It’s the date when, after a poor performance in Iowa, Ronald Reagan paid for a Nashua Telegraph debate that didn’t happen but nevertheless catapulted him to the presidency, Save Jerseyans.
The original plan was for a one-on-one debate between himself and Jeb Bush’s father just three days before the primary. The Federal Election Commission had ruled that the newspaper could not sponsor a debate without all of the GOP candidates; Reagan needed the boost, and George H. W. Bush wanted to take on Reagan by himself so the then-front runner refused to contribute to the cost.
Everyone showed up at the Nashua High School gymnasium including second-tier candidates Senators Bob Dole and Howard Baker, and Congressmen Phil Crane and John Anderson (former Texas governor John Connally couldn’t get there in time). Backstage wrangling ensued. When the two leading candidates finally took to the stage, and Reagan forcefully argued for the inclusion of the other candidates on-stage, the perturbed moderator tried to cut off Reagan’s mic.
Big mistake. The Gipper famously responded, “I’m paying for this microphone, Mr. Green.” The other candidates walked off and the crowd went crazy: