The Presidential Election of 1972 Richard Milhous George Stanley Nixon McGovern By: Mary Beth Lahl
Background The 26th Amendment was passed in 1971, making this the first election in which people from 18-21 could vote. The House and Senate were both Democrat. Vietnam War: was gradually moving troops out of Vietnam and trying to negotiate peace. Détente with USSR. China: re-established a relationship after 21-years. The Economy: temporary lift in the economy by ideas proposed in Nixon’s New Economic Policy. The incumbent president was running for office again.
The Democrats Most of the party thought it would be Senator Edmund Muskie of Maine. However, when McGovern announced his intent to run in 1971, they hoped to mount a substantial campaign starting in New Hampshire. Muskie lined up many strong democratic politicians to endorse him. Ran a tiring campaign that had him shuttling back and forth between New Hampshire, Florida, Wisconsin between January and February 1972. Pressure began to show. Badly dented his image. Muskie won only a hollow victory in New Hampshire because of this at 46%, with McGovern at 37%. Florida: debates turned to busing. McGovern was in favor of it while Muskie gave the hemming and hawing answer.
The Democrats There were still 11 names on the ballot, doubting anyone could clearly win. Governor George Wallace (of Alabama) won 42% in Florida, Senator Hubert Humphrey (former VP) at 18%, Senator Henry Martin “Scoop” Jackson (of Washington) at 13%, Muskie at 9% and McGovern with 6%. Wisconsin: McGovern finished 30%, Wallace at 22% (1/3 of the state’s Republicans crossed party lines to vote for him), Humphrey at 21% and Muskie at 10%. Humphrey focused on Pennsylvania and McGovern on Massachusetts. Both their efforts paid off and left Muskie out of the race. May 15: Wallace was campaigning in Maryland and was shot four times, being paralyzed from the waist down. He won the state but while he recovered, many of his supporters moved to the Nixon ticket.
The Democrats McGovern continued his lead and won many non-primary states. However, the democratic party was tearing itself apart. Started with the McGovern Commission. McGovern made democrats nervous with antiwar views and as the California primary came, Humphrey tried to bring to light all of these fears (even if they were unfounded.) However, the McGovern campaign kept on. He won by 44.3% to Humphrey’s 39.1%. McGovern was officially given the DNC’s nomination in July at Miami Beach, Florida.
The Republicans: No Question While the democrats effectively “tore each other apart,” Nixon waited in the background. He won New Hampshire by 67.9% without ever stepping foot in that state, effectively showing that his opponents, Representative Paul McCloskey and Representative John Ashbrook had no chance of upstaging him. The Center to Re-elect the President (CRP) had no trouble raising money for him ($45 million.) Great sense that he was doing a good job as the president. Officially given the nomination by the RNC in August.
George Stanley McGovern Born July 19, 1922 in Avon, Bon Homme County, South Dakota. Son of a Methodist minister and republican. Attended Dakota Wesleyan University from 1940-1942 but decided to enlist in the US Army Air Corps in June 1942. Flew combat missions in the European Theater. Discharged in July 1945. Awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross. Returned to DWU and graduated 1946. Had teaching assistantship and fellowship at Northwestern University, receiving his PhD. from there. Teacher in history and government at DWU from 1950-1953. Left in 1955 to help the South Dakota Democratic Party and launched political career.
McGovern: Political Start 1956: Won a seat in Congress. Re-elected two years later. Lost a campaign for the U.S. Senate in 1960, but was named special assistant to the president and director of the Food for Peace Program by President JFK. Two years later, he was elected to the Senate. Re-elected in 1968 and 1974. Served on Senate committees on agriculture, nutrition, forestry, and foreign relations, and the Joint Economic Committee. Served three years on the Commission on Part Structure and Delegate Selection, changed the way states picked their delegates. Left in 1971 to make his run for president.
Richard Nixon: Early Beginnings Born January 9, 1913 in Yorba Linda, CA. Second of Five children. Father was a service station owner and grocer. Owned a small lemon farm. Mother was a Quaker, wielded strong influence on Nixon. Younger brother died in 1925 from an illness and older brother, whom Nixon admired, died in 1933 of tuberculosis. Offered a scholarship to Harvard but his family could not afford the travel and living expenses so he went to Whittier College, a Quaker school. He was known as a good athlete, debater and college drama productions student. Offered a full scholarship to Duke University Law School. Returned to Whittier to practice law at Kroop & Bewley. Met his wife, Thelma Catherine “Pat” Ryan, soon after when they were both cast in the same play. They had two daughters, Patricia (Tricia) and Julie.
