One year earlier, it had been inconceivable that Reagan’s and Bush’s destinies would seamlessly merge and propel them both to the White House.
In the Pennsylvania GOP primary, Bush uttered three words that almost doomed his political rise. At Carnegie Mellon University, he dismissed Reagan’s plan to cut taxes, increase defense spending and balance the budget as “voodoo economic policy.”
“That really pissed off Reagan,” says Richard V. Allen, who was the Californian’s foreign policy specialist.
A month later, Bush dropped out of the race. In his diary, he pondered, “What’s it going to be like? Driving a car, being lonely around the house?”
But on a July night when Reagan was nominated, fate intervened. At 11:35 p.m., a plan to pick Gerald Ford as his running mate collapsed during a meeting between Reagan and the former president.
After Ford left the nominee’s 69th-floor suite at the Detroit Plaza Hotel, Reagan explained to his inner circle, “All this time, my gut instinct has been that this is not the right thing.”
The room was silent until Reagan asked, “Well, what do we do now?”
“We call Bush,” said Allen, who had already put out feelers to see if the Texan could embrace the platform — voodoo economic policy and all. He could.
—Alan Peppard writing for The Dallas Morning News about the events surrounding the 1981 attempted assassination of then-President Ronald Reagan.