Speaking in a national telecast from the Oval Office on January 29, President Ronald Reagan formally announced his candidacy for the presidency in 1984. This announcement did not come as a surprise; Reagan had already approved the formation of a reelection committee. The most recent Gallup poll showed that Reagan had a 54% job approval rating. With his 73rd birthday coming February 6, Reagan was the oldest person to have been president.
President Announces He Will Seek Reelection
President Reagan formally announced his candidacy for reelection Jan. 29.
In a paid political telecast from the Oval Office, the President said "Vice President Bush and I would like to have your continued support and cooperation in completing what we began three years ago."
When he took office, he said, "our national defenses were dangerously weak. We had suffered humiliation in Iran. And at home we were adrift, possibly because of a failure here in Washington to trust the courage and character of you, the people."
"But worst of all," the President continued, "we were on the brink of economic collapse from years of government over-indulgence and abusive overtaxation."
But now, "America is back and standing tall," Reagan said in repeating a theme of his State of the Union address Jan. 25.
"But our work is not finished," Reagan said. "We have more to do in creating jobs, achieving control over government spending, returning more autonomy to the states, keeping peace in a more settled world and seeing if we can't find room in our schools for God."
"We have made a new beginning," he said in seeking support for a second term. ". . . Thank you for the trust you have placed in me."
Reagan, whose 73rd birthday was Feb. 6, would be seeking office as the oldest person to have held the presidency.
The most recent national poll rating found Reagan riding a crest of popularity. A mid-January survey by Gallup Poll available Jan. 29 showed that 54% of the respondents approved Reagan's handling of his presidential duties, almost identical to the findings for the month before.
Reagan went on the attack even before his official entry into the campaign. In a political appearance in Atlanta Jan. 26--the trip was paid for by his reelection committee--Reagan defended himself against criticism that his policies were unfair to the poor and the average citizen. The only thing fair about "policies of the past," he said, was that "they didn't discriminate, they made everyone miserable."
The President made the remarks at a "Spirit of America" rally sponsored by business and civic interests.
At a second rally in Atlanta that day, a regional meeting of Republican leaders, Reagan attacked Democratic presidential candidates for "trying to buy support by telling people what the country will do for them and making promises to interest groups."
Referring to the recent debate by the Democrats in New Hampshire, Reagan said, "There were so many candidates on the platform, there weren't enough promises to go around."
© 2003 Facts On File News Services
Vol. 123, No. 6, 6 February 1984
An Interview with President Reagan
Ronald Reagan was exceedingly cheerful when asked, two days before his Sunday-night announcement that he would seek a second term, to discuss his decision and his agenda for the next four years. The President joked at one point that he was so apprehensive about leaks that he did not even tell his diary the day he and Nancy Reagan firmly made up their minds. He allowed his conversation with TIME White House Correspondents Laurence I. Barrett and Douglas Brew to run overtime in order to elaborate on subjects important to him. Highlights of the interview:
Q. When did you decide?
A. Only recently. I actually held off as long as I could, not only in the announcement but in actually approaching the decision. I Just felt that there were so many things going on that I did not want to put myself in the frame of mind where I might be shading my decisions with political considerations.
Q. Did you consult with any advisers or just with Mrs. Reagan?
A. The only person I talked it over with at all was Nancy, because we do everything together. And it would be, I think, impossible for either one of us to go off on our own, make some decision and just tell the other about it after the fact.
Q. There were a lot of stories to the effect that Mrs. Reagan was reluctant to go through another campaign. Can you tell us whether you had to persuade her?
A. No. Our thinking kind of tracks together. You can dread something or you can think back to unpleasant features in previous campaigns and hope against hope that those things won't happen again. But we both knew it was a decision that had to be made.
Q. Did you have any reservations, long to go back to California, want to get out from the burdens of this office?
A. There's no question about my love for California and the life we lead when we're there. But on the other hand...there's a desire to see things through, not to duck and run just because the load is heavy.
Q. What would your two or three highest priorities be in the second term?
A. The economic recovery -- which means getting back to a situation in which this Government spends within its means. [We need] a recovery that isn't like the several we've had since World War II, in which we are off on wrong economic policies that get us into trouble. And then we artificially stimulate the economy to get out of that particular trouble, but lay the foundation for another recession two or three years down the road. On the international scene, I think that we've made great progress. I would like to see us continue until there is a feeling that we have peace throughout the world, that we have reduced the danger brought about by the excessive armaments in the world. I would hope in going down that path we could see an end to nuclear weapons.
Q. People are worried that you still might get us into a war somehow. How do you account for this attitude?
A. Could I say bluntly that I think those who for political reasons profit by that misperception about me maybe have more access to media channels than we do. It isn't true. We are safer, we are stronger, and peace is more assured today than it has been in recent years....
