Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford Join the Ticket for the 1976 Republican Presidential Primaries

In 1976, Reagan challenged incumbent President Gerald Ford in a bid to become the Republican Party's candidate for president.

Reagan soon established himself as the conservative candidate with the support of like-minded organizations such as the American Conservative Union which became key components of his political base, while President Ford was considered a more moderate Republican.

Reagan's campaign relied on a strategy crafted by campaign manager John Sears of winning a few primaries early to seriously damage the lift-off of Ford's campaign. Reagan won North Carolina, Texas, and California, but the strategy disintegrated and he ended up losing New Hampshire and Florida. As the party's convention neared, Ford appeared close to victory. Acknowledging his party's moderate wing, Reagan chose moderate Republican Senator Richard Schweiker of Pennsylvania as his running mate. Nonetheless, Ford narrowly won with 1,187 delegates to Reagan's 1,070.

Reagan's concession speech emphasized the dangers of nuclear war and the threat posed by the Soviet Union. Though he lost the nomination, he received 307 write-in votes in New Hampshire, 388 votes as an Independent on Wyoming's ballot, and a single electoral vote from a Washington State "faithless elector" in the November election, which Ford lost to Democratic challenger Jimmy Carter.