The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush (2015)
The turning point before the New Hampshire primary occurred in Nashua. The debate was scheduled to only involve Bush and Reagan, but Reagan wanted all the challengers on the stage, just like in the first debate (Reagan felt he was justified in that he provided funding for the debate). Bush refused Reagan's proposal, and was on stage, alone and waiting. Reagan appeared on the stage with the other candidates in tow . . . Reagan shined, and Bush froze. The tumult from the crowd was such that the other candidates (including Senator Bob Dole of Kansas) left the stage. Bush discovered that Right Wing Conservatives would do anything to win, even if it meant breaking the clearly agreed-upon rules for the second debate.
In March, Reagan won the primaries in South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, and Illinois, while Bush won Connecticut. By the end of March, there were only three candidates left: Reagan, Bush, and John Anderson. Reagan then swept Kansas, Wisconsin, and Louisiana, and with those successes, Ford stayed out of the race. It was increasingly clear to Bush (and Baker) that he would not catch Reagan, but he stayed relevant by prevailing in the occasional primary and winning some delegates.
Baker gave Bush the news that their campaign was running low on money, and to campaign in the California primary, in Reagan's home state, would be foolhardy. Baker told Bush that every day he stayed in the race under the present circumstances meant that Reagan would have less-and-less confidence in him for the Vice-Presidential slot. Bush loved to compete, but it was starting to cloud his vision and common sense. Baker kept up the pressure, mentioning that since 1932 five of the last eight Presidents had been Vice-Presidents or the nominee from their party for Vice-President (FDR, Truman, LBJ, Nixon, Ford). Faced with the cold hard facts, Bush finally, gracefully, dropped out of the race.
For the 49 days between Bush's withdrawal and the Republican Convention in Detroit, Reagan was advised to select a moderate for Vice-President, and many powerful and influential Republicans favored Bush. Also, thoughtful conservatives realized that Bush would be a boon to the ticket. Bush had become enthusiastic about being the nominee for Vice-President, and waited for Reagan's call . . . Bush knew that his political career was almost certain to be over if he wasn't selected as Vice-President. Yet again, Bush's fate was in the hands of someone more powerful than himself . . . little did Bush know that Reagan didn't want him as his running mate.
However, Reagan needed to show the convention, and the Republican Party, that he was a problem-solver, not a rigid doctrinaire; a moderate for VP would illustrate that reality. Conservatives like Jesse Helms and Jack Kemp were vying for VP, which only increased the odds for a moderate such as Bush. Moderate delegates were upset with the Conservative-driven (and very ideological) platform, and no one knew what Reagan would decide, including Reagan.
When Reagan arrived in Detroit on 14 July 1980, he was still in anyone-but-Bush mode for VP. Former President Gerald Ford spoke to the convention, which led to Reagan thinking (again) about Ford as VP. But the distance between the possibility and reality was great. Reagan offered the VP slot to Ford, and Ford turned it down, but Reagan asked Ford to take a day to think it over. Ford was noncommittal, and he didn't promote Bush; Ford was still torn as to whether-or-not to be on the ticket in order to exact political revenge against Carter from 1976. Ford responded, asking quite a bit from Reagan in terms of Vice-Presidential powers, and Reagan seemed flexible in response. Carter was ecstatic, believing that Ford as the VP candidate would show that Reagan needed to be supervised.
Bush gave his speech, gushing about Reagan to the cheering delegates. Before the speech, Baker and others involved running Bush's campaign were approached by Reagan's team, who wanted to know if Bush supported the platform. The Bush people said he supported the platform, but Bush believed that history would pass him by, in that a Reagan/Ford administration would only feature Reagan, Ford, and even some Nixon loyalists . . . but not him. Later that evening, Reagan was far-more upset with Ford from the interview than he was about anything Bush had said or done during the primaries. Reagan agreed to reconsider Bush if he was 100% in support of the (conservative) Republican platform.
Bush and Reagan had coffee the next morning. Bush knew if he could have a sit-down with Reagan, Reagan would like him "just fine", which happened. Later, Reagan asked Dole (one of the disaffected from Nashua, and still holding many grudges against Bush), to give the nominating speech to place Bush's name in front of the convention for Vice-President. The more Reagan talked to Bush, the more he heard Bush say "we" instead of "I"; Bush made it crystal clear, in his affable way, that he would be a loyal Vice-President. Bush was again active, on the move, and looking forward . . . other than his family, those were his favorite things in life.