(51.) JAMES EARL (JIMMY) CARTER JR. (1924- )
Democrat Carter/Walter Mondale
Defeated by Republican Ronald Reagan/George H. W. Bush, 1980

Jimmy Carter, 39th president of the United States, sought reelection in 1980. Surmounting opposition from Senator Ted Kennedy from Massachusetts, Carter gained the Democratic nomination. In the general election he opposed the conservative Republican Ronald Reagan, former governor of California, and Independent Congressman John Anderson of Illinois, self-styled middle-of-the-roader.

Carter’s term in the White House had climaxed a political career beginning with election to the Georgia Senate in 1962. Losing a race for Congress in 1966, he was elected governor in 1970. By the end of his term in 1974, Carter was running for president. In spite of his governorship, this son of a peanut farmer-businessman, Naval Academy graduate and nuclear physicist from Plains, Georgia, was relatively unknown. People asked, “Jimmy Who?” Waging a persistent campaign, Carter narrowly defeated incumbent Gerald Ford in 1976.

Rising inflation, a crisis over release of U. S. hostages held in Iran, voter uncertainty over his foreign policy linked to human rights, questionable business practices and international political involvement by members of his family and some of his friends, combined with his failure to grasp the reins of leadership—all led to his defeat.

In an overwhelming landslide, voters denied Jimmy Carter a second term and elected Ronald Reagan.