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1984 Reagan vs. Mondale

By the time the 1984 election came around, the issues that had worried the people during the 1980 election, had all but gone away. The stagflation that had persisted throughout the 70’s, and the economic recession that hit in 1981, were both overcome and President Reagan was being looked at favorably by the public. Former Vice President Walter Mondale would challenge Reagan, running a campaign that would attack the economic policies of the incumbent, would prove to not be a successful strategy. Walter Mondale would garner just 13 electoral votes, which is the second fewest electoral votes ever received by a second-place candidate, and President Reagan would ride comfortable into a second term. 

The advertising campaign that the Reagan campaign utilized during the 1984 election, was perhaps one of the most memorable in history. In commercials titled “Morning in America”, the Reagan team would target the hearts of middle America by showing images and sharing facts about people going to work to show the viability of the economy. Imaging like this in campaign adds would be used by countless candidates for years to come, showing just how popular and effective the ads were. One cause that the Reagan administration would be sympathetic to, was drug use. Prior to the 1984 election season, First Lady Nancy Reagan would spearhead a movement and a phrase that would become very memorable, the “Just Say No” movement. The war on drugs was a very important topic to many Americans at the time, making the “Just Say Movement” incredibly popular.

Popular culture would again cross into the Reagan campaign in a very humorous and interesting way. Originally, the Reagan campaign would select the Bruce Springsteen hit “Born in the USA” as the official song for the campaign. The only issue with this was that the campaign had not asked for permission to use the song. Little did Reagan know, Springsteen was a lifelong democrat who was not a fan of President Reagan, and requested that the campaign immediately cease and desist using his song for the campaign.

It would be another debate moment from the 1984 election would become one of the more well-known moments in presidential election history. Mondale was constantly attacking the age of President Reagan during the campaign. At 73, Reagan was the oldest person to hold the office, and Reagan was beginning to potentially show his age as he would incorrectly remember facts during debates. All of this would prompt a debate moderator to ask Reagan if age was an issue in the election, to which Reagan would respond “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.” This line is still one of the more commonly known moments in debate history.

Walter Mondale’s campaign for President in 1984 was very unique for one reason and that was who he would select as his running mate. Geraldine Ferraro would be selected as the first female vice presidential candidate of a major party in history. On this fact alone, the Mondale campaign of 1984 will forever be remembered in popular culture, but there were also other memorable moments.

The first moment would actually come during a debate in primary season. While debating Colorado Senator Gary Hart, Mondale became fed up with the “new ideas’ line the Hart was constantly using throughout his campaign because he felt that there was no substance to what Hart was saying. This doubt would prompt Mondale to say “When I hear your new ideas, I’m reminded of the ad, ‘Where’s the Beef?’”, which was a popular slogan used by the fast food chain Wendy’s at the time. Mondale’s nickname would also make its way into the popular culture of the time, as evidence by the Reagan campaign button titled “Fritz Busters” which was a play on the 1984 box office hit Ghostbusters using Mondale’s nickname “Fritz”.

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