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In 1980, President Carter was vulnerable amid Americans’ frustration with a nationwide fuel shortage, an anemic economy, runaway inflation, and skyrocketing interest rates. In the wake of his 1976 primary challenge to President Ford, Governor Ronald Reagan of California again sought out after the Republican presidential nomination -- and though he was the favorite, Reagan wasn’t alone. The crowded field comprised seven other candidates, among them the relatively unknown George H.W. Bush.

Although Bush ran a spirited campaign, Reagan’s popularity and name recognition were too much to overcome. In May 1980, shortly before the Republican National Convention, Bush suspended his campaign, essentially dropping out of the race. Reagan, the nominee-to-be, had noticed the fervor and tenacity with which Bush had campaigned, and moments before he gave his acceptance speech at the GOP’s Detroit convention, he placed a telephone call to Bush. “Hello, George, this is Ron Reagan,” he said. “I’d like to go over to the convention and announce that you’re my choice for vice president … if that’s alright with you.”

Bush accepted, and he and Reagan formed a ticket that seemed all but unbeatable. Reagan-Bush ’80 was a political juggernaut, defeating Carter by almost 8.5 million votes. In January 1981, Reagan and Bush were sworn in to office on the west steps of the Capitol, and George and Barbara moved to their new home, the Naval Observatory, the official residence of the vice president.

The honeymoon days of the Reagan administration were cut short on March 30, 1981, however. President Reagan gave a speech at the Hilton hotel in Washington that day, and as he exited the building, a lone gunman opened fire on the president and his entourage.

Reagan recovered from the shooting, and the American economy seemed to recover along with him. By 1984 the Reagan-Bush re-election campaign was in full swing, proclaiming that it was “Morning in America.” They bested Democratic challengers Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro by an even wider margin than they had won the 1980 election.

By 1988, Bush was the frontrunner for the Republican nomination for president, and after winning a spirited primary he chose Senator Dan Quayle of Indiana to join the ticket. The Democrats, meanwhile, had nominated Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts, who chose as his vice presidential nominee Senator Lloyd Bentsen of Texas — the man who defeated Bush in 1970. Come November, the Bush-Quayle ticket’s victory was decisive. They garnered 54 percent of the popular vote and won all but a handful of states.

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