegations against her husband by releasing her family tax returns to the media on August 21, 1984. However, the damage to the campaign was already done.
At a campaign stop in Hammonton, New Jersey
, Reagan said, "America's future rests in a thousand dreams inside your hearts. It rests in the message of hope in songs of a man so many young Americans admire, New Jersey's Bruce Springsteen
." The Reagan campaign briefly used "Born in the U.S.A.
", a song criticizing the treatment of Vietnam War
veterans (which they mistakenly thought was devoid of anti-war content and a very jingoistic patriotic rock song), as a campaign song, without permission, until Springsteen, a lifelong Democrat, insisted that they stop. The Reagan campaign was very skilled at producing effective television advertising. Two of the more memorable ads it produced were commonly known as "Bear in the woods
" and "Morning in America
Reagan was the oldest president to have served to that time (at 73) and there were questions about his capacity to endure the grueling demands of the presidency, particularly after Reagan had a poor showing in his first debate with Mondale on October 7. He referred to having started going to church "here in Washington", although the debate was in Louisville, Kentucky
, referred to military uniforms as "wardrobe", and admitted to being "confused", among other mistakes.
In the next debate on October 21, however, in response to a question about his age, Reagan joked, "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." Mondale himself laughed at the joke,
and later admitted that Reagan had effectively neutralized the age issue:
There were two presidential debates and one vice presidential debate during the 1984 general election.
File:1984 United States presidential election results map by county.svg|Results by county, shaded according to winning candidate's percentage of the vote
400px|Margin of victory by state
Reagan was re-elected in the November 6 election in an electoral and popular vote landslide, winning 49 states by the time the ballots were finished counting on election night at 11:34 PM in Iowa. He won a record 525 electoral votes total (of 538 possible), and received 58.8% of the popular vote; despite Ferraro's selection, 55% of women who voted did so for Reagan,
and his 54 to 61% of the Catholic vote
was the highest for a Republican candidate in history.
Mondale's 13 electoral college votes (from his home state of Minnesota—which he won by 0.18%—and the District of Columbia) marked the lowest total of any major presidential candidate since Alf Landon
loss to Franklin D. Roosevelt
. Mondale's defeat was also the worst for any Democratic Party candidate in American history in the Electoral College (and his 13 electoral votes the fewest any Democrat has won since Stephen A. Douglas
claimed 12 in the 1860 election
, when the Democratic vote was divided), though others, including Alton B. Parker
, James M. Cox
, John W. Davis
, and George S. McGovern
, did worse in the popular vote.
attributed the Republican victory to "Reagan Democrat
s", millions of Democrats who voted for Reagan, as in 1980. They characterized such Reagan Democrats as southern whites and northern blue collar workers who voted for Reagan because they credited him with the economic recovery, saw Reagan as strong on national security issues, and perceived the Democrats as supporting the poor and minorities at the expense of the middle class. The Democratic National Committee
commissioned a study after the election that came to these conclusions, but suppressed the report, afraid that it would offend its key voters. Reagan also benefited from a near-total collapse in the third-party vote, which dropped to just 0.67% of the popular vote, its lowest level since 1964
. Despite John B. Anderson's endorsement of Mondale, the majority of the people who voted for Anderson in 1980 voted for Reagan in this 1984 election, as did the majority of those who voted for Ed Clark
When Reagan was asked in December 1984 what he wanted for Christmas he joked, "Well, Minnesota would have been nice".
Reagan lost Minnesota in both this election and in 1980
, making it the only state he failed to win in either election, and also making him the first two-term president not to carry Minnesota since Woodrow Wilson
. The same feat would later be duplicated by fellow Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush
who won both the 2000, and 2004 United States Presidential Elections without winning Minnesota either time. This is the last election where the Republican candidate achieved any of the following: Win every state in the Northeastern
regions of the United States; win at least one county in every state; and win any of the following states: Hawaii
, New York
, Rhode Island
, and Washington
It was also the last election where the Republican nominee won Wisconsin
until 2016, Iowa
until 2004, the last election in which the winning candidate won by a double-digit margin in the percentage of the popular vote, and the last election where the winning candidate won by an eight-digit margin in total popular votes (10 million or more).
Finally, despite his narrow loss in Minnesota, Reagan still won in five out of its eight congressional districts (by contrast, Nixon had only carried one Massachusetts district twelve years earlier) thus making Reagan the only U.S. presidential candidate in history to win the popular vote in a majority of congressional districts in every state. In stark contrast, Mondale became the first major-party U.S. presidential candidate since the start of popular presidential elections not to win a majority of the popular vote in even a single state (not counting Stephen A. Douglas in 1860, and William H. Taft
in 1912, elections which were both complicated by strong third-party performances, plus the Democratic vote being divided between Douglas and John C. Breckinridge
in 1860), having only won a plurality of 49.5% of the vote in Minnesota.
Source for the popular vote:
Source for the electoral vote:
Results by state
Maine allowed its electoral votes to be split between candidates. Two electoral votes were awarded to the winner of the statewide race and one electoral vote to the winner of each congressional district. Reagan won all four votes.
Margin of victory less than 1% (10 electoral votes):
# Minnesota, 0.18%
Margin of victory more than 1%, but less than 5% (17 electoral votes):
# Massachusetts, 2.79%
# Rhode Island, 3.65%
Margin of victory more than 5%, but less than 10% (90 electoral votes):
# Maryland, 5.49%
# Pennsylvania, 7.35%
# Iowa, 7.38%
# New York, 8.01%
# Wisconsin, 9.17%
# Michigan, 18.99%
Counties with Highest Percent of Vote (Republican)
# Madison County, Idaho 92.88%
# Hansford County, Texas 89.38%
# Ochiltree County, Texas 89.15%
# Grant County, Nebraska 88.45%
# Blaine County, Nebraska 88.32%
Counties with Highest Percent of Vote (Democratic)
# Washington, D.C. 85.38%
# Macon County, Alabama 82.71%
# Shannon County, South Dakota 81.41%
# Jefferson County, Mississippi 77.94%
# Hancock County, Georgia 76.61%
Source: CBS News
and ''The New York Times
'' exit poll from the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research
Notable expressions and phrases
* Where's the beef?
: A slogan used by Wendy's
to suggest that their competitors have smaller portions of meat in their sandwiches, but used in the Democratic primaries by Mondale to criticize Gary Hart's positions as lacking substance.
* Morning in America
: Slogan used by the Reagan campaign.
*1984 United States Senate elections
*1984 United States House of Representatives elections
*1984 United States gubernatorial elections
*History of the United States (1980–1991)
*Second inauguration of Ronald Reagan
* Boyd, Richard W., Paul R. Mencher, Philip J. Paseltiner, Ezra Paul, Alexander S. Vanda, "The 1984 Election as Anthony Downs
and Stanley Kelley
Might Interpret It", ''Political Behavior'', Vol. 10, No. 3 (Autumn, 1988), pp. 197–213.
* Goldman, Peter, et al. ''The quest for the presidency 1984'' (1985online
1984 popular vote by statesCampaign commercials from the 1984 election
* Michael Sheppard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Election of 1984 in Counting the Votes
Category:George H. W. Bush
Category:Presidency of Ronald Reagan
Category:November 1984 events in the United States
Category:Articles containing video clips
Category:1984 in women's history