1980 United States presidential election
The 1980 United States presidential election was the 49th quadrennial presidential election. It was held on Tuesday, November 4, 1980. Republican nominee Ronald Reagan defeated incumbent Democrat Jimmy Carter in a landslide victory. This was the second consecutive election in which the incumbent president was defeated after Carter himself defeated Gerald Ford four years earlier in 1976. Additionally, it was only the second time, and the first in nearly 100 years that a Republican candidate defeated an incumbent Democrat. Due to the rise of conservatism following Reagan's victory, some historians consider the election to be a political realignment that marked the start of the Reagan Era.
Carter's unpopularity and poor relations with Democratic leaders encouraged an intra-party challenge by Senator Ted Kennedy, a younger brother of former President John F. Kennedy. Carter defeated Kennedy in the majority of the Democratic primaries, but Kennedy remained in the race until Carter was officially nominated at the 1980 Democratic National Convention. The Republican primaries were contested between Reagan, who had previously served as the Governor of California, former Congressman George H. W. Bush of Texas, Congressman John B. Anderson of Illinois, and several other candidates. All of Reagan's opponents had dropped out by the end of the primaries, and the 1980 Republican National Convention nominated a ticket consisting of Reagan and Bush. Anderson entered the race as an independent candidate, and convinced former Wisconsin Governor Patrick Lucey, a Democrat, to serve as his running mate.
Reagan campaigned for increased defense spending, implementation of supply-side economic policies, and a balanced budget. His campaign was aided by Democratic dissatisfaction with Carter, the Iran hostage crisis, and a worsening economy at home marked by high unemployment and inflation. Carter attacked Reagan as a dangerous right-wing extremist and warned that Reagan would cut Medicare and Social Security.
Reagan won the election by a landslide, taking a large majority of the electoral vote and 50.7% of the popular vote. Reagan received the highest number of electoral votes ever won by a non-incumbent presidential candidate. In the simultaneous Congressional elections, Republicans won control of the United States Senate for the first time since 1955. Carter won 41% of the vote but carried just six states and Washington, D.C. Anderson won 6.6% of the popular vote, and he performed best among liberal Republican voters dissatisfied with Reagan. Reagan, then 69, was the oldest person to ever be elected to a first term until Donald Trump was elected president in 2016 at the age of 70. As of 2016, this is the last time an incumbent president was defeated by an older challenger.