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United States presidential election, 1984
November 6, 1984
Ronald Reagan Waltermondale
Nominee Ronald Reagan Walter Mondale
Party Republican Democratic
Home state California Minnesota
Running mate George H. W. Bush Geraldine Ferraro
Electoral vote 535 3
States carried 50 D.C.
Popular vote “57,367,897” 34,634,212
Percentage 62.4% 37.6%
1984 Presidential Election (John Glenn)
Presidential election results map. Red denotes states won by Reagan/Bush (50), Blue denotes those won by Mondale/Ferraro (D.C.).
President before election
Ronald Reagan
Elected President
Ronald Reagan

The United States presidential election of 1984 was a contest between the incumbent President Ronald Reagan, the Republican candidate, and former Vice President Walter Mondale, the Democratic candidate. Reagan was helped by a strong economic recovery from the deep recession of 1981-1982. Reagan carried 49 of the 50 states, becoming only the second presidential candidate to do so after Richard Nixon's victory in the 1972 presidential election. Mondale's only electoral votes came from his home state of Minnesota which he won by fewer than 3,800 votes and the District of Columbia, which has always been considered a Democratic guarantee. Reagan's 525 electoral votes (out of 538) is the highest total ever received by a presidential candidate. Mondale's 13 electoral votes is also the 2nd-least ever received by a second-place candidate, second only to Alf Landon's 8 in 1936. In the national popular vote, Reagan received 58.8% to Mondale's 40.6%.


Republican Party candidates

Republican Party (United States) presidential primaries, 1984

  • Ronald Reagan, President of the United States from California
  • Harold Stassen, former governor of Minnesota
  • Ben Fernandez, Republican National Hispanic Assembly Chairman from California

Candidates gallery


Ronald Reagan—the incumbent president—was the assured nominee for the Republican Party. 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 (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.

The Balloting
Presidential Ballot Vice Presidential Ballot
Ronald Reagan 2,233 George H. W. Bush 2,231
Abstaining 2 Abstaining 2
Jack Kemp 1
Jeane Kirkpatrick 1

Democratic Party candidates

  • Walter Mondale, former U.S. vice president and former U.S. senator from Minnesota
  • John Glenn, U.S. senator from Ohio
  • Jesse Jackson, reverend and civil rights activist from Illinois
  • Gary Hart, U.S. senator from Colorado
  • George McGovern, former U.S. senator from South Dakota
  • Reubin Askew, former Governor of Florida
  • Alan Cranston, U.S. senator from California
  • Ernest Hollings, U.S. senator from South Carolina

Candidates gallery


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. But, after Kennedy ultimately declined 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' 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 Glenn a week later. His disdain for his competitors sometimes showed. He notably referred to Mondale as a "lapdog" and to former Astronaut Glenn as "Sky King" who was "confused in his capsule."

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 Jews 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.

John Glenn of Ohio 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. Glenn criticized Mondale, comparing him to the McGovern of the 1972 Presidential Election. He emerged as a formidable candidate, winning the key New Hampshire, Ohio, and California primaries as well as several others, especially in the West and parts of the South. However, Glenn could not overcome Mondale's financial and organizational advantages, especially among labor union leaders in the Midwest and industrial Northeast.

Glenn managed to also capture the imagination of the new generation on his proposed policy of reinvigorating NASA. His expansion included renewed missions to the Moon, a Lunar Outpost, and manned missions to Mars and Venus. While the response was positive to what was now called the “Glenn Initiative”, it did not give Glenn the support he had hoped.

At a roundtable debate between the three remaining Democratic candidates moderated by Phil Donahue, Mondale and Glenn got in 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 Glenn in the delegate count, but, as Time reported in late May, "Mondale ... has a sizable lead in total delegates ... 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 short of the total delegates he needed to win the nomination. However, at the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco on July 16, Mondale received the overwhelming support of the unelected superdelegates from the party establishment, narrowly giving him the required majority to win the nomination, despite having lost the popular vote within the primaries to Glenn by a sizable margin.

This race for the nomination was the closest in two generations, and it has been the most recent occasion that a major party presidential nomination has gone all the way to the convention.

After Mondale's loss to Reagan in the general election in November 1984, Glenn quickly emerged as the frontrunner for the Democratic Party's 1988 presidential nomination, though he did not commit himself until ’86. Glenn would go on to defeat Reagan’s Vice President, George H. W. Bush in ’88.


