After fierce competition from George Bush, former film star and governor of California Ronald Reagan became the Republican presidential candidate. He then put personal differences aside and made the surprise choice of Bush as running mate. Incumbent President Jimmy Carter was struggling with a poor economic climate and decreasing popularity. His main Democratic candidacy opponent was Senator Ted Kennedy, but his liberal views and involvement in the Chappaquiddick Island incident damaged voters’ trust. Carter beat Kennedy at an acrimonious Democratic convention to become presidential candidate. With inflation, unemployment and international relations (particularly with Iran and the Soviet Union) as the key issues, Carter attempted to portray Reagan as extremist and reactionary. In the one and only television debate, however, Reagan appealed to voters with a calm, moderate and appealing personality. Reagan won with a staggering 489 of the electoral votes – unusually winning in all areas of the country – and just over half of the popular vote.
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