Reagan again announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination in November 1979. While competition for the nomination was fierce—he was up against six other candidates, including former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director George H. W. Bush—Reagan now had the political track record and public support he needed to stand out.
Reagan’s tremendous backing from conservatives grew when he campaigned on promises to lower taxes, boost military spending, and decrease the size of the Federal Government. In fact, most expected Reagan to be the Republican nominee—that is, until George H. W. Bush defeated him in the 1980 Iowa caucuses.
Bush was a formidable opponent; beyond his role as Director of the CIA, Bush had served in Congress and had more foreign affairs experience. Additionally, Bush was significantly younger than Reagan. Some voters wondered if Reagan, then 69 years old, was simply too old to serve as Commander in Chief.
The Iowa results, though jarring, did not sway Reagan’s resolve. He launched an aggressive, nonstop campaign in New Hampshire for 21 days, inspiring the electorate with his trademark speeches and clever, down-to-earth personality. His superior oratorical skills stood out during debates with the other candidates, and Reagan was soon back on track.
Reagan won the New Hampshire primary and ultimately secured the Republican Presidential nomination. Acknowledging his former opponent’s complementary strengths, Reagan chose George H. W. Bush as his running mate.