The Dream Will Never Die: The Presidency of Edward Moore Kennedy
January 20, 1981 – December 21, 1981
January 20, 1981 – December 21, 1981
POD: November 1979: When asked by Roger Mudd why he’s running for President, Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy replied, “Because we can’t let the dream die, Roger. We’ve watched politicians come and go but they never do anything, they never accomplish anything. As President I’m going to push for a reinvigorated America.”
December 1, 1979: Ted Kennedy continues a massive lead over President Carter and capitalizes on the momentum, launching a tour of the nation. He continues to attack President Carter on numerous issues and grows his lead even further.
December 8, 1979: Using his momentum to his advantage Kennedy is able to go after the Republican field, calling them unprepared to be President. Kennedy’s stump speeches contain inspirational tones and rhetoric such as, “the time is now to do as my brother said, to pass that torch!” and “we cannot let our cause end, we cannot let the dream die, we cannot let a Republican take the White House in November of next year, and if we nominate President Carter we might as well let one of the Republicans move in their bags!”
December 16, 1979: Senator Ted Kennedy held a 54-27 lead over President Jimmy Carter.
December 20, 1979: In the Republican Primaries Ronald Reagan is fighting against George Bush to win the nomination. Moderates tend to support the Bush campaign while Reagan is hoping to attract more conservative voters. The Republican race is going to be a nail-biter while the Democratic race looks like a shoe-in for the Massachusetts Senator.
December 25, 1979: Senator Kennedy celebrates Christmas with his family in Hyannis Port before appearing for an interview where he said the “President should just drop out now.”
January 18, 1980: Senator Ted Kennedy and President Jimmy Carter met for a primary debate, televised live to a national audience. Senator Kennedy attacked the Carter record and insisted that the President tell the people the truth about the Iranian Hostage situation. “Now, President Carter, is the time for leadership, but we’re not getting that from you.”
January 21, 1980: Senator Ted Kennedy manages to edge out a win in the Iowa Caucuses, a major blow to the Carter campaign. With the thought of Kennedy being the Democratic Nominee, Republicans are positioning themselves behind Bush to attract more moderates in the General Election. Bush won the Republican Iowa Caucuses.
January 22, 1980: George Bush wins the Hawaii Republican Caucuses and is well on his way to securing the Republican Party Presidential Nomination.
February 2, 1980: Former California Governor Ronald Reagan was successful in the Arkansas Caucuses.
February 10, 1980: Senator Kennedy is upset by President Carter as Carter wins the Maine Caucuses.
February 23, 1980: George Bush agrees to the debate hosted by Ronald Reagan. When Bush arrived he noticed that the other minor candidates were there, something he was not previously aware of. Bush pulled Reagan aside and the two agreed that while the minor candidates could participate they’d be asked fewer questions than Bush and Reagan.
February 26, 1980: In a close race, George H.W. Bush narrowly defeats former California Governor Ronald Reagan. Senator Kennedy received over 55% of the vote in the New Hampshire Democratic Primary, but Carter won in Minnesota. Reagan was declared the winner of the Minnesota Caucuses the same night.
March 4, 1980: Senator Kennedy wins by a healthy margin, over 65% of the vote, in the Massachusetts Democratic Primary. Bush won the state for the Republicans. In Vermont, a beauty contest, Ronald Reagan narrowly defeated George Bush while President Carter defeated Senator Kennedy.
March 5, 1980: Former Governor Reagan was declared the winner of the Wyoming Republican Caucuses.
March 8, 1980: Former Governor Reagan wins the South Carolina Primary by 1.2% of the vote, it is a big momentum-starter for the Reagan campaign and may be enough to restart an effort experts have referring to as “dying”
March 9, 1980: California Governor Jerry Brown withdraws from the Democratic Race, endorsing Senator Kennedy and actively campaigning for him in Michigan.
March 11, 1980: Kennedy carried every state on Super Tuesday except for Oklahoma, Georgia, and Hawaii. Meanwhile Reagan was declared the victor in Alabama and Georgia while Bush won Florida and Washington.
March 12, 1980: Senator Kennedy won the Delaware Democratic Caucuses.
March 15, 1980: While Kennedy won the Wyoming Caucuses he lost in South Carolina and Mississippi. Nationwide poll show Carter losing to Reagan and Bush while they showed Kennedy defeating Reagan and tied with Bush. Bush was declared the winner of the Main Caucuses.
