Alternative History
‹ 1980 United States Presidential Election of 1984 (Liberia, USA) 1988 › ›
United States presidential election, 1984
November 6, 1984
Ronald Reagan Walter Mondale
Nominee Ronald Reagan Walter Mondale
Party Republican Democratic
Home state California Minnesota
Running mate George H. W. Bush Henry Cisneros
Electoral vote 515 30
States carried 48 3 + D.C.
Popular vote ??? ???
Percentage 56.0% 43.4%
President before election
Ronald Reagan
Elected President
Ronald Reagan

The United States presidential election of 1984 was a contest between the incumbent President Reagan, the Republican candidate, and former Vice President Walter Mondale, the Democratic candidate. Reagan was helped by a strong economic recovery from the deep recession of 1981–1982. Reagan carried 48 of the 51 states. Mondale's electoral votes came from his home state of Minnesota, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and the District of Columbia, all of which have been states with more liberal tendencies. Reagan's 515 electoral votes (out of 545) is the most electoral votes received by a presidential candidate. In the national popular vote, Reagan received 56.0% to Mondale's 43.4%.

Republican party nomination[]


  • Ronald Reagan, President of the United States from California
  • Harold Stassen, former U.S. governor of Minnesota
  • Ben Fernandez, Republican National Hispanic Assembly Chairman from California


Ronald Reagan—the incumbent president—was the assured nominee for the Republican Party. The popular vote from the Republican primaries was as follows:

  • Ronald Reagan (inc.): 6,484,987 (98.78%)
  • Unpledged delegates: 55,458 (0.85%)
  • Harold Stassen: 12,749 (0.19%)
  • Benjamin Fernandez: 202 (0.00%)

Reagan was renominated by a vote of 2,233 (two delegates abstained). For the only time in American history, the vice presidential roll call was taken concurrently with the presidential roll call. Vice President George H. W. Bush was overwhelmingly renominated. This was the last time in the 20th century that the Vice Presidential candidate of either major party was nominated by roll call vote.

Democratic party nomination[]


  • Walter Mondale, former U.S. vice president and former U.S. senator from Minnesota
  • Gary Hart, U.S. senator from Colorado
  • Jesse Jackson, reverend and civil rights activist from Illinois
  • John Glenn, U.S. senator from Ohio
  • George McGovern, former U.S. senator from South Dakota
  • Reubin Askew, former Governor of Florida
  • Alan Cranston, U.S. senator from California
  • Ernest Hollings, U.S. senator from South Carolina


Only three Democratic candidates won any state primaries: Mondale, Hart, and Jackson. Former Vice-President Mondale was initially viewed as the favorite to win the Democratic nomination. Mondale had the largest number of party leaders supporting him, and he had raised more money than any other candidate. However, both Jackson and Hart emerged as surprising, and troublesome, opponents.

South Carolina Senator Ernest Hollings' wit and experience, as well as his call for a budget freeze, won him some positive attention, but his relatively conservative record alienated liberal Democrats, and he was never really noticed in a field dominated by Walter Mondale, John Glenn and Gary Hart. Hollings dropped out two days after losing badly in New Hampshire, and endorsed Hart a week later. His disdain for his competitors sometimes showed. He notably referred to Mondale as a "lapdog" and to former Astronaut Glenn as "Sky King" who was "confused in his capsule.

Jackson was the second African-American (after Shirley Chisholm) to mount a nationwide campaign for the presidency, and he was the first African-American candidate to be a serious contender. He got 3.5 million votes during the primaries, third behind Hart and Mondale. He won the primaries in Virginia, South Carolina, and Louisiana, and split Mississippi, where there were two separate contests for Democratic delegates. Through the primaries, Jackson helped confirm the black electorate's importance to the Democratic Party in the South at the time. During the campaign, however, Jackson made an off-the-cuff reference to Jews as "Hymies" and New York City as "Hymietown", for which he later apologized. Nonetheless, the remark was widely publicized, and derailed his campaign for the nomination. Jackson ended up winning 21% of the national primary vote but received only 8% of the delegates to the national convention, and he initially charged that his campaign was hurt by the same party rules that allowed Mondale to win. He also poured scorn on Mondale, saying that Hubert Humphrey was the "last significant politician out of the St. Paul-Minneapolis" area.

Hart of Colorado was a more serious threat to Mondale, and after winning several early primaries it looked as if he might take the nomination away from Mondale. Hart criticized Mondale as an "old-fashioned" New Deal Democrat who symbolized "failed policies" of the past. Hart positioned himself as a younger, fresher, and more moderate Democrat who could appeal to younger voters. He emerged as a formidable candidate, winning the key New Hampshire, Ohio, and California primaries as well as several others, especially in the West. However, Hart could not overcome Mondale's financial and organizational advantages, especially among labor union leaders in the Midwest and industrial Northeast.

Hart was also badly hurt in a televised debate with Mondale during the primaries, when the former vice president used a popular television commercial slogan to ridicule Hart's vague "New Ideas" platform. Turning to Hart on camera, Mondale told Hart that whenever he heard Hart talk about his "New Ideas", he was reminded of the Wendy's fast-food slogan "Where's the beef?". The remark drew loud laughter and applause from the viewing audience and caught Hart off-guard. Hart never fully recovered from Mondale's charge that his "New Ideas" were shallow and lacking in specifics.

At a roundtable debate between the three remaining Democratic candidates moderated by Phil Donahue, Mondale and Hart got in such a heated argument over the issue of U.S. policy in Central America that Jackson had to tap his water glass on the table to help get them to stop.

