|Reagan With Mondale Before A Debate||Campaign Poster||Four More Years|
1984: The Inevitable
The 1984 election was virtually over before it
began. During his first term, Ronald
Reagan had established himself as one of the most popular leaders of all
time. The chant at the Republican National Convention of "four more
years" would not be denied. After the convention, the President's
Democratic rival, Walter
Mondale, mounted several solid attacks on Reagan's record and apparent lack
of knowledge on certain issues. Reagan simply laughed off the charges and
used his fantastic sense of humor to deflect the criticism. To Mondale's
dismay, it seemed as if nothing could stop another term for the Reagan-Bush
Mondale had survived a tough primary battle. A field of eight had narrowed to three by the spring. There was much interest in the candidacy of Jesse Jackson, but his support eventually dried up. This left Mondale, the consistent front-runner, and underdog Colorado Senator, Gary Hart, to duke it out for the Democratic nomination. In the end, Mondale separated himself with a little humor of his own. When referring to Hart's lack of depth in policy statements, Mondale borrowed a phrase from a Wendy's television commercial as he asked, "Where's the beef ?" The press ran with the story line. Mondale emerged from the huge field as the victor. At the convention, the nominee made big news by selecting a woman as his running mate. Geraldine Ferraro was a bold pick, but never made the impact that was desired by the Mondale. The Mondale humor aided him in the primaries, and his selection for Vice-President was an attention grabber, but he was never a match for Reagan's showmanship in head to head confrontations.
The President used his humor most effectively when Mondale brought up the issue of Reagan's age. Once the President remarked, "I'm afraid the age factor may play a part in this election." After a trademark pause, he added, "Our opponent's ideas are too old." In addition, during the second presidential debate, Reagan was able to gain points with his wit. He teased Mondale by joking, "I will not make age an issue in this campaign. I'm not going to exploit for political purposes my opponents youth and inexperience." Mondale continued to make sound arguments against another Reagan term in office, but they, for the most part, were drowned out by the laughter of an approving public.
The President's 1984 campaign focused on the change in the American attitude since the Carter years. Reagan asked a familiar question: "Are you better off now than you were four years ago?" He used his overwhelming media coverage to present a patriotic image to the public. He made speeches on family values and the renewal of the "American Dream." All of these ideas were present in his effective television ads. The "Morning in America" spots were designed with a feel-good response in mind. Images of weddings, kids at play, and smiling workers built on the hope that Reagan had inspired.
Reagan's popularity, management of the media, and effective advertising was too much for Mondale to overtake. "The Great Communicator" had masterfully shaped an image that was powerful in the television age. November's election brought another landslide victory for Reagan. He won in every state except Mondale's home of Minnesota and the District of Columbia.