George H.W. Bush Officially Pulls Out of Presidential Race

In the primary election, Bush focused almost entirely on the Iowa caucuses, while Reagan ran a more traditional campaign.

Bush represented the centrist wing in the GOP, whereas Reagan represented conservatives. Bush famously labeled Reagan's supply side-influenced plans for massive tax cuts "voodoo economics". His strategy proved useful, to some degree, as he won in Iowa with 31.5 percent to Reagan's 29.4 percent. After the win, Bush stated that his campaign was full of momentum, or "Big Mo". As a result of the loss, Reagan replaced his campaign manager, reorganized his staff, and concentrated on the New Hampshire primary. The two men agreed to a debate in the state, organized by the Nashua Telegraph, but paid for by the Reagan campaign. Reagan invited the other four candidates as well, but Bush refused to debate them, and eventually they left. The debate proved to be a pivotal moment in the campaign; when the moderator, John Breene, ordered Reagan's microphone turned off, his angry response, "I am paying for this microphone Mr. Greene", [sic] struck a chord with the public. Bush ended up losing New Hampshire's primary with 23 percent to Reagan's 50 percent. Bush lost most of the remaining primaries as well, and formally dropped out of the race in May of that year.
With his political future seeming dismal, Bush sold his house in Houston and bought his grandfather's estate in Kennebunkport, Maine, known as "Walker's Point". At the Republican Convention, however, Reagan selected Bush as his Vice Presidential nominee, placing him on the winning Republican presidential ticket of 1980.

February 23: Governor Reagan roars back to life in a debate in Nashua, N.H. Governor Reagan and Ambassador Bush are invited to a two-person debate by the Nashua Telegraph. National campaign rules, however, dictate that no third party can sponsor a debate that excludes other Republican primary candidates. To preserve the two-person debate format, the Reagan and Bush campaigns are asked to pay for the event themselves. Bush turns down the offer; Reagan agrees to pay the cost of the event. When in response to criticism for excluding the other candidates, Reagan decides to change the rules, Bush sides with the debate moderator in refusing to include the candidates. When the moderator asks for Reagan's microphone to be turned off as Reagan is laying out his case for including the other candidates, Reagan responds with a line from a movie: "I am paying for this microphone, Mr. Green." Never mind that the moderator's name is Breen, Reagan wins the debate in that moment and goes on to win the New Hampshire primary.

May 26: Bush officially pulls out of the race for the Republican nomination.