President Jimmy Carter: On the Independent Candidacy of John Anderson (from Public Papers of the President, Carter, 1980, pages 1683 to 1702)

Q. Mr. President, how do you assess the Anderson candidacy and the feeling that some observers have that it'll hurt you more than it'll hurt Ronald Reagan?

THE PRESIDENT. Well, there's no doubt that it hurts me more than it does Reagan. All the polls indicate that it's different, and particularly in States like California and New Jersey--California and New York--and I'm not sure about New Jersey...

...I think Anderson is primarily a creation of the press. He's never won a primary, even in his own home State. He's never won a caucus contest in any State in the Nation. He ran as a Republican, and he's still a Republican. He hasn't had a convention; he doesn't have a party. He and his wife hand-picked his Vice-Presidential nominee. But Anderson being the third candidate in the race, who's given equal treatment on the evening news and in the newspapers with myself and the Republican nominee, is obviously the recipient of support from people who are disaffected with me or with Governor Reagan, and this makes him a very significant factor in the 1980 election contest..

...We've had other third candidates running down through history, some with parties and some without parties. On occasion they've been highly publicized, as was the case with Theodore Roosevelt when he tried to run for reelection, and George Wallace when he ran. But I don't know what's going to come out later on...

...It's still early in the season, and we are concerned about the fact that I've not been able to induce Governor Reagan to debate me, for instance, on a two-man basis. What he will do in the future is hard to discern, but as you know, a three-person debate format is more like a forum than it is a real debate...

...But I've accommodated political uncertainties in the past and been fairly successful, and I have no aversion to making the same attempt in the next few weeks. I believe I'll be successful with it. It's hard to say what the final outcome will be, whether Anderson will be a significant factor or not. Right now I'd say he's a significant factor.

Q. You stand pat on the decision not to debate, not to just take--[inaudible].

THE PRESIDENT. I've never said that we wouldn't debate Anderson. What I've said was that we wanted to have two-man debates with Reagan assured and that I would be glad to debate Reagan, Anderson, or any other candidates in an open forum. I have no aversion to that at all.

REPORTER. Mr. President, do you think you'll change your mind about the League debates and take part in them if they had one-on-one after a multi-candidate debate for the first time?

THE PRESIDENT. My position has been clear. It's consistent, and I do not intend to change it. We have offered in an unprecedented way to debate both the [p.1702] Republican nominees, Reagan and Anderson, and any other candidate for President who might have a theoretical chance to be nominated for President...

...The League of Women Voters has done a good job. But they have refused, along with Governor Reagan, to consider so far in any serious way a debate one-on-one between myself as the Democratic nominee for President and Governor Reagan as the Republican nominee for President. This is what we want...

...We have already accepted three different invitations to debate Governor Reagan in a two-man debate. It's obvious to me and I think to almost everyone else in this country that the two people who have a chance to be elected as President are the nominee of the Republican Party, Governor Reagan, and myself as the nominee of the Democratic Party. That is what I want. And if the other two of the many candidates decide to debate as a Republican duo, to debate each other, that's perfectly all right with me. We still are eager to have as many debates as we can schedule between myself and Governor Reagan first and then to debate Governor Reagan, Congressman Anderson, and any others that the sponsors of the debate might bring together.

Q. Is there any prospect today of a one-on-one debate?

THE PRESIDENT. It's up to Governor Reagan.