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Ford, Reagan Meet at 1:30 a.m. On Heels of President’s Victory

DATE OF EVENT: Thursday, Aug. 19, 1976

DATE PUBLISHED: Thursday, Aug. 19, 1976, in The Kansas City Times

Editor’s note: When the Republican National Convention met at Kemper Arena to choose a presidential ticket in 1976, President Gerald Ford faced a challenge within his own party. California Gov. Ronald Reagan challenged Ford all the way to the Kemper Arena floor, with hours of demonstrations postponing nominations. Ford narrowly won by 117 votes. He then surprised the nation by naming Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas as his vice presidential choice, replacing Nelson Rockefeller (see that story below). Ford would lose the general election to former Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter. Reagan would be elected to two terms in the White House. Dole would seek the presidency three times without success.

Gerald R. Ford won the Republican nomination for President early this morning on a 1,187-to-1,070 vote at a tumultuous convention session in Kemper Arena where the persistent challenge of Ronald Reagan was consigned to history.

The alphabetical role call of states reached West Virginia — only three states from the bottom — before Ford had the 1,130 votes needed. Wisconsin cast 45 Ford votes to give the president his comfortable if not spectacular lead.

Balloting began three hours behind schedule because of the frequent and prolonged demonstrations during a long evening that pushed the proceedings past coveted prime time television. Virginia slowed the tallying by asking that its 51 delegates be polled individually.

When West Virginia touched off the last demonstration, Ford led 1,135 to 1,060. Ford trailed throughout the roll call until New York was reached and pushed him into the lead with its 133-to-20 votes plus one vote for Commerce Secretary Elliot Richardson. Illinois recorded the one abstention.

The West Virginia vote came at exactly 12:30 a.m. …

The warm night in Kemper Arena at the fourth session of the Republican National Convention began with Ford confidently awaiting victory at his headquarters in Crown Center.

Missouri and Kansas split as predicted with Kansas voting 30 to 4 in support of Ford and the host state giving Reagan a 31-to-18 vote…

With the closest Republican contest in 24 years settled, the Republican National Convention today awaits word from the President on whom he wants nominated tonight as a running mate. The G.O.P. ticket will then appear before the concluding convention session tonight to make acceptance speeches as a prelude to the election campaign.

Reagan, fighting valiantly to the end in pursuit of delegates, saw his campaign finish as it began —tied to hopes for a miracle. The emotional outbursts last night in one time-consuming demonstration after another showed that the Californian had won the hearts of half of those Republicans assembled here.

Ford, handicapped by the way he became President, had won the other half, to leave the Grand Old Party facing a major task of healing its wounds from the nomination battle before the nation votes on a new chief executive in only 76 days. …

Demonstrations for nominees — hallmark of American political conventions — were limited to 15 minutes for each candidate. Democrats have abandoned the aisle-clogging spectacles but Republicans last night continued the practice without any thought to whether the emotional displays would change delegate votes.

An hour after the convention opened a demonstration began for no obvious reason. Ford and Reagan delegates were on their feet, waving signs, cheering and blowing horns. …

Some of the signs in the audience tonight read “Retire Kissingersky Tonight,” “Ford — a peanut stopper,” “Bedtime for Bonzo, Ronnie” and “One Schweik and you’re out, Ronnie Baby.”…

DATE OF EVENT: Thursday, Aug. 19, 1976

DATE PUBLISHED: Thursday, Aug. 19, 1976, in The Kansas City Star

Dole of Kansas Is Ford’s Choice

Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas today was named the Republican vice-presidential candidate by President Gerald R. Ford. Dole’s selection was a complete surprise to almost all those who had speculated about the choice. …

Ford called his announcement of Dole a “very great occasion” and added, “I am really thrilled with the opportunity of having Bob Dole as my running mate.”

He listed his reasons for choosing Dole, and they sounded like a list for any vice-presidential nominee. But Ford said Dole measured up to the list without exception.

The most important qualifications, Ford said, were Dole’s ability as a campaigner and his compatibility with Ford philosophically.

Interestingly, throughout this week Lyn Nofziger, Ronald Reagan’s convention manager, has been joshing Dole about leaving the Ford campaign to sign up with Reagan. Nofziger kept offering the vice-presidency, telling Dole that Ford was not offering a thing. Today the joke was on Nofziger…

For Dole, his selection had to be the closest thing to a dream-come-true that any small-town Kansan could ever think of.

The native of Russell, in the western part of the Sunflower state, has had a steady climb up the political ladder. But few political observers — if any save but the senator’s biggest boosters in Kansas — ever mentioned the ruggedly handsome, 53-year-old Dole when discussing political leaders for the nation…