Q. Aren't there other elements in this business of your being perceived as reckless overseas? We do have troops in Lebanon, and you have been much tougher than your immediate predecessor, at least in foreign affairs.
A. Not being strong, and not even having the means to be strong, which was true of us in the past, led to someone taking advantage to the point that whether we wanted it or not, we were in a war. Would World War II have occurred if the people of Europe and the people of England had listened to Churchill instead of ignoring him until it was too late?....
Q. What are your reflections about the job? Is there anything different you would have done to prepare yourself for this job?
A. I never in my wildest dreams ever aspired to public service. I loved the world that I was in, the entertainment world. So the very fact that I'd been blessed with some success and could attract an audience, I thought that it was only right that I should use that in behalf of causes that I believed in. So, I don't know what I could have done differently. In fact I'm not sure that people really do plan or should plan to go into public office. Maybe it's better to simply achieve something and [let] your neighbors tell you whether you should serve them....
Vol. 96, No. 5, 6 February 1984
As President Reagan started his quest for a second term, both he and his rivals could find comfort in the public opinion polls.
When asked, Americans consistently are expressing a liking for the President, but they also are quick to turn thumbs down on many of his policies--
Reagan gets high marks for how well he does his job in general, with two polls showing approval by 57 percent of persons asked. ABC-Washington Post, CBS-New York Times.
The big federal deficits caused him trouble, with 72 percent of the people who are polled convinced that the budget will not be balanced if he is reelected. Louis Harris.
Many are unhappy with the administration's Lebanon policy. Some 58 percent want U.S. Marines withdrawn from Beirut immediately. NBC News.
Sixty-one percent say they are afraid that Reagan will get the country into a war. Louis Harris.
Fifty-two percent of people polled in Iowa approve of the President's performance in office. But only 18 percent think that his policies have reduced the chances of the U.S. getting into a shooting war. Iowa Poll.
The polls also furnish a variety of answers to the No. 1 question in politics: Who's ahead? --
One survey finds Reagan in a dead heat when matched against either of the two leading Democratic contenders, Walter Mondale or John Glenn. Reagan gets 45 percent of the vote to 45 for either of the Democrats, with 10 percent undecided. Gallup Poll.
Another reading shows the President leading Mondale 51 to 44 percent and ahead of Glenn 52 to 43 percent, with the rest undecided. Louis Harris.
A third sampling has Reagan way ahead of either Democrat -- 48 to 32 percent over Mondale and 51 to 29 over Glenn. CBS-New York Times.
Why such big differences from one poll to another? A lot depends, pollsters say, on the sequence in which questions are posed. Reagan does best if persons first are asked whether they prefer him over one of the Democrats. He does not do as well when the first questions involve issues instead of candidates.
Pollster Louis Harris concluded that Reagan "has polarized the nation more than anyone since Franklin Roosevelt." Added Harris: "This looks to me to be very close -- a 50-50 election."
St. Louis, MO, 29 January 1984, Editorial
Would President Reagan book just five minutes of nationally televised air time tonight if his message to the people is that he intends to call it quits after one term? Obviously not. No actor worth his salt would consider playing so brief a farewell scene.
....If Mr. Reagan had intended to announce that he would retire, he would have been able to point to a term of substantial domestic accomplishments. True to his campaign promises, he has dramatically slowed the pace of government spending. From a 14 percent increase in his first year, the growth in federal outlays has been reduced to 7.4 percent estimated for this fiscal year. And true to his word, he has reduced the burden of federal taxes -- the more so for the rich than for those of average incomes, to be sure -- and he has hacked relentlessly away at those programs that he uses to characterize the worst in big government: health care, food stamps, welfare, school lunches, employment and so forth. As he said he would, he has drastically increased the Pentagon's share of national resources.
In the realm of foreign affairs, however, Mr. Reagan's three years have been almost void of positive achievements....
It is this combination of domestic triumphs and foreign policy failures, we would submit, that provides the logic for Mr. Reagan to seek re-election.
Mr. Reagan has reversed a half-century's trend toward a greater federal role in the nation's life. But the ominous shadow of the deficit casts doubt on the lasting nature of the recovery -- and on the validity of his policies. Reaganomics would quickly disappear with a Democrat in the White House, but it could well be dismantled even if another Republican became president. Mr. Reagan's triumphs cannot be consolidated unless he is re-elected. Without a second term, he is likely to become an aberration in our political history, not the creator of a new era.
That fact is even starker in foreign affairs, where the absence of success testifies to the lack of coherent policy and unifying vision. The end of any policy is progress along the lines of national interest. Mr. Reagan cannot point to any such movement. Four more years, in short, offer him the only hope of rescuing himself from the failures of his first term.