March 18, 1980: Bush and Kennedy won in the Illinois Primary for their respective parties.
March 21, 1980: A Reagan victory in North Dakota allowed the former Governor to move forward to Connecticut and New York, two uphill battles.
March 22, 1980: President Carter shocked the political establishment by winning in Virginia and was now thought to have a legitimate shot at winning his party’s nomination.
March 25, 1980: Reagan took both New York and Connecticut in the most surprising night of the campaign, most experts now referred to Reagan as the frontrunner. Kennedy took both states.
April 1, 1980: Reagan won the Virginia Caucuses and the Kansas Primary, but Bush won in Wisconsin. Kennedy was the winner in Wisconsin while Carter defeated the Senator in Kansas.
April 5, 1980: Ted Kennedy won the Louisiana Primary as did Governor Reagan. It appeared to be all over for Carter while the Republican Party Nomination remained too close to call.
April 7, 1980: George H.W. Bush lost the Oklahoma Caucuses, giving Ronald Reagan a surge of momentum that propelled him in to future contests.
April 12, 1980: With a victory in Arizona by Senator Kennedy, President Carter announced he was dropping out of the race for President: Ted Kennedy was the Democratic Nominee. Immediately Kennedy began working on a general election strategy, including the issue of overcoming his integrity gaps. Missouri was won by Reagan on the Republican side.
April 13, 1980: With another win by former Governor Reagan the momentum was becoming too much for Bush to handle.
April 20, 1980: Bush won the Alaska State Convention and hoped to use that victory to win in Pennsylvania on the 22nd.
April 22, 1980: With a Bush victory in Pennsylvania the nomination was now up for grabs. This time Reagan won Vermont, with actual delegates at stake.
April 30, 1980: The Delaware Caucuses went in Ronald Reagan’s favor.
May 3, 1980: George H.W. Bush won his home state of Texas. Bush was now just a few delegates shy of becoming the Republican nominee.
May 5, 1980: With Bush winning in Colorado he had once again become the assumed victor of the primaries.
May 6, 1980: Coming off the heels of two victories, Bush won the Indiana and North Carolina primaries, but Reagan won Tennessee. Reagan vowed not to quit.
May 13, 1980: Bush won the Maryland Primary with Reagan winning the Nebraska Primary.
May 19, 1980: Reagan won the Utah Caucuses.
May 20, 1980: With victories by Bush in Michigan and Oregon the race was effectively over, Bush was the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party.
May 22, 1980: George H.W. Bush announced that he had chosen Reagan as his running mate, hoping to unite the Republican Party.
May 25, 1980: Senator Kennedy was well-prepared for the fight against Bush/Reagan and was already campaigning vigorously to win the election.
July 17, 1980: George Bush accepted the nomination of the Republican Party to serve as President of the United States. Bush called on leaders to unite behind someone who could get things done.
July 22, 1980: With Bush leading Kennedy 51-48, Kennedy needed a game changer. He announced Texas Senator Lloyd Bentsen as his running mate for the election.
August 6, 1980: With Lloyd Bentsen actively participating on the campaign trail, Kennedy was the beneficiary with Bush’s lead shrinking from 51-48 to now tying Senator Kennedy: 48-48.
August 11, 1980: The Democratic Convention kicked off in Madison Square Garden where Jimmy Carter announced he was enthusiastically supporting Edward Moore Kennedy for President of the United States, urging Americans to unite behind Kennedy.
August 14, 1980: Kennedy’s convention speech was awe-inspiring. He commanded the attention of the Democrats in the Convention Hall and spread his message to those watching and listening at home. The speech has since been regarded as one of the best in American history. As a result Kennedy received a major post-convention bump.
August 19, 1980: Kennedy and Bentsen continued to travel that nation as they took control of the race with a lead of 47-45. More Americans were undecided now than ever before.
September 8, 1980: With Bush and Reagan continuing to link Kennedy to Carter’s failing Presidency Kennedy reminded the American public, “I am the one who put a stop to President Carter and I am the one who will put a stop to thee disastrous state our nation is in!” The line was added to every stump speech, campaign ad, and surrogate speech.
September 14, 1980: The “I did it” line (as it soon became known) continued to make an impact with the voters, growing Kennedy’s lead to 49-46.
