''This country,'' LBJ said, ''is rich enough to do anything it has the guts to do and the vision to do and the will to do.'' His Great Society is still with us ''in Medicare and Medicaid, in the air we breathe and the water we drink, in the rivers and lakes we swim in; in the colleges our students attend; in the medical miracles from the National Institutes of Health; in mass transportation and equal opportunity,'' as former Johnson advisor Joseph A. Califano has stated. LBJ also expanded costly US involvement in the Vietnam War. With his approval ratings in decline, Johnson did not run for reelection.
As a private citizen, former Republican Vice President Richard Nixon won his second campaign for president in 1968 defeating two other candidates: LBJ’s Vice President Hubert Humphrey and Alabama Governor George Wallace, who ran as an Independent. Wallace captured 13.5 percent of the popular vote, leaving a 0.7 percent margin between Nixon and Humphrey, 43.4 percent to 42.7 percent. Although Nixon won reelection in a 1972 landslide victory and 60.7 percent of the popular vote, he resigned the presidency under the threat of impeachment and saw his approval numbers fall from a high of 67 percent to a low of 24 percent. Nixon had an overall term and a half approval rating of 49 percent.
Nixon inherited a weak economy from the Johnson administration but delivered a balanced budget in 1969. However, inflation, rising energy costs and high unemployment troubled Nixon’s administration. Despite wage and price controls and other measures that did not work, Nixon’s budget plans included using large deficits to marginally improve the economy. Although Nixon called upon “the great silent majority” for support, continued expansion of the Vietnam War, including bombing Cambodia, and the costs of War in addition to the Watergate scandal further degraded his approval numbers.
After Nixon’s resignation, Vice President Gerald Ford assumed the presidency and served its remaining 845 days only to lose his subsequent election bid in 1976. During his time in the White House, Ford gave Nixon a presidential pardon and concluded US involvement in the Vietnam War. His overall approval rating scored 47.2 percent for the time of American discouragement with politics that followed the highly publicized Watergate hearings that contributed to Ford’s becoming president. Ford’s approval ranged from a high of 71 percent to a low of 37 percent. Despite the Ford Whip Inflation Now (WIN) program, 7 percent inflation and growing unemployment continued to weaken the economy that had slipped into recession and further eroded his approval numbers.