DEMOCRATS: Jimmy Carter's Big Breakthrough

The 1976 script called for the longest, most grueling run of Democratic primaries and caucuses in U.S. history. In an effort to make the selection system more open, the Democrats had rewritten their ground rules for campaigning and Congress drastically tightened the laws on financing. Nearly a dozen serious candidates, some household names and others almost unknown, had formally entered the fray. On the sidelines hovered two of the party's most formidable figures. According to all the conventional wisdom, the process was going to be a marathon shambles, producing nearly five months of furious activity but probably settling nothing.

Suddenly,...

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