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Campaign Files, 1984


Description of Materials for 1984 Presidential Campaign

The almost eleven feet of Presidential Campaign records consist of campaign organization files that include communication and strategy documents, correspondence, financial records, persons files, state files, and topical files. Most of the material is dated between January 1983 and March 1984.

General and campaign organization files offer a good deal of insight into the campaign. For example, although Hollings' announcement came in April of 1983, campaign strategy documents reveal that "target states" for the campaign had been chosen as early as January 1982, just over a year after Reagan had taken office. An undated, hand-written document with "top secret" scrawled across the top outlines what appears to be an early campaign plan, perhaps from 1982. Memos from mid-1983 discuss internal debate over themes and issues in the campaign, and a fall 1983 campaign manual delineates how to achieve the goals of increasing name recognition, broadening support, and raising funds. Of considerable interest is a detailed but undated schematic diagram showing the organizational structure of the campaign. Weekly reports provide evaluations of the events and progress of the past week, sent by the campaign departments and field staff to the campaign coordinator.

Schedules and staff files are found with campaign organization files. The schedules provide rich and detailed information on the Senator's and Peatsy's travels and appearances. The schedules often provide hourly information on their locations, the meetings and functions attended, and background on the individuals, organizations, and issues involved. Staff files contain campaign and senate staff listings and background information about some staff members. Michael Copps, the Senate office Administrative Assistant, was not an official member of the campaign staff but he played a key role formulating campaign strategy and overseeing the development of campaign issue papers. His files include significant memorandum prepared by Copps that sought to crystallize the campaign's intellectual content and set Hollings apart from the pack seeking the Democratic nomination. Mark Epstein served as the campaign issues coordinator and his file relates to the development of issue statements.

Documents detailing the campaign's communications effort are rich and provide valuable insights on decision making and the theme, goals, slogans, and media approach of the campaign. These coalesced into a March 1983 packet that served as a campaign communications manifesto. Also of note is a confidential January 31, 1983, memo to the senator from John Patterson frankly evaluating Hollings' presentation style and clarity of message.

Finance files document all aspects of the fundraising effort so critical to the campaign. In a memo dated Sept. 27, 1982, goals and plans for one fundraising endeavor are outlined and prospective campaign finance committee members are suggested. Long-time Hollings friend and Charleston businessman Henry Tecklenburg was an unofficial but central figure in fundraising for the campaign. A political action committee, Citizens for a Competitive America, was established to help fund the campaign. An undated prospectus states, 'Those of us who have organized this committee have been closely associated with the political career of Senator Ernest F. 'Fritz' Hollings and believe that he has something unique to offer the American political system…. Hollings wants to make America work again -- to make her more productive, more economically sound and more competitive', and noted Hollings 'has become one of the nation's leading economic spokesmen.' A financial report shows the PAC received over $140,000 between January 1 and March 31 of 1982.

Two feet of documents, filed according to state, reflect the campaign's national reach. These files include state strategies, analyses of state campaign efforts, travel itineraries, guest lists for events, state campaign staff and volunteers, and important persons and issues in the state. Alabama, Hollings' target state in the South, boasts eight files and offers the most detailed insight into campaign activities at the state level. Activities in New Hampshire and New York are also well-represented, relative to work in other states. An illuminating letter and memo are found in the New York file. New York City Mayor Edward Koch asked about the senator's stands on welfare and the Middle East in an August 4, 1983, letter. Issues director Mark Epstein's illuminating memo, which suggested responses to Koch's inquiries, notes that the questions were formulated with "cogency, restraint, politesse, and discretion" and advises on a sensitive question about Israeli settlements: "duck it." Another revealing document is a confidential October 15, 1983, essay entitled "The Present Situation of the Hollings Campaign in Maryland." In the Massachusetts file are documents, including a letter from Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, about the ―sewergate‖ incident. On November 5, 1983, Hollings was to visit the Deer Island waste treatment plant in connection with concerns over the pollution of Boston Harbor. When the senator and his team reached the facility, police, under orders from District Commissioners, refused to let them in. This created a media firestorm and Hollings dubbed the incident "sewergate," implicating Dukakis in an apparent cover-up of the state's pollution problems.

Women's issues played a large role in the campaign, and it is no coincidence that a woman, New York Rep. Geraldine Ferraro, became the Democratic nominee for Vice President. Five folders under ―Women‖ at the end of the Topical files document the role of women and women's issues in the campaign. Two additional files cover former SC Lt. Governor (1979-83) Nancy Stevenson's work with the campaign. She was a high-profile contributor to the campaign and informal advisor to the Senator who traveled as a surrogate speaker speaking to women's groups and appearing at forums across the country.


  • 1984


From the Collection: 800 Linear Feet

Biographical Note

Campaign for the Presidency, 1984

Fritz Hollings announced his candidacy for the Presidency of the United States on April 18, 1983. In so doing, he joined a number of hopefuls seeking the Democratic nomination for the 1984 race, including front runner former Vice President Walter F. Mondale, and Ohio Senator John Glenn, Colorado Senator Gary Hart, former Florida governor Reuben Askew, Senator Alan Cranston of California, former South Dakota Senator (and 1972 Democratic presidential nominee) George McGovern, and the Reverend Jesse Jackson. These contenders sought to unseat the incumbent Republican president, Ronald Reagan. Although Reagan was extremely popular personally, his first term had seen unemployment, inflation, interest rates, and federal deficits reach post-World War II highs. Hollings' concern about these economic problems, particularly the federal budget deficit, was the primary motivation behind his run for the presidency.