October 15, 1980: Kennedy and Bush met for their only debate. Pressure was on for both sides. Unfortunately the debate was a draw. Both candidates demonstrated a clear understanding of the issues and none of them made a major mistake. Undecided voters tended to favor Kennedy’s responses, but Bush held his own and swayed his share of the electorate.
October 24, 1980: With Election Night drawing near the race was tightening with Kennedy leading Bush 49-48.
November 4, 1980: Kennedy became President of the United States winning 50.4% of the popular vote and securing 271 electoral votes. The electoral map was identical to the 1976 campaign, but Bush was able to win Texas. Democrats held control of the House and lost a considerable number of seats in the Senate but still had 52 seats, giving them a majority.
January 20, 1981: As Kennedy delivers his inauguration address President Carter is informed that all of the Iranian Hostages are on their way back to the United States.
January 25, 1981: President Kennedy delivered an address to a joint session of Congress. In his speech Kennedy said, “Affordable health care is my number one priority.”
January 26, 1981: Kennedy met with key Democratic lawmakers to ensure the swift passage of his Health Care bill. Most of the bill had been written on the campaign trail and during the transition phase. While the bill would face little challenge in the House it would certainly face opposition in the Senate.
February 6, 1981: Standing in the White House Press Room, President Kennedy told the media that “KennedyCare” would be ready to be proposed by the end of March.
February 18, 1981: The President meets with key Republicans in order to obtain moderate support for his health care plan. Basically his plan health care plan was this: It required each US citizen and permanent resident alien to become enrolled in a qualified health plan and forbade their disenrollment until covered by another plan. It listed minimum coverage and maximum annual out-of-pocket expenses for each plan. It proposed the establishment of corporate "regional alliances" of health providers to be subject to a fee-for-service schedule. People below a certain set income level were to pay nothing.
February 20, 1981: President Kennedy reported to the press that he was working with advisers and legislators to reduce the length of the bill. It had reached nearly 1,500 pages, but he hoped to bring it to under a thousand before it was introduced to congress.
March 5, 1981: President Kennedy’s approval rating stood at 64%, the President continued to work on his health care legislation, almost completely ignoring the Economic Recession.
March 18, 1981: President Kennedy submitted his Health Care Proposal to the public and Senator Byrd introduced it to the United States Senate.
March 21, 1981: Finally President Kennedy agreed with moderate Republicans. He would temporarily expand drilling in the United States on a 15-year basis in return for their support on his Health Care initiative. These moderate would Republicans would become known as the “Pack of 8” and prevented the potential of a filibuster on the KennedyCare legislation.
April 14, 1981: The Senate passed the KennedyCare legislation on a vote of 60-40.
April 15, 1981: The Senate passed the “Drilling Expansion Act of 1981” which expanded drilling opportunities here in the United States. The bill added strict oversight and punishing regulations on the oil industry. It was set to expire in 2001.
April 26, 1981: President Kennedy watched on television as the House passed his KennedyCare legislation with minor amendments, the bill headed to a conference committee.
April 29, 1981: The Conference Committee began to work out the differences between the two versions of KennedyCare.
May 16, 1981: President Kennedy visited California to talk about his health care plan and to gain support for the legislation. Kennedy was worried that the bill could cost the Democrats seats in the midterm elections.
May 18, 1981: With rumors of a deal being struck in the Conference Committee over KennedyCare nearly 2,500 people marched on Washington in protests. They vowed to do this every day until the House or Senate voted down the health care bill.
May 21, 1981: Speaker Tip O’Neil met with the Pack of 8 and President Kennedy. He said he would not bring the “Drilling Expansion Act of 1981” to a vote until the KennedyCare bill was signed into law. The Pack of 8 complained and one senator withdrew, putting KennedyCare in danger of a filibuster in the senate.
May 24, 1981: The ex-Pack of 8 member said that without an individual mandate he would support KennedyCare, raising concerns over its constitutionality. Kennedy assured the Senator the bill did not violate the constitution, but the Senator refused to support the legislation.
June 15, 1981: With Democrats able to shape the public debate over KennedyCare 42% of Americans said they approved of the bill, 40% said they didn’t, and 18% didn’t know.
