No Holding Back The 1980 John B. Anderson Presidential Campaign


No Holding Back: the 1980 John B. Anderson Presidential Campaign is a book of 450 pages in length, divided into eleven chapters.

Chapter One is a short introductory chapter that begins with a scene of an Anderson speech in Rhinelander, Wisconsin as he begins assessing his future in politics in the face of his failing GOP nomination campaign.

Chapter Two describes Anderson’s upbringing and schooling in Rockford, Illinois; his races for State’s Attorney in 1956 and for his congressional seat in 1960; his career in Congress, including his work for civil rights, and on energy and environmental legislation; his conflicts with Richard Nixon; his roles in Watergate and Vietnam; his rise in the Republican leadership; his slow evolution from Midwestern conservative to moderate during his twenty year career in Washington, and the problems it caused in his home district; and, the resulting 1978 Congressional renomination campaign against the Reverend Don Lyon, which was strongly negative and very contentious.

Chapter Three describes the Carter presidency and the problems he faced as he reached the end of 1979.  It opens with background information on Carter, describes his 1976 campaign and victory, and recounts the events of the first three years of his presidency: the Panama Canal treaty, the increasing energy crisis, the worsening economy, the Camp David accords, the unusual July 1979 meetings at Camp David and the resulting ‘malaise’ speech, the Ted Kennedy challenge to his renomination, the embassy takeover and hostage crisis in Iran, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Chapter Four describes the origins of Anderson’s presidential campaign, beginning with the memos that were written to him by former staff member Paul Henry that proposed the idea.  It examines the initial reaction in Rockford as he tried to raise seed money, his political travels in 1978 as he tried to gauge whether he would add something worthwhile to the campaign, and the reaction to his exploratory campaign.  His efforts in 1978 met with little enthusiasm, and for a time a reluctant Anderson strongly considered switching to a Senate race.  After his campaign manager accused Anderson of “going through the motions,” he said Anderson did not have the so-called “fire in the belly” for a race and told him he was resigning. Days later, Anderson announced he would indeed run.  The chapter also describes some of the great hurdles Anderson would face: a crowded field of better-known, better-funded contenders, a moderate in an increasingly conservative party, the difficulties of running for president as a House member, and the challenges he would face commanding equitable media attention.

Chapter Five describes the Anderson campaign in 1979.  It includes his announcement speech in June, his poor fund-raising, his status at the bottom of the polls, and his inability to build a strong campaign organization.  By November, the situation was so dire that an increasingly embarrassed Anderson briefly considered dropping out of the race.  But, inexplicably, there was a recovery in the final six weeks of the year, as he garnered more national media attention and television exposure, he introduced congressional legislation for his 50 cent per gallon gas tax plan, Ted Kennedy began to fall in stature (which benefited Anderson among liberal voters), his increase in financial support which allowed him to meet federal matching fund requirements, and the refinement of Anderson’s skills on the campaign trail and his message to voters.  The chapter also tracks the 1979 developments of his GOP nomination rivals.

Chapter Six describes the events in the campaign during the first nine weeks of 1980, including: the Iowa debate and the Bush upset of Reagan in the caucuses, the New Hampshire campaign and the fallout from the famous Reagan-Bush showdown in Nashua, and the thinning of the field following the Massachusetts and South Carolina primaries.  It also covers developments in the Anderson campaign, such as the upsurge in interest in him after the Iowa debates, the decision to make two more changes in campaign managers, Anderson’s dramatic improvement in his financial situation through direct mail fund raising, his appearance at the gun owner’s forum in New Hampshire, and the positive print and electronic coverage of his campaign.  The chapter ends with his two near victories in New England.

Chapter Seven describes how the Anderson campaign expanded following the results in New England, the polls that showed Anderson running ahead in Illinois, the influence of the influx of campaign money, the showdown with Ronald Reagan in his home state, and his defeat there.  Next, it covers Anderson’s minimal effort in Connecticut and his loss there, and the subsequent Wisconsin campaign and defeat. During this period, the idea of an independent candidacy was increasingly urged upon Anderson and the investigation of how a candidacy could be put together was made.  Lastly, the efforts by Republicans to keep Anderson in the GOP are discussed as well as Anderson’s thought process in making the decision.

Chapter Eight describes the early independent campaign during the three months of April through June: Anderson’s announcement and the public reaction, his hiring of famed media consultant David Garth, the rebuilding and expansion of his campaign team, his travel to kick off the ballot access drives in states across the country, the success of those drives, and the rise of Anderson to 26% in the polls by mid-June.  It also covers the problems that developed behind the scenes in the Anderson campaign: the conflicts between staffers hired for the independent phase and those who remained from the early period, the difficulties in keeping the “Anderson difference” theme, the decision to adopt a low profile, non-controversial strategy during the ballot access phase, and changes in the tone of his press coverage.

Chapter Nine describes the developments in the Anderson campaign in July and August: his issues trip to the Middle East and Europe, the developments during the two major party conventions, his problems finding a formidable running mate, his disastrous meeting with Ted Kennedy, his abrupt fall in the polls, and his consideration of once again dropping out of the race.  The chapter ends as the campaign bounces back: Anderson reshuffles his staff and puts Garth in charge of the Washington headquarters, his decision to pick former Wisconsin Governor Pat Lucey as his running mate, the release of his comprehensive platform, and his decision to challenge the Federal Election Commission over prospective funding for his campaign.

Chapter Ten begins with Anderson’s recovery continuing after Labor Day: his victory in his FEC funding case, his winning the endorsement and ballot line of the Liberal Party in New York, his certification for his fiftieth state ballot, and his qualification for the League of Women Voter’s debate. The chapter also includes the controversy over that debate, the decision of Carter to not appear, and his nationally televised forum with Reagan.  Following that event, Anderson’s campaign begins to fade as the League reneged on its commitment and dropped him from future debates in an effort to stage a major party-only forum.  It examines Anderson’s activities in the final three weeks of the campaign, the Carter campaign’s actions to accelerate his fall, and his final 7 percent result.

Chapter Eleven reviews the reasons for Anderson’s defeat in his independent campaign, examines what his legacy in American politics is, and outlines some of his activities in the years that followed his campaign.

No Holding Back: the 1980 John B. Anderson Presidential Campaign contains several political cartoons, a photo section with shots from the campaign, many discursive footnotes, and a campaign timeline.

To read a sample chapter: click here.

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