Hollings began testing the water long before his formal announcement. During 1982, Hollings visited some thirty-six states exploring interest in a Hollings candidacy. A political action committee, Citizens for a Competitive America, was established to help fund the campaign. An undated prospectus states, 'Those of us who have organized this committee have been closely associated with the political career of Senator Ernest F. 'Fritz' Hollings and believe that he has something unique to offer the American political system…. Hollings wants to make America work again -- to make her more productive, more economically sound and more competitive.' The prospectus went on to note Hollings 'has become one of the nation's leading economic spokesmen.' A financial report shows the PAC received over $140,000 between January 1 and March 31 of 1982. By January, 1983, Hollings had formed an exploratory committee and was staffing management level positions.

His campaign focused on three major issues: reducing the deficit, improving economic competitiveness, and strengthening national defense. As a staunch advocate of balancing the federal budget, Hollings criticized fellow Democrats for their tendency to throw money at problems and for gaining a reputation as the party of big spenders, arguing that they would never regain the White House unless they demonstrated a commitment to fiscal restraint. At the same time, he lambasted President Reagan for creating unprecedented federal budget deficits by cutting taxes while drastically increasing defense spending. The solution to the deficit problem was the proposed Hollings Budget Plan. As president, Hollings would freeze entitlements, federal pay, defense spending, and discretionary expenditures. He would also reduce the 1981 tax cut and forego future ones. This plan was outlined as early as March 1982 and promised to balance the budget within four years.

Hollings believed these moves were essential to implementing his second campaign plank, industrial policy. If government and business were to have the available capital to invest in long-term economic growth, the government could not continue to run large deficits and thereby soak up available financial resources. Along with deficit reduction, Hollings called for a tough trade policy, a federal industrial investment program, and technical education initiatives. Hollings spoke out for a competitive America, arguing that increasing imports and the rise of Japanese economic might was endangering America's future. His industrial policy would be essential in making America more economically powerful.

Senator Hollings was also determined that America remains militarily powerful. Thus, he forwarded what he called a "strong but sensible" policy, a fundamental (and quite controversial) component of which was the reinstatement of the military draft. Hollings contended that it was a "civil wrong" for minorities and the poor, who were disproportionately represented in the armed forces, to bear the majority of the burden of defending the United States. His plan for a stronger military also called for improving the readiness of conventional troops, increasing Rapid Deployment Forces, and enhancing benefits for veterans. Defense budgets would be "mission based" and procurement would be streamlined in order to reduce waste and fraud. This emphasis on cost savings and conventional forces also led Hollings to favor a nuclear freeze and to oppose the B-1 bomber and MX missile projects.

From January, 1983, through February, 1984, Fritz and Peatsy Hollings spent the majority of their time traversing the nation to promote Hollings' prescription for a strong, competitive, and prosperous America. Unfortunately, while his platform was credible and popular with the press (he was called "The Thinking Man's Dark Horse" by columnist Bill Grieder), the public did not embrace his message of tough choices and sacrifice. Mondale and Glenn, buoyed by good name recognition, emerged as the early front-runners. Hollings used his biting wit to try and cut into their leads. Referring to John Glenn's inconsistency on the issues, he quipped that the Ohio senator and former astronaut was "orbiting the issues faster than he orbited the earth."

Peatsy was recognized as an able campaigner and a strong presence. Parade Magazine [31 July 1983], in an article on the Democratic candidates' wives, notes she 'by far, has the most dynamic style of the candidates' wives' and quoted her characterization of her role in the campaign, 'the wife is an integral part of a Presidential campaign…. I consider myself a working partner, another set of eyes and ears for Fritz. I understand where he's coming from, where he hopes to go, and I think I can articulate his positions as well as anybody else.'

Hollings never lost his upbeat demeanor, even after finishing dead last in the Iowa Caucus. During a February 23, 1984, debate in New Hampshire, he remarked "People say...that they're for me, but I can't win. If you're for me, I can't lose!" Hollings placed sixth in the New Hampshire primary, garnering a mere 3.5% of the vote (though, the photo at right shows that he did well in Dixville, a village that holds midnight voting for the New Hampshire primary). On March 1, 1984, the day after the primary, Senator Hollings bowed out of the race with the classic line: "Well, nothing happened to me on the way to the White House..."

While Hollings failed to capture the nomination, the concepts he argued so persuasively during his campaign were clear winners. When Hollings announced his withdrawal from the race, he said "I didn't craft my message to win a campaign, I crafted my message to win a country." In some sense he did accomplish this goal. Fritz Hollings was instrumental in framing the agenda for the 1984 presidential campaign. All three of his major messages--balancing the budget, toughening trade policy, and beefing up conventional military forces--became central issues of the national debate. In particular, Hollings' emphasis on balancing the budget demonstrated his remarkable foresight: though few were decrying the federal deficit at the time, in less than a decade it came to be seen as perhaps the single most important political issue in the United States. Hollings even had an impact after withdrawing from the race, for it was widely acknowledged that his announcement of support for Gary Hart sparked the Colorado senator's dramatic but short-lived challenge to Mondale and Glenn. Hollings former Senate colleague, Birch Bayh, noted in a letter of consolation, 'Your service in the Senate will be even more valuable as a result of your having the opportunity to view America and our problems from the perspective of a Presidential candidate.'


Repository Details

Part of the South Carolina Political Collections Repository

Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library
1322 Greene St.
University of South Carolina
Columbia SC 29208 USA