Mondale gradually pulled away from Hart in the delegate count, but, as Time reported in late May, "Mondale ... has a wide lead in total delegates (1,564 to 941) ... because of his victories in the big industrial states, his support from the Democratic Establishment and the arcane provisions of delegate-selection rules that his vanguard helped draft two years ago." After the final primary in California, on June 5, which Hart won, Mondale was about 40 delegates short of the total he needed for the nomination. However, at the Democratic National Convention in San Francisco on July 16, Mondale received the overwhelming support of the unelected superdelegates from the party establishment to win the nomination.

After Mondale's loss to Reagan in the general election in November 1984, Hart quickly emerged as the frontrunner for the Democratic Party's 1988 presidential nomination. He maintained that lead until a sex scandal derailed his candidacy in 1987.

Vice-Presidential nominee[]

Mondale chose San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros of Texas as his running mate and he was confirmed by acclamation, making him the first hispanic nominated for that position by a major party.

Aides later said that Mondale was determined to establish a precedent with his vice presidential candidate, considering San Francisco Mayor (Later U.S. Senator) Dianne Feinstein and Governor of Kentucky Martha Layne Collins, who were both women; Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, an African American; and New York Representative Geraldine Ferraro, a women, as other finalists for the nomination. Unsuccessful nomination candidate Jackson derided Mondale's vice-presidential screening process as a "P.R. parade of personalities", however he praised Mondale for his choice, having pledged, himself, to name an hispanic man to the ticket in the event he was nominated.

Others however preferred Senator Lloyd Bentsen because he would appeal to more conservative Southern voters. Nomination rival Gary Hart had also been lobbying for the vice-presidential spot on the ticket once it became apparent that Mondale had clinched the majority of delegates; Hart's supporters claimed he would do better than Mondale against President Reagan, an argument undercut by a June 1984 Gallup poll that showed that Hart was behind the President by nine points as Mondale was only seven points behind.

General campaign[]


Mondale ran a liberal campaign, supporting a nuclear freeze and the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). He spoke against what he considered to be unfairness in Reagan's economic policies and the need to reduce federal budget deficits.

At a campaign stop in Hammonton, New Jersey, Reagan said, "America's future rests in a thousand dreams inside your hearts. It rests in the message of hope in songs of a man so many young Americans admire, New Jersey's Bruce Springsteen." The Reagan campaign briefly used "Born in the U.S.A.", a song criticizing the treatment of Vietnam War veterans (which they mistakenly thought was devoid of anti-war content), as a campaign song, without permission, until Springsteen, a lifelong Democrat, insisted that they stop.

The Reagan campaign was very skilled at producing effective television advertising. Two of the more memorable ads it produced were commonly known as "Bear in the woods" and "Morning in America".

By 1984, Reagan was the oldest president to have ever served, and there were many questions about his capacity to endure the grueling demands of the presidency, particularly after Reagan had a poor showing in his first debate with Mondale on October 7. He referred to having started going to church "here in Washington", although the debate was in Louisville, Kentucky, referred to military uniforms as "wardrobe," and admitted to being "confused," among other mistakes. However, in the next debate on October 21, Reagan effectively neutralized the issue by quipping, "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."


Results by state[]

# State Winner Delegates
1 Washington Reagan / Bush 10
2 Oregon Reagan / Bush 7
3 California Reagan / Bush 47
4 Arizona Reagan / Bush 7
5 Nevada Reagan / Bush 4
6 New Mexico Reagan / Bush 5
7 Colorado Reagan / Bush 8
8 Utah Reagan / Bush 5
9 Idaho Reagan / Bush 4
10 Montana Reagan / Bush 3
11 Wyoming Reagan / Bush 3
12 North Dakota Reagan / Bush 3
13 South Dakota Reagan / Bush 3
14 Nebraska Reagan / Bush 5
15 Kansas Reagan / Bush 7
16 Oklahoma Reagan / Bush 8
17 Texas Reagan / Bush 29
18 Louisiana Reagan / Bush 10
19 Arkansas Reagan / Bush 6
20 Mississippi Reagan / Bush 7
21 Alabama Reagan / Bush 9
22 Georgia Reagan / Bush 12
23 Florida Reagan / Bush 21
24 South Carolina Reagan / Bush 8
25 North Carolina Reagan / Bush 13
26 Virginia Reagan / Bush 12
27 Tennessee Reagan / Bush 11
28 Kentucky Reagan / Bush 9
29 West Virginia Reagan / Bush 6
30 Ohio Reagan / Bush 23
31 Indiana Reagan / Bush 12
32 Illinois Reagan / Bush 24
33 Michigan Reagan / Bush 20
34 Wisconsin Reagan / Bush 11
35 Minnesota Mondale / Cisneros 10
36 Iowa Reagan / Bush 8
37 Maine Reagan / Bush 4
38 Vermont Reagan / Bush 3
39 New Hampshire Reagan / Bush 4
40 Massachusetts Mondale / Cisneros 13
41 Rhode Island Mondale / Cisneros 4
42 Connecticut Reagan / Bush 8
43 New York Reagan / Bush 36
44 Pennsylvania Reagan / Bush 25
45 New Jersey Reagan / Bush 16
46 Delaware Reagan / Bush 3
47 Maryland Reagan / Bush 10
48 Missouri Reagan / Bush 11
49 Alaska Reagan / Bush 3
50 Hawaii Reagan / Bush 4
51 Washington D.C. Mondale / Cisneros 3
52 Puerto Rico Reagan / Bush 7
Total 545