CRAIG SHIRLEY (AUTHOR, REAGANS REVOLUTION: THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE CAMPAIGN THAT STARTED IT ALL): If you were a Reagan person, then Ford was the enemy. And if you were a Ford person, then Reagan was the enemy. Nobody was unsure in 1976.
CONVENTIONAL WISDOMTHE POWER OF THE DELEGATE: 1976
ARCHIVAL (NBC NEWS, 3-10-75):ANCHOR: Although theres a Republican in the White House, this is a season of discontent for many members of the Grand Old Party. Many of its conservatives regard President Ford as far too liberal.
ARCHIVAL (CBS NEWS, 1-6-75):REPORTER: If the party were to turn to you in 1976, would you be available?PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: Anyone who is approached by his fellow citizens in a call to duty would have to give serious consideration.
STUART SPENCER (CAMPAIGN MANAGER, FORD 1976): Ronald Reagan in 76, owned the soul of the Republican Party, theres no doubt about that. Not the practical side but the soul.
CRAIG SHIRLEY: The party establishment viewed him as a yahoo from California just an actor lost without his 3×5 cards or without a teleprompter. The populist conservative base loved Ronald Reagan.
CHARLIE BLACK (MIDWEST FIELD DIRECTOR, REAGAN 1976): When we came out of the primaries, Reagan was behind Ford, in terms of our delegate count. But Ford was short of the majority, so it was going to be a contest all the way through the convention.
ARCHIVAL (CBS NEWS, 6-23-76): ANCHOR: President Ford and Ronald Reagan are so close in their search for Republican delegates that the so-called uncommitted delegate is taking on the stature of a president-maker.
ARCHIVAL (CBS NEWS, 6-23-76):MAN: Our vote may count. Our vote may be important.
ARCHIVAL (CBS NEWS, 6-23-76):TOXEY HALL SMITH: One hand you get presidential pictures, on the other one you get Hollywood pictures.
STUART SPENCER: The profile of a delegate is: theyre emotionally charged usually, theyre ideological people, and a lot of them are crazy. We had to keep track of those folks and say where they were, keep them happy, babysit them.
CRAIG SHIRLEY: The Ford forces control the Republican National Committee. So, the Ford delegates got the nicest hotels. The Reagan delegates got assigned to hotels as far as 70 miles away. The Ford delegates got to sit up front at the convention hall, the Reagan delegates were seated at the back.
CHARLIE BLACK: We were down there working people one at a time, one on one trying to get people to join our team.
CRAIG SHIRLEY: There was a tremendous youth outpouring for Ronald Reagan.
ARCHIVAL (ABC NEWS, 8-16-76):NEWS REPORT: Theres nothing like the enthusiasm of youth to spark up a candidate.
CRAIG SHIRLEY: So whenever President Ford made a live appearance, my wife was one of those young presidentials to make sure that America, the world, saw that he was being warmly greeted by all these young people.
CHARLIE BLACK: I had one lady who was a delegate from the city of Philadelphia, who wanted to support Reagan but, of course, she was getting all kinds of pressure from all the other party leaders. So I tried to talk to her, like, once an hour, if I could, to try to keep her. They managed to get a guy who looked like a defensive lineman for the Philadelphia Eagles to sit at the end of the row. When Id want to get by him to get in there and talk to her, he just looked straight ahead, stone faced, and I never could get to her.
CRAIG SHIRLEY: Vice President Nelson Rockefeller gets involved in this melee on the floor of the convention. A delegate is holding up a Reagan sign. The Vice President rips it out of his hand, and starts to tear it apart. So another Reagan delegate reaches for the command phone connected to the convention managers for Gerald Ford, and he rips the cord out of its base and so Rockefeller is photographed holding a torn apart phone.
STUART SPENCER: The thing that I feared the most in Kansas City was the platform. Its like you got a matchbook and you got gasoline sitting there. If you throw a match on it, youve got emotions that just start going crazy.
ARCHIVAL (CBS NEWS, 8-13-76):LESLEY STAHL: The Ford strategists say their aim was to do what was necessary to prevent floor fights, and to convince the conservatives that Mr. Ford is a candidate they can support.
STUART SPENCER: Reagan thought we werent tough enough on Russia, the Panama Canal situation, giving it back to the Panamanians. So I just told my people, Give them anything they want.
ARCHIVAL (FILM ARCHIVES, 1976):SENATOR PAUL LAXALT: Im here proudly to nominate Ronald Reagan for the office of the President of the United States.
ARCHIVAL (FILM ARCHIVES, 1976):GOVERNOR WILLIAM MILLIKEN: For the presidency of the United States of America, the name of Gerald R. Ford.
STUART SPENCER: If youre the sitting incumbent president and you come into a convention and you cant get the votes on the first ballot, youre going to start going downhill.
ARCHIVAL (FILM ARCHIVES 1976):REPRESENTATIVE JOHN RHODES (CONVENTION CHAIRMAN): The state of West Virginia proudly presents 20 votes for Gerald R. Ford. The chair declares that the nominee of this convention for the presidency of the United States is Gerald R. Ford.
STUART SPENCER: My emotion was pure relief.
CRAIG SHIRLEY: Ford knows hes the nominee of a broken, divided party. Hes got to unify the party. The quickest, best way to do so is to have Ronald Reagan come down to the podium and say a few words and try to heal this thing. Reagan is waving, shaking his head no. He believes that the spoils go to the victor, that its Gerald Fords night, plus the animosity runs very, very deep between Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan. On the other hand, Reagan is a party man. And he knows that if hes got any future with the Republican party, hes going to have to go down.
ARCHIVAL (RONALD REAGAN PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY):PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: I believe that the Republican party has a platform that is a banner of bold, unmistakeable colors with no pale pastel shades.
CRAIG SHIRLEY: And, of course, he does, and gives this brilliant speech, which actually is the first step on the way to winning the nomination in 1980.
ARCHIVAL (RONALD REAGAN PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY):PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: We must go forth from here united, determined that what a great general said a few years ago is true: There is no substitute for victory.
CRAIG SHIRLEY: Forty years ago, the delegates had the power. Network television covered it all. Millions of people were watching. There were fights over rules. There were fights over planks. Over the years, convention coverage has been shrunk to nothing because the power has moved from the delegates to the consultants. The consultants have driven the drama and the fights out of these conventions. This year youre going to see the re-emergence of the delegate as a player, not necessarily in who the nominee is going to be, but in the direction of the party, and in the issues of the party.