Notable endorsements during the primaries included:

Walter Mondale

  • Former President Jimmy Carter of Georgia
  • Representative Tom Harkin of Iowa
  • Representative Charles B. Rangel of New York
  • Representative Jim Bates of California
  • Representative Rick Boucherof Virginia

Gary Hart

  • Representative Henry A. Waxman of California
  • Representative Chuck Schumer of New York
  • Actor and Director Warren Beatty

Jesse Jackson

  • Mayor Marion Barry of Washington, D.C.
  • Former Governor Orval E. Faubus of Arkansas
  • Muhammad Ali

John Glenn

  • Senator Paul Tsongas of Massachusetts
  • Senator Sam Nunn of Georgia* Lieutenant Governor Bill Baxley of Alabama
  • Senator Jim Sasser of Tennessee
  • Governor Chuck Robb of Virginia

Reubin Askew

  • Governor Bob Graham of Florida


These were the convention's nomination tally:

The Balloting
Presidential Ballot Vice Presidential Ballot
Walter F. Mondale 1,981 Geraldine A. Ferraro 3,920
John H. Glenn1,453 Shirley Chisholm 3
Jesse L. Jackson 425
Thomas F. Eagleton 18
George S. McGovern 4
Joe Biden 1
Lane Kirkland 1

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 taxes as a discussion point likely damaged his electoral chances.

Vice-Presidential nominee

Mondale chose U.S. Rep. Geraldine A. Ferraro of New York as his running mate and she was confirmed by acclamation, making her the first woman nominated for that position by a major party.

Aides later said that Mondale was determined to establish a precedent with his vice presidential candidate, considering San Francisco Mayor (Later U.S. Senator) Dianne Feinstein and Governor of Kentucky Martha Layne Collins, who were also female; Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, an African American; and San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros, a Hispanic, as other finalists for the nomination. Unsuccessful nomination candidate Jackson derided Mondale's vice-presidential screening process as a "P.R. parade of personalities", however he praised Mondale for his choice, having pledged, himself, to name a woman to the ticket in the event he was nominated.

Others however preferred Senator Lloyd Bentsen because he would appeal to more conservative Southern voters. After the delegates had voted, Glenn was supposed to endorse Mondale, as requested by the Democratic National Committee. However, during his speech, instead of endorsing him, Glenn said,

“I ask my supporters to do only one thing, vote for the man you think would run this country the best. Do base your decision on what they say, or what they do, but on their actions. If those actions represent what you believe in, then you’ve found your president.”

Many believe that last quote was in fact an endorsement of incumbent President Reagan, but Glenn never actually campaigned for him during the election. However, he has at the same time never directly answered the question when it is put to him.

Ferraro, as a Catholic, came under fire from some members of the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church for being pro-choice on abortion. Further controversy erupted over statements regarding the release of her husband John Zaccaro's tax returns.

Other parties

David Bergland was the nominee of the Libertarian Party. His running mate was James A. Lewis. The Bergland-Lewis ticket appeared on 39 state ballots.

The Communist Party USA ran Gus Hall and Angela Davis.

General election


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 deficits.

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), 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".

By 1984, Reagan was the oldest president to have ever served, and there were many 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. However, in the next debate on October 21, Reagan effectively neutralized the issue by quipping, "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."


Reagan was re-elected following the November 6 election in an electoral and popular vote landslide, winning all 50 states. Reagan won a record 535 electoral votes total (of 538 possible), and received 62 percent of the popular vote. Mondale's 3 electoral college votes (The District of Columbia) marked the lowest total of any major Presidential candidate. Mondale's defeat was also the worst for any Democratic Party candidate in U.S. history in the Electoral College, though others, including George McGovern, John W. Davis, and James M. Cox, did worse in the popular vote.

Psephologists pointed to "Reagan Democrats" — millions of Democrats who voted for Reagan. They characterized such Reagan Democrats as southern whites and northern blue collar workers who voted for Reagan because they credited him with the economic boom, 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.

As of 2008, the 1984 election was the last time that a Republican presidential candidate won the states of Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington and Wisconsin.

Close states

Margin of victory less than 5%

  1. Minnesota, 3.18%