The 1976 US presidential election was contested between incumbent President Gerald R. Ford of the Republican Party, and Jimmy Carter of the Democratic Party. The election came two years after the resignation of Richard Nixon, which saw Ford ascend to the presidency in 1974, in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal. Following the resignation of Nixon's running mate, Spiro Agnew (who resigned as part of a corruption scandal relating to illegal activities while he was Governor of Maryland, and was not implicated in the Watergate scandal), Ford ascended to the vice presidency under the 25th Amendment in 1973, making him the only President in US history who was not elected to national office.
Carter was the unexpected victor in the Democratic Primary, and was relatively unknown outside of Virginia at the beginning of the race. Carter used his position as a centrist and Washington outsider to his advantage in the wake of the Watergate scandal, which garnered him a lot of support from disenfranchised supporters on both sides. Carter's Democratic opponents eventually cancelled one another out, with Carter eventually emerging as the winner and as the favorite to take the presidency. President Ford however faced some stiff competition from future President Ronald Reagan, who Ford defeated narrowly in the first Republican Primary. Although Carter was the favorite going into the race, Ford was able to use his position as commander-in-chief to present himself as an experienced statesman, overseeing the United States Bicentennial celebrations two hundred years after the nation's independence. Carter claimed to be "untainted" by corruption in Washington DC, while Ford, despite having nothing to do with Watergate, was seen as having close ties to Nixon's corruption. Ford's presidential pardon of Nixon, and his refusal to explain this decision also damaged his reputation going into the race, however polls were relatively even come election day.
Carter carried 23 states and Washington DC, while Ford won a majority in 27 states (the most ever by a losing candidate), however Carter's states gave him over 55 percent of the electoral vote, making him the 39th President of the United States. In the popular vote, Carter won just over fifty percent of the vote, while Ford took 48 percent. The remainder of the popular votes were split among numerous third party candidates, with the independent Eugene J. McCarthy (who was also a former Democratic vice presidential nominee) taking the largest share of these votes. One faithless elector from Washington state cast an electoral vote for Ronald Reagan.
Share of electoral college* and popular votes** in the 48th US presidential election in 1976
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ProCon. (June 30, 2011). Share of electoral college* and popular votes** in the 48th US presidential election in 1976 [Graph]. In Statista. Retrieved January 22, 2022, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/1056672/distribution-votes-1976-us-presidential-election/
ProCon. "Share of electoral college* and popular votes** in the 48th US presidential election in 1976." Chart. June 30, 2011. Statista. Accessed January 22, 2022. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1056672/distribution-votes-1976-us-presidential-election/
ProCon. (2011). Share of electoral college* and popular votes** in the 48th US presidential election in 1976. Statista. Statista Inc.. Accessed: January 22, 2022. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1056672/distribution-votes-1976-us-presidential-election/
ProCon. "Share of Electoral College* and Popular Votes** in The 48th Us Presidential Election in 1976." Statista, Statista Inc., 30 Jun 2011, https://www.statista.com/statistics/1056672/distribution-votes-1976-us-presidential-election/
ProCon, Share of electoral college* and popular votes** in the 48th US presidential election in 1976 Statista, https://www.statista.com/statistics/1056672/distribution-votes-1976-us-presidential-election/ (last visited January 22, 2022)