Notes: In some years, a few states had more than one contest (usually a non-binding vote or straw poll and a separate delegate-selection process) which can produce a split decision. Map colors are assigned to the earlier or more competitive result. Usually, by the time of the convention, many states' delegates have been switched to the obvious front-runner, so maps based on convention votes would appear less competitive. Also, some states allow voting for "uncommitted" delegates which occasionally get more votes than any candidate (but not shown on maps).

Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan fought it out in the most prolonged, evenly-matched primary-and-caucus race in recent Republican Party history. Ford won a series of early contests until Reagan managed a pivotal win in North Carolina, after which the struggle was back-and-forth. Reagan's strength is apparent in the conservative south and the west, including his base in California. Ford, although not winning a majority of the caucus delegates (he was slightly short of a lock even at the time of the convention, marking the last time in history a party convention might matter), managed to win enough of the big primaries in the midwest and east to hold onto the nomination. (According to the Dave Barry analysis, Ford finally won by "a margin of four brain cells to three"). This year was a turning point for the Republican party, as the last time the moderate wing had enough clout to ward off a challenge by the united forces of the pro-big business lobby and the fundamentalists (whose ranks were being swelled as the former segregationists abandoned the Democratic party, which they felt had abandoned them under the control of Northern social liberals). Even so, Ford's appointed VP, Rockefeller (one of the endangered breed of liberal Republicans--yes, they did exist, just like the conservative Democrats!) had been replaced by Dole as veep candidate. After his nomination, Ford had an uphill battle against Carter, which he almost managed to pull off (1976 was the closest presidential election until 2000's mixed decision). However, Ford would lose the election and go down in history known mainly for pardoning disgraced fellow Republican Richard Nixon and for providing fodder for Chevy Chase's pratfall skits.

Schedule of 1976 primaries from Congressional Quarterly’s Presidential Elections, 1789-1996

Iowa straw poll [Ford narrow win in contest with few votes]
February 24: New Hampshire [Ford wins close race]
March 2: Massachusetts, Vermont
March 9: Florida
March 16: Illinois [Ford winning streak in primaries]
March 23: North Carolina [First Reagan primary win]
April 6: Wisconsin
April 27: Pennsylvania
May 4: DC (Democrats), Georgia, Indiana
May 11: Nebraska, West Virginia
May 18: Maryland, Michigan
May 25: Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Nevada, Oregon, Tennessee
June 1: Montana, Rhode Island, South Dakota
June 8: California, New Jersey, Ohio [At the end it is an extremely close race, once caucus results are included the delegate totals are more even than any other convention in modern times]

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