The Failing Popularity of Jimmy Carter

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Jimmy Carter was inaugurated on January 20, 1977 and became America's 39th president. Carter was elected largely due to a backlash vote caused by a widespread rejection of perceived corruption in the Republican Party. Carter, swept into office as a populist candidate, was plagued by numerous difficulties both at home and abroad.


Divisions in the Democratic Party arose over the direction of domestic policy and split party unity. A divisive Democratic primary between Carter and challenger Ted Kennedy (Dem, MA.) left the campaign in disarray. According to Hamilton Jordan, Carter's chief political advisor, the Democratic outlook was "...not enhanced or strengthened by the contest, but damaged severely" (qtd. in Biven). Yet, against this backdrop of failure and frustration, even darker clouds had gathered. By July 1980, Carter's approval rating had dropped to 21%, lower than Richard Nixon's at the time of his resignation. This dramatic drop was precipitated by two key events. America's runaway inflation and the Iran hostage ordeal had taken a heavy toll on America's confidence in the Carter presidency.
There is an old political saying that says Americans vote with their pocketbooks. This was certainly true in the 1980 reelection bid of Jimmy Carter. Rampant inflation had severely reduced wage earners purchasing power throughout the Carter years. Carter opposed Gerald Ford in the presidential race of 1976 during one of our history's greatest economic slumps. During the campaign Carter had criticized Ford for his inability to deal with inflation and unemployment. ...
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