Boston, Mass., 31 January 1984, Editorial
President Reagan returns to the campaign trail for reelection with a number of achievements to run on.
His leadership style, the vigor of his actions, and the tenacity of his views have enabled him to set the Washington agenda to a degree not seen since the mid-1960s, when the decline in the public's confidence in its leaders began.
President Gerald Ford had brought a healing sense of goodwill back to a Washington embittered and saddened by Watergate. Given a little more time in the campaign, he might have been reelected. Jimmy Carter proved that someone from the Deep South could become president, which helped put behind old regional grievances. But he showed an intensity, a relentless grindstone quality, that was unfortunately not matched by effectiveness. Carter's most singular achievement, the Camp David accords, was offset in the public view when Congress ignored him outright on energy and SALT II, and when Iran strung out the hostage drama.
Mr. Reagan has looked comfortable with himself and the office. This was welcome to Americans, who don't like to see their top executive burdened by the job. Reagan's bouyancy after the early assassination attempt won him wide respect. In his holding off pressures from inside his own camp, as well as from without, on a range of issues from his initial tax-cut plan to his posture toward Soviet expansionism, he has clearly shwon he makes his own decisions.
....Politically, the melding of the Ford-moderate and Reagan-conservative wings of the party under Reagan's leadership has worked rather well. Reagan signaled his wish to get on with the moderates by considering Gerald Ford as a running mate, and then accepting George Bush as his vice-president. Some of the ablest talents of the two wings were brought into the 1980 campaign and into the White House. They are working again in tandem for his 1984 campaign. When one considers the harsh intraparty GOP fights of recent decades, Reagan's achievement in securing a relative truce should be acknowledged.
Then there's the recovery, the low rate of inflation, and declining unemployment. The whys and whithers of current economic trends will be debated during the campaign. But at the outset of the official GOP entry, his claim that "America is back" finds many Americans nodding in agreement about domestic confidence.
Abroad, Mr. Reagan's own people express reservations about the immediate returns from his more assertive, force-based diplomacy. They look to a second term to show results. They argue that a stronger America is a safer America. The Democrats already emphasize what they call resurgent war fears about Reagan....
To the degree that he has fulfilled a major portion of his 1980 pledges -- to reverse federal spending priorities from social programs to defense, to fight regulation, to use the presidential bully pulpit to highlight issues like school prayer and abortion -- Mr. Reagan has clearly earned the right to seek his party's nomination again.
....Reagan's announcement brings a certitude about the American election that was lacking before. The Soviets must now t hink back over their negotiating strategy. The Democrats' opposition is now clearly defined. Republican troops across the nation have had their election juices primed. The contest has been officially joined.
Phoenix, AZ, 31 January 1984, Editorial
This year's presidential election will be a plebiscite on Ronald Reagan.
Issues will count, of course. Reagan's economic philosophy and his foreign policy will be debated hotly and endlessly.
However, the overriding issue will be Reagan himself.
On this issue, Reagan is launching his campaign with several tremendous advantages.
Voters like him. Even those who disagree with him on just about everything tell pollsters: "Yes, I like the guy."
And Reagan has two qualities that also characterized a man he admired greatly, Franklin D. Roosevelt: He looks at the future with boundless optimism, and he always seems to know where he's going, even when he may not.
None of the eight Democratic hopefuls is unlikable, but none has a personality as infectious as Reagan's. And none has that indefinable something that makes people recognize a man as a leader.
Reagan is entering the campaign with certain drawbacks, too.
When he talks about the Soviet threat, his rhetoric sometimes runs away with him, and he arouses fear in many that he's itching to start World War III. This is nonsense, of course, but the impression does exist.
It especially exists among women, who have another negative feeling about him. Many feel that his manner toward women is condescending. His appointments belie this, but again it's a matter of rhetoric.
The most frequently voiced criticism in a recent New York Times-CNS poll is that he is "for the rich."
All in all, with Reagan himself the issue, the advantages of his personality and manner far outweigh the disadvantages.
However, it's still nine months to election day. Something could happen at home or abroad that could make foreign policy or domestic policy the primary issue.
Unemployment is really not a major issue now, but suppose, as a result of the huge federal deficit, interest rates shot up, bringing capital investment to a halt, especially in the homebuilding industry. Reagan's optimism, so encouraging at present, would look ridiculous. The sense that he knows where he's going would evaporate....
Or suppose that another disaster were to befall the Marines in Lebanon....
As things stand now, none of the Democratic hopefuls is a match for Reagan, man against man -- and the Democrats know it. What the Democrats are praying for is that something turns up that puts Reagan on the defensive....