Are You Going to Vote in November?

So you think your vote don't count? Read this before you say your vote don't count, then make up your mind.

Ghosts of 1976 in Today's Campaign

by Michael Barone

Looking back over the last 40 years, the presidential

campaign that most closely resembles this year's is the

contest between Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter in 1976.

The Republicans were the incumbent presidential party

that year, as they are now, but the Democrats had a big

advantage in party identification -- on the order of 49

percent to 26 percent then, far more than today.

The Republican president who had been elected and re-

elected in the last two campaigns, Richard Nixon, had

dismal favorability ratings, far lower than George W.

Bush's. His name could scarcely be mentioned at the Re-

publican National Convention. The Democratic nominee was

a little-known outsider, with an appeal that was based

on the idea that he could transcend the nation's racial

divisions. Jimmy Carter, a governor from the Deep South,

had placed a portrait of Martin Luther King Jr. in the

state Capitol in Atlanta.

Ford's political situation then was far more parlous

than McCain's today. An early summer Gallup poll showed

him trailing Carter by 62 percent to 29 percent. He had

barely limped through the primary contests against Ronald

Reagan, who continued his campaign up through the mid-

August national convention. His political ads had been

disastrous, and on Aug. 1 he did not have a general elect-

ion media team in place.

Yet by November, the race was about even. Ford ended up

losing by just 50 percent to 48 percent. A switch of 5,559

votes in Ohio and 3,687 in Hawaii -- 9,247 votes out of 81

million -- would have made Ford president for four more


How this came about is an interesting story, and one of

obvious relevance to the McCain campaign this year. Much

of it is told in a book two copies of which are currently

available new and used on, "We Almost Made It,"

by Malcolm MacDougall -- a professional advertising man,

still active, who had played no significant role in pres-

idential campaigns before 1976 and has not done so since.

MacDougall was brought into the Ford campaign on Aug. 7 (!)

by Douglas Bailey and the late John Deardourff, whose po-

litical advertising firm then worked mostly for liberal

Republicans. Bailey Deardourff produced the national adver-

tising, while MacDougall, headquartered in New York, prepar-

ed the dozens of ads aimed at specific states and regions,

all under the supervision of a former under secretary of

commerce from Texas named James A. Baker III. They almost

pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the history of

American politics.

How did they do it? First, by filling in the blanks on

Gerald Ford. Voters knew that he had pardoned Richard Nixon

and that he tended to bump his head when exiting airplanes.

The Ford ad team told them more -- how he had grown up in

Middle America, played football for the University of Mich-

igan (the name of the team was omitted in ads aired in Ohio)

and served in the military in World War II. There's an

assumption this year that voters know John McCain pretty

well. But my sense is that there is still a lot of filling

in the blanks that the McCain campaign can do.

Second, they filled in the blanks on Jimmy Carter. Most

voters wanted to support a Democrat, and one who had

smoothed over the nation's racial divisions -- as they do

today. The press up through early summer was giving him

mostly adulatory coverage. But voters didn't know much about

Carter. He made, as most candidates do -- and as Obama seems

to be doing now -- some mistakes along the way.

The Ford ad team honed in on his record, with man-on-the-

street ads, some filmed on the streets of Atlanta. It was

risky, going against the grain of public opinion. But the

Ford campaign persisted, and it worked. The McCain campaign

needs to take the same risk and to persist in the face of

media disapproval.

Finally, the Ford campaign altered the mood of the nation.

Voters then, as now, thought the nation was off on the

wrong track. The Ford campaign, with a catchy song, "I'm

Feeling Good About America," and upbeat ads starting off

with shots of Air Force One, argued that their candidate

was leading the nation around the corner, making Americans

feel proud again. The McCain campaign needs to do something

similar, to argue that their candidate can help the nation

turn the corner and lead us into better times.

Exactly how they can do this I'm not sure. They might give

Doug Bailey, Mal MacDougall or Jim Baker a call.

18 Answers

  • Nana64
    Lv 5
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Very interesting, thank you. Jimmy Carter turned out to be the absolutely worst president in modern history. Even taking into account the disastrous end to Nixon's presidency, he had more successes than Carter. The Carter years brought us double digit inflation, higher gas prices (when adjusted for inflation) than even today, a weakened military, and our citizens held hostage by Iran while JC stood by helplessly. The shame and regret that I carry to this day is that I was foolish enough to vote for him. No, my one vote in Alabama wouldn't have made a difference on his election, but it sure made a difference to me.

    I will, without a doubt, vote for McCain. But, I realize that he is facing an uphill battle against the same ignorance that I was guilty of in Nov 1975. John McCain has a track record of reaching across party lines to get things accomplished; I have no doubt that he is quite capable of leading our country, I just hope that the fact that he is a gentleman doesn't get in the way of him winning.

    One of the respondents, Retired, "hates long questions" - this is the segment of voters that really scares me; don't confuse them with facts that they may have to actually digest, just give them a snappy sound bite and they are happy.

    McCain '08

  • 5 years ago

    I am a registered voter for my state. I voted in the Primary Election. I will vote in November. I do not know, for certain, for whom I will vote in the Presidential Election.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Lovely example, but it's the exception. There are some very real cases where a vote doesn't count. For example, my vote in this election. I live in Chicago, IL. The state will go Democratic, obviously, as it's Obama's home and consistently a Democratic stronghold. Does it matter who I vote for? The delegates are already going to Obama.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Vote McCain in 08

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  • 1 decade ago

    McCains adds are bad. We need to be showing Obama flip flopping- saying the surge isn't working- then it is- saying he is against gun rights- then saying he is for them etc. There are so many of these that it could take us through November! McCain needs some new people doing his advertising!

    Source(s): McCain08
  • 1 decade ago

    I am going to vote.. whether I will write in Hillary's name.. make a complete change and vote reluctantly for McCain.. or what, I don't know.. all I know is that I will not vote for Obama.. he is a fake and a neophyte.. he is not ready or able to be president despite what the American paparazzi says. We have no real news organizations anymore.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Too bad this article addresses situations before electronic voting, the elimination of paper trails in many places, and people like Katherine Harris who removed people from voting lists.

  • ATP
    Lv 4
    1 decade ago

    Thanks for the fact. But sorry I can't vote because I am too young. I hope I was a little older so I can help elect McCain to be president.

    Source(s): Every one who can vote: VOTE MCCAIN.
  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Yes, and I will go to every nursing home around praising McCain and helping the eldery vote too!

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    You bet I am...for Obama

    Democrats "08"

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