June 21, 1981: After a month of holding out the former Pack of 8 member agreed to enter negotiations with President Kennedy.
July 16, 1981: A version of KennedyCare came out of the Conference Committee and was released to the public.
July 20, 1981: The United States Senate voted to pass the legislation 58-42, while all Pack of 8 members voted for cloture, two did not support the final bill.
July 29, 1981: The United States House of Representatives passed KennedyCare.
August 2, 1981: President Kennedy signed the “Healthier America Act of 1981”
August 3, 1981: Former California Governor Ronald Reagan spoke to hundreds of protesters outside the White House where he declared, “This is not over! Our fight lives on! In the words of our great President Kennedy: we cannot let this dream die! I don’t know what dream Ted Kennedy is trying to protect, but I want to fight for the American dream!”
August 8, 1981: Reagan continued to lead protests against the President, these became known as the “Conservative Front Movement”
August 17, 1981: As Reagan’s protests continued two men associated with the “Conservative Front” were accused of plotting an assassination attempt on two of the “Pack of 8” members.
August 24, 1981: The “Conservative Front Movement” organized in key cities across the nation and spread their message about the unconstitutionality of KennedyCare. Reagan immediately called for an end to the bill and urged State Attorney General’s to challenge the bill.
September 11, 1981: In an interview with Barbara Walters, George Bush said, “Well Ronald needs to learn that the bill has passed and using hateful rhetoric won’t undo that. What we need to do is elect real Republicans to Washington to serve the people.”
September 13, 1981: Senator Jacob Javits of New York, a Pack of 8 member, was shot four times by an angry protester after holding a town hall event in New York City. Javits was pronounced dead on the ride to the hospital. Mario Franco was arrested by police at the scene, he has pleaded guilty to murdering Senator Javits. A member of the “Conservative Front”, Mario said he was disgusted by Javits’ disloyalty. Outrage grew around the nation as former Governor Reagan faced much of the blame for the assassination. Liberals rallied against the “Conservative Front” and worked to bring about its dissolution.
September 19, 1981: Ronald Reagan, the Chairman of the official “Conservative Front” organization, publicly addressed the nation. He said, "The Conservative Front has never and will never support the assassination or mistreatment of any government official.” Some liberal Congressmen called on Reagan to be investigated as an accomplice to the Javits murder.
September 20, 1981: Senator Jacob Javits had a funeral in his honor at the National Cathedral in Washington. President Kennedy eulogized Javits, calling him a brave man.
October 14, 1981: Kennedy’s approval rating stood at 44%.
November 11, 1981: While giving a speech at a Los Angeles Hotel, only a few blocks from where his brother was assassinated, President Kennedy was shot by a team of four members of the “Conservative Front”. Kennedy was rushed to the hospital immediately.
November 12, 1981: Barely conscious, Kennedy signed over his powers to Vice President Lloyd Bentsen as he entered surgery.
November 14, 1981: The President’s surgery was successful and he reassumed the Presidency though he would be unable to return to the Oval Office for a week.
December 8, 1981: With the unemployment and inflation numbers decreasing, Kennedy talked to his staff about the possibility of education reform in the next year.
December 14, 1981: The President’s nurse reported that he had been coughing up blood and felt dizzy all day, the President remained in bed.
December 15, 1981: When the President’s condition further deteriorated, he was rushed to George Washington Hospital, it appeared that his surgery had not been successful and complications from the procedure had arisen, the President was admitted to the hospital where he signed over the Presidency to the Vice President once again.
December 21, 1981: While the President was recovering from his corrective surgery he slipped in to a coma and Vice President Bentsen assumed the Presidency as President #41.
January 16, 1982: President Bentsen gave the State of the Union address to a crowded Capitol Building. In it the President had a disappointed tone and scolded conservatives, though not directly, for supporting vigil antes.
January 17, 1982: President Kennedy died peacefully as a result of the coma, indirectly caused by the assassination attempt on him months earlier.
January 17, 2012: On the thirtieth anniversary of her Uncle’s passing, President Caroline Kennedy attended a memorial service at the Edward Kennedy Library and Museum. Forever known as a martyr for the Health Care cause, Kennedy is remembered fondly. Reagan never became President and Bentsen was reelected in 1984. Caroline Kennedy was elected to the senate in 2000 from New York State and became President in the 2004 election, defeating President John McCain.