1984: Reagan's Landslide Victory

U.S. National Archives

President Ronald Reagan's 1984 re-election was one of the biggest victories in U.S. history. He carried 49 of the 50 states and won the highest number of electoral votes ever received by a presidential candidate.

On January 29, 1984, President Reagan officially announced his candidacy for re-election in an address to the nation from the Oval Office, saying, "This historic room and the Presidency belong to you...You so honored me, and I'm grateful - grateful and proud of what, together, we have accomplished."

The Republican National Convention
Reagan won the Republican party's nomination by an overwhelming majority, as he ran without any serious Republican opposition. Having won 98% of the popular vote in the primary elections, it was clear his re-election campaign had widespread Republican support. When he accepted the nomination, Reagan spoke of a renewed sense of optimism in America and the economic improvements since he took office in 1980.

Reagan swiftly won the Republican party's nomination. George HW Bush also won his re-nomination as Vice President rather easily. This was the only time that both the presidential and vice presidential roll calls happened at the same time. The Reagans and Bushes watched from their hotel in Dallas.

"Tonight, with a full heart and deep gratitude for your trust, I accept your nomination for the Presidency of the United States. I will campaign on behalf of the principles of our party which lift America confidently into the future." - President Ronald Reagan, RNC acceptance speech, August 23, 1984

Voters showed their support for the 1984 Reagan-Bush campaign by wearing buttons like this one as well as t-shirts, hats, and ribbons.

Reagan-Bush vs. Mondale-Ferraro
Two central issues of the 1984 campaign were the economy and national security. Reagan criticized Walter Mondale (Jimmy Carter's former VP) for the high inflation and tax rates under the Carter administration, while Mondale argued that Reagan would also need to raise taxes in order to lower the rising budget deficit. When it came to foreign policy, Reagan's motto was "peace through strength," and he believed Mondale took too weak a stance on national security. 

"May I suggest that those who gave us double-digit inflation, record interest rates, tax increases...they're not exactly experts on the future of growth and fairness in America. I will say, however, their policies were fair. They didn't discriminate; they made everybody miserable." - Reagan's remarks at a rally in Hammonton, NJ. September 19, 1984

President Reagan prepared with his advisors at Camp David prior to the first presidential debate against Mondale. This debate on domestic policy was not an outright success for Reagan; many thought he appeared tired and confused, and he spent much of the time on the defensive.

The second debate, however, went well for Reagan. The candidates argued their positions on national security and foreign policy. At one point the moderator noted the President's age and asked if he had any doubt he could go days with very little sleep if necessary. Reagan garnered laughs from the room, including Mondale, when he answered: "Not at all...and I want you to know that also 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."

This slingshot illustrates how Reagan's supporters viewed Walter Mondale's position on national security versus Ronald Reagan's. A 9-year-old boy sent it to the White House, along with a letter reading, "Dear Pres. Reagan, since you are going to be re-elected in November, I won't need this Mondale National Defence [sic] System that I made. So, I'm sending it to you."

"Whistlestop Tour"
Just as it is today, Ohio was an important swing state in the 1984 presidential race. That October, President Reagan embarked on a "whistlestop" campaign from Dayton to Akron, taking the same train on the same route as Harry S. Truman did in 1948.

Following the same route as Truman in 1948, Reagan's whistlestop tour began in Dayton and he made speeches along the way to Akron.

The Whistlestop Tour ran on a tight schedule - President Reagan gave six short speeches over the course of one day, most delivered from the train.

While on this campaign tour, Reagan often spoke from the Ferdinand Magellan, the same train Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower had used. "I respected Harry Truman's ability to stand for what he believes, his consistency of principles, and his determination to do the right thing. Mr. Truman could also make very plain the differences between himself and an opponent. And that's what I'm going to try to do today." - President Reagan's remarks at a stop in Deshler, Ohio, October 12, 1984

Reagan's speechwriters put a great deal of thought into how each word would be received by the public. This draft of the remarks he gave in Lima, Ohio, was edited by director of speechwriting Ben Elliott.

During this tour through Ohio, Reagan addressed Republicans and Democrats alike, saying in one speech, "I know in a crowd this size there must be many of you who are Democrats, as I once was. And I must say this: You're not only welcome, but if you are here, I think you're here because...you no longer can follow the policies of the leadership of your party."

The 1984 Election Night brought a landslide victory for President Reagan and his administration: he won the electoral vote in every state except Minnesota (Mondale's home state) and Washington, D.C., and garnered 58.8% of the popular vote. He received 525 of 538 electoral votes, the highest total ever awarded to a presidential candidate. And at 73, Reagan remains the oldest person to be elected President of the United States. 

On the last day of President Reagan's 1984 campaign, he made remarks at a rally in Sacramento, CA. Speaking of optimism in America, he said, "All of us together are part of a great revolution, and it's only just begun. America will never give up, never go back - never...Ours is the land of the free because it is the home of the brave."

At the conclusion of his 1984 campaign, Reagan celebrated aboard Air Force One with Nancy Reagan and his staff.

Though the election results brought him an overwhelming victory, President and Nancy Reagan still watched with some suspense at a private dinner with friends in Los Angeles, California.

When results showed that President Reagan was the clear winner of the general election, he received a concession phone call from Walter Mondale.

The newspaper in Ronald Reagan's hometown of Dixon, Illinois, was proud to publish this front page following Reagan's landslide win

"The vision we outlined in 1980, indeed the passion of the fire that we kept burning for two decades, doesn't die just because 4 years have passed. To each one of you I say: Tonight is the end of nothing; it's the beginning of everything." -Remarks at a Re-election Celebration, Los Angeles, CA. November 6, 1984

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The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum

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