A 2004 column by Fergus Cullen of the Union Leader, reposted today, asks the time honored question, “What if Reagan had beaten Ford in ‘76?” Cullen’s piece focuses on Reagan’s near-miss in the
“Reagan's defeat in
Cullen’s automatic assumption that Reagan would have lost to Carter is strange, especially given how close Ford came to defeating Carter while burdened by his Nixon past. As George Will’s column points out, “a change of 12,791 votes in
Getting Reagan four years early would of course have had many benefits. For one, the mental decline that shadowed his second term (clearly the onset of Alzheimer’s, the denials of his retainers notwithstanding) would have been averted if he had been president from 1977 – 1985. For another, the 1979 Iranian revolution likely would have been handled differently. And if one looks at that event as a central one in the rise of political Islamic radicalism, “what a difference” indeed had Reagan defeated Ford.