Richard Nixon: College to Political He had bigger political ambitions so he moved with his family to D.C. in 1942 to work on FDR’s Office of Price Administration (OPA). Joined the navy, served as an aviation ground officer in the Pacific. He faced no actual combat but was rewarded two service stars and several commendations, rising to lieutenant commander. He resigned his commission in 1946. When he got back he resumed civilian life but quickly after decided to run for congress. He ran against Congressman Jerry Voorhis. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in November 1946.
Richard Nixon: Political Life Assigned to the Select Committee on Foreign Aid, went to Europe. Was a member of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAAC) from 1948-50. This helped establish his reputation for being anticommunist. In 1950, he ran against Democrat Representative Helen Gahagan Douglas, who was against the anti-Communist scare and actions of the HUAAC. Nixon won. This is when he earned the derogatory nickname, “Tricky Dick.” In 1952, won the nomination of VP for Dwight D. Eisenhower and the RNC. Accused of having a private “slush fund.”
Richard Nixon: Political Life September 23, 1952: Nixon gave a nationally televised address. Gave the “Checkers Speech.” Eisenhower/Nixon defeated Stevenson/Sparkman ticket. Expanded role of VP by helping bills be approved such as the 1957 Civil Rights Bill. From 1955-1957, Eisenhower suffered a couple of illnesses and a heart attack, calling for Nixon to step up to the plate. Prompted Eisenhower and Nixon to reach an agreement on the VP’s responsibilities if the president was disabled, eventually leading to the 25th amendment in 1967. Nixon went on many foreign policy trips. One such trip was in July 1959, where he engaged Nikita Khrushchev in the “Kitchen Debate.”
Richard Nixon: The Fateful Televised Debate Nixon launched presidential bid in early 1960 facing little competition from other Republican candidates. The democratic nominee was John F. Kennedy. Nixon ran on a platform of experience while JFK called for new generation leadership. The first of four scheduled televised presidential debate was held between the two. People who listened on the radio thought that Nixon was the clear winner while those watching TV thought JFK. November 1960, Nixon lost the election by 120,000 popular votes. JFK received 303 Electoral votes while Nixon received 219.
Richard Nixon: The Comeback Returned with his family to CA and wrote Six Crises. 1962: Nixon was encouraged to run against governor Pat Brown, but lost. Moved his family to New York City where he became known America’s “senior statesman.” Wrote an article for Foreign Affairs magazine, “Asia after Vietnam.” Vacillated on whether or not he should re-enter politics but finally announced his bid for the presidency on February 1, 1968.
Richard Nixon: The Presidency “New Federalism” Presidential Task Force on Women’s Rights Clean Air Act of 1970 Less government and fiscal responsibility stance. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) was considerably increased Created Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Environmental Protection Agency New Economic Policy
The Campaign Trail When McGovern tried to pick a VP running mate, he was turned down first by Ted Kennedy, then Muskie as well as a few others such as Senator Abraham Ribicoff (CT). He finally settled on Thomas F. Eagleton, junior senator from Missouri and was assured that Eagleton did not have “any skeletons in the closet.” Unfortunately for McGovern, this proved to be false. In the end, he fired Eagleton and picked R. Sargent Shriver but the damage was already done. There was a group of 36 “surrogate” candidates who helped campaign for the republicans. John Connally helped found “Democrats for Nixon” because he could not stand to see McGovern as president.
The Campaign Trail McGovern’s candidacy shattered the old democratic coalition formed by FDR. Those same voters did not agree with McGovern’s politics. Nixon’s campaign zeroed in on McGovern’s more radical views and shared these extensively, therefore isolating him as a very left candidate. Established him as a “Goldwater of the Left.” Meanwhile, in June 1972, there were five men arrested for breaking into the headquarters of the DNC. They had electronic eavesdropping equipment on them. The building that they broke into was called the Watergate Office Building. This break-in would be ignored until the next year.
The Election Results Nixon: 520 McGovern: 17 John Hospers: 1 John Schmitz: 0 “the election was over the day he [Sen. George McGovern] was nominated.” ~Richard Nixon Richard Nixon/Spiro Agnew: 47,168,710 (60.67%) George McGovern/R. Sargent Shriver: 29,173,222 (37.52%) John Hospers/Theodora Nathan: 3,674 (0.00%) John Schmitz/Thomas Anderson: 1,100,868 (1.42%)
The Election Outcome Nixon won by one of the biggest landslides in presidential history. John Hospers won one Electoral Vote from a faithless elector in Virginia. The vote was supposed to go to Nixon. Interestingly, the republicans did not gain any votes or ground in Congress and it was still retained by the democrats.