Flashback: Ronald Reagan’s New Hampshire Media Moment

As we await the official results from tonight’s New Hampshire primary, it’s worth looking back at one of the most memorable media moments ever to emerge from the Granite State.

Rewind to February 23, 1980. Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush were running a close race in New Hampshire in 1980 when a ruling by the Federal Elections Committee forced the newspaper sponsoring the debate to withdraw its funding.

Mr. Reagan decided to underwrite the entire debate himself after Mr. Bush declined to pay for half. So when the newspaper’s moderator tried to cut Reagan’s microphone after he tried to get five other candidates included in the debate, Reagan snapped, “I am paying for this microphone, Mr. Green!”

Two things about this clip are particularly interesting.

First, he got the name of the moderator wrong (it was “Breen,” not “Green”).

Second, although Reagan’s anger seemed authentic, it was also probably not an improvised line. His Hollywood contemporary, Spencer Tracy, used an almost identical line in the movie State of the Union.

None of that mattered. Reagan won New Hampshire in a landslide, and this moment paved the way for his ascension to the White House.