Presidential candidate Ronald Reagan lost to incumbent Gerald Ford at the Republican National Convention in 1976.
That defeat led S.C. Republicans who supported Reagan to hold a Republican presidential preference primary for the next election, which would be in 1980.
At the time, Reagan supporters did not know whether Reagan would run again, but the intent was to get the most conservative candidate who would win in a general election, said state Sen. John Courson, a Republican South Carolina delegate at the time.
In 1980, Reagan ultimately won all of South Carolina’s 25 delegates to the national convention with 54 percent of the vote.
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Reagan’s win was significant because two prominent state Republicans – Gov. Jim Edwards and U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond – were supporting Reagan’s opponent John Connally, Courson said.
Thurmond was the gold standard of endorsements, but in the primary he was not, Courson said.
The presidential primary also was a precursor for Republicans becoming the majority party in South Carolina, Courson said.
About this series: The inaugural edition of The State newspaper was published Feb. 18, 1891. In anticipation of the 125th anniversary, the Palmetto section and this section at thestate.com are recounting each day how The State covered newsmakers and events vital to South Carolina’s history.