3 Everyone there knew President Gerald Ford had stepped into a debate blunder as soon as he said it at one of San Francisco's great landmarks. Everyone except Ford himself, it seems. Ford's questioner knew it, which is why he gave him a chance to take it back. Except Ford doubled down on it. In the dark backstage area at the Palace of Fine Arts, Jimmy Carter's beleaguered campaign knew they'd caught a break. Campaign manager Hamilton Jordan went from pacing nervously to slapping his fist into his palm with excitement. “Jesus, he’s lost his mind,” a Chronicle reporter overheard Carter pollster Pat Caddell saying of Ford. Without meaning to do it, Ford had just said repeatedly that the Soviet Union was not dominating Eastern Europe – even though it was exercising military and political control of Poland for decades. With the Cold War at its height and the Ford campaign depending on voters of Eastern European descent, the statement dominated news coverage for days. And there was no Twitter, Facebook or 24-hour news to change the subject as quickly. Did it cost Ford the election? Probably not. But the debate, watched by about 100 million people on TV, did help… Read full this story
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