Many of the talking heads say that Ford’s pardon of Nixon cost him the re-election. But look at the electoral map of 1976. The South deserted the GOP for what it thought was one of their own..Jimmy Carter. We lived to regret that decision and voted overwhelmingly to defeat him four years later.
Ford’s pardon of Nixon was a loser with the traditional/Rockefeller wing that wanted Nixon lower than he was in 1962 after the gubernatorial defeat in CA. Your comment on losing the South is absolutely on target. Together, it was a one-two punch combination. Wiping the slate clean and going with Reagan would have been the smart move but it seems the 70s were just made to be the Lost Decade for the US.
Very good point.