The 1984 U.S. presidential election was a contest between incumbent Republican President Ronald Reagan and former Vice President to Jimmy Carter Democrat Walter Mondale. President Reagan, who was already popular amongst Americans, faced no opposition and easily won the Republican nomination.
The Democratic primaries were much more competitive, with Mondale facing a former governor, a former senator, and four incumbent senators. Senator John Glenn of Ohio was seen as Mondale’s biggest competitor until Glenn was forced to drop out relatively early in the campaign. Gary Hart of Colorado was Mondale’s next-biggest challenge. Mondale went after Hart’s claim to be the candidate of “new ideas” by stating that they lack substance. Mondale edged his way to the nomination.
Mondale chose Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate, making her the first woman to be selected for a presidential ticket by a major political party. While this initially worked in Mondale’s favor, controversy arose amid the financial issues of Ferraro and her husband. Mondale further hurt his campaign by promising to raise taxes to cut the Reagan deficit, a move that helped Republicans paint the Democrats as “tax-and-spend liberals.”
Democrats could not pin charges to Reagan, as alleged misbehavior by Reagan aides and Reagan’s close ties with aggressive fundamentalist groups failed to put a damper on his reputation. Mondale waited for a huge mistake on Reagan’s part that he could use in the debates, but the mistake never came. Additionally, Reagan had the backing of a strong economy that recovered from a recession in 1981 to 1982.
President Reagan won the following states in the 1984 election:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Walter Mondale won the following states in the 1984 election:
President Reagan received 54,455,000 popular votes in the election, while Mondale received 37,577,000 votes. Reagan’s margin of popular votes over Mondale was 17 million, the second-largest margin in history. This led to the electoral landslide of 525-13 that was only second to Franklin Roosevelt’s victory over Alf Landon in 1936 of 523-8. Walter Mondale carried only the District of Columbia and his home state of Minnesota, where he only won the vote by 0.2% (3,800 votes). Reagan won almost every demographic group except African Americans.