“Morning in America” is a phrase from a 1984 TV ad for President Ronald Reagan’s re-election campaign to evoke a renewed American economic and social landscape.
Origins and History
The Reagan campaign sought to build on perceptions of economic progress during the 1984 presidential campaign. In 1980, Reagan won the presidency by highlighting high unemployment, inflation, and international unrest in four years of President Jimmy Carter. His re-election campaign used TV ads to show progress under Reagan and contrast perceived lack of preparedness by the campaign of Democratic nominee Walter Mondale.
Hal Riney of Ogilvy & Mater was tasked in June 1984 with writing positive ads for the Reagan/Bush ticket. Riney wrote the ad that would be referred to as “Morning in America” but was properly titled “Prouder, Stronger, Better.” The 60-second ad shows imagery from an average American community starting their day culminating in a wedding. Riney’s narration included the following text:
It’s morning again in America. Today more men and women will go to work than ever before in our country’s history. With interest rates at about half the record highs of 1980, nearly two thousand families today will buy new homes, more than at any time in the past four years. This afternoon 6,500 young men and women will be married, and with inflation at less than half of what it was just four years ago, they can look forward with confidence to the future. It’s morning again in America, and under the leadership of President Reagan, our country is prouder and stronger and better. Why would we ever want to return to where we were less than four short years ago?
Riney followed “Morning in America” with the similarly toned “America’s Back.” A 30-second ad titled “Bear” struck a different tone, comparing a wild grizzly bear to international foes and imploring voters to opt for the more prepared candidate.
These ads helped cast Reagan in a positive light following the 1982 recession and midterm Democratic gains in the House. The Harris Survey gave Reagan a five-point lead over Mondale in June 1983, though 48% of respondents say Reagan shouldn’t run again in 1984.
Campaign ads like “Morning in America” countered these numbers, making voters remember the Reagan who won 489 electoral votes in 1980. On November 6, 1984, Reagan nearly swept the Electoral College by winning every state except Minnesota. Reagan also received 58.8% of the popular vote, which has not been equaled by any presidential campaign in subsequent elections.
Business Insider (July 28, 2016): “‘He wants to divide us – from the rest of the world and from each other,’ Clinton said. “He’s betting that the perils of today’s world will blind us to its unlimited promise. He’s taken the Republican Party a long way, from ‘Morning in America’ to ‘Midnight in America.’”
The New York Times (May 8, 2016): “What’s missing from ‘Morning in America’ is Mr. Reagan. His face appears in the commercial for only two or three seconds, at the end – a still color photo on a campaign button, next to an American flag.”