Reagan policy style: test public opinion, but guide it if necessary; Reagan had election-eve hostage speech ready

It was a campaign within a campaign -- an elaborately detailed "just in case" contingency plan that would have seen a massive Reagan effort rolled out if President Carter had somehow succeeded in freeing the 52 American hostages before the Nov. 4 election.

A speech had been prepared and a television studio in San Diego reserved for election eve so that, if necessary, Ronald Reagan could go live before a national audience and charge that Mr. Carter had manipulated the hostage crisis for his own political gain.

Plotted in mid-October, when speculation about a pre-election hostage release began to mount, the alternate campaign reflected the concern of Reagan strategists that the return of the hostages could swing 10 percentage points to Carter's share of the vote -- enough to carry the election, Reagan pollster Richard Wirthlin told reporters at a recent breakfast meeting.

"We tried to preempt the 'October surprise' by talking about it," Mr. Wirthlin said, using the term the Reagan camp gave to the possibility of any last-minute revelations about the hostage situation.

"We increased the degree of cynicism [on the part of the voters] about the release," he said.

Wirthlin disclosed that the Reagan campaign conducted 3,000 to 5,000 telephone interviews across the country every night during the final week of the campaign.

By the morning of Sunday, Nov. 2 -- just two days before the election -- Wirthlin said strategists determined the hostages would have no impact on the outcome of the election and "We put our contingency plan o n the shelf. . .."

About these ads
Sponsored Content by LockerDome

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...

Save for later

Save
Cancel

Saved ( of items)

This item has been saved to read later from any device.
Access saved items through your user name at the top of the page.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You reached the limit of 20 saved items.
Please visit following link to manage you saved items.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You have already saved this item.

View Saved Items

OK