Monday, August 20, 2007

August 19, 1976:

Ford Nominated, Barely

Besides having the distinction as the only appointed president, Gerald Ford almost had the dubious distinction of being the only sitting 20th-century president to be denied nomination for another term by his own party. The 1976 Republican Convention turned out to be the last one (as yet) to be undecided beforehand by primary elections -- the old-fashioned way, as it were. Ford came to the convention with just enough delegates for the nomination, but his hold on them wasn't iron-clad, and Ronald Reagan was all too keen to pry some of them away from the president.

Reagan and his men couldn't quite overcome the lure of incumbency, however. Ford won the nomination 1187 to 1070 ("Watergate martyr" Elliot L. Richardson got one vote). Had Ford lost, he would have been the first sitting president to lose a nomination contest since President Arthur lost to James G. Blaine in 1884. Other sitting presidents who wanted the nomination but couldn't have it include John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce and Andrew Johnson. In the 20th century, some presidents quit in the face of the possibility of such a defeat -- Harry Truman in 1952 and Lyndon Johnson in 1968.

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