For George H. W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, the debate in Nashua, New Hampshire marked a crossroads in their respective bids for the 1980 Republican presidential nomination. A month earlier, Bush had emerged from a seven-man field by upsetting Reagan in the Iowa caucuses. Reagan had run a relaxed and aloof campaign in Iowa. At the behest of Campaign Manager John Sears and most senor staff, Reagan had refused even to participate in a candidates' debate on grounds that debates were bad for party unity. Iowa voters responded by giving Bush a small plurality in their caucuses on January 21. Reagan's failure in Iowa had knocked conventional wisdom on the Republican race into a cocked hat. Before Iowa, his own polls showed him with a 19-point lead among New Hampshire Republicans. Five days after the caucuses Reagan was six points behind him an falling. [excerpt]
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"That Defining Moment: The 1980 Nashua Debate," Historical New Hampshire 42 (Fall 1987): 283-296.