United States presidential election, 1972

United States presidential election, 1972

Infobox Election
election_name = United States presidential election, 1972
country = United States
type = presidential
ongoing = no
previous_election = United States presidential election, 1968
previous_year = 1968
next_election = United States presidential election, 1976
next_year = 1976
election_date = November 7, 1972

nominee1 = Richard Nixon
party1 = Republican Party (United States)
home_state1 = California
running_mate1 = Spiro Agnew
electoral_vote1 = 520
states_carried1 = 49
popular_vote1 = 47,168,710
percentage1 = 60.7%

nominee2 = George McGovern
party2 = Democratic Party (United States)
home_state2 = South Dakota
running_mate2 = Sargent Shriver
electoral_vote2 = 17
states_carried2 = 1+DC
popular_vote2 = 29,173,222
percentage2 = 37.5%

map_size = 350px
map_caption = Presidential election results map. Red denotes states won by Nixon/Agnew, Blue denotes those won by McGovern/Shriver. Grey is the electoral vote for John Hospers by a Virginia faithless elector. Numbers indicate the number of electoral votes allotted to each state.
title = President
before_election = Richard Nixon
before_party = Republican Party (United States)
after_election = Richard Nixon
after_party = Republican Party (United States)
The United States presidential election of 1972 was waged on the issues of radicalism and the Vietnam War. The Democratic nomination was eventually won by George McGovern, who ran an anti-war crusade against incumbent President Richard M. Nixon, but was handicapped by his outsider status as well as the scandal and subsequent firing of vice presidential candidate Thomas Eagleton.

Nixon, proclaiming that peace was at hand in Vietnam because of his policies, ridiculed McGovern as the radical candidate. The election took place on November 7, 1972. Nixon won the election, with a 23.2 percentage points margin of victory in the popular vote, the 4th largest such margin in Presidential election history.


Democratic Party Nomination

Democratic candidates

* George McGovern, U.S. senator from South Dakota
* Henry M. Jackson, U.S. senator from Washington
* George Wallace, U.S. governor of Alabama
* Shirley Chisholm, U.S. representative from New York
* Terry Sanford, former U.S. governor of North Carolina
* Hubert Humphrey, former U.S. Vice President from Minnesota
* Edmund Muskie, U.S. senator from Maine
* Eugene J. McCarthy, former U.S. senator from Minnesota

Candidates gallery

Senate Majority Whip Ted Kennedy had been the favorite to win the 1972 nomination, but his hopes were derailed by his role in the 1969 Chappaquiddick incident. He was not a candidate.

The establishment favorite for the Democratic nomination was Ed Muskie, the moderate who acquitted himself well as the 1968 Democratic vice presidential candidate. In the New Hampshire primary, Muskie gave a speech to defend himself and his wife, Jane, against the claims of the Canuck Letter. The press reported that Muskie was crying during the speech, and this likely caused Muskie to do worse than expected in the primary, while McGovern came in a surprisingly-close second. McGovern now had the momentum, which was well orchestrated by his campaign manager, Gary Hart.

Alabama governor George Wallace, with his "outsider" image, did well in the South (he won every single county in the Florida primary) and in the north among alienated and dissatisfied voters. What might have become a forceful campaign was cut short when Wallace was shot while campaigning, and left paralyzed in an assassination attempt by Arthur Bremer. The day after the assassination attempt Wallace won the Michigan and Maryland primaries, but the shooting, which left him paralyzed, effectively ended his campaign.

In the end, McGovern succeeded in winning the nomination by winning primaries through grass-roots support in spite of establishment opposition. McGovern had led a commission to redesign the Democratic nomination system after the messy and confused nomination struggle and convention of 1968. The fundamental principle of the McGovern Commission—that the Democratic primaries should determine the winner of the Democratic nomination—lasted throughout every subsequent nomination contest. However, the new rules angered many prominent Democrats whose influence was marginalized, and those politicians refused to support McGovern's campaign (some even supporting Nixon instead), leaving the McGovern campaign at a significant disadvantage in funding compared to Nixon.

Primaries popular vote results.cite web|url=http://www.ourcampaigns.com/RaceDetail.html?RaceID=46950 |title=D Primaries Race - Mar 07, 1972 |publisher=Our Campaigns |work=US President |accessdate=2008-09-21]

* Hubert Humphrey - 4,121,372 (25.77%)
* George McGovern - 4,053,451 (25.34%)
* George Wallace - 3,755,424 (23.48%)
* Edmund Muskie - 1,840,217 (11.51%)
* Eugene McCarthy - 553,990 (3.46%)
* Henry M. Jackson - 505,198 (3.16%)
* Shirley Chisholm - 430,703 (2.69%)
* Terry Sanford - 331,415 (2.07%)
* John Lindsay - 196,406 (1.23%)
* Samuel Yorty - 79,446 (0.50%)
* Wilbur Mills - 37,401 (0.23%)
* Walter E. Fauntroy - 21,217 (0.13%)
* Unpledged - 19,533 (0.12%)
* Ted Kennedy - 16,693 (0.10%)
* Vance Hartke - 11,798 (0.07%)
* Patsy Mink - 8,286 (0.05%)
* "None" - 6,269 (0.04%)

President Richard Nixon won 1,091 (0.01%) write-in votes.

Notable endorsements

Hubert Humphrey
* Mayor Jack Sensenbrenner of Columbus, Ohio"' [cite web|url=http://www.ourcampaigns.com/RaceDetail.html?RaceID=36076 |title=D Primary Race - May 2, 1972 |publisher=Our Campaigns |work=OH US President |accessdate=2008-09-21]

George McGovern
* Senator Frank Church of Idaho
* Senator John V. Tunney of California

George Wallace
* Former Governor Lester Maddox of Georgia

Edmund Muskie
* Former Governor and Secretary of Commerce W. Averell Harriman of New York
* Senator Harold Hughes of Iowa
* Senator Birch Bayh of Indiana
* Senator Adlai Stevenson III of Illinois [cite web|url=http://www.ourcampaigns.com/RaceDetail.html?RaceID=36023 |title=D Primary Race - Mar 21, 1972 |publisher=Our Campaigns |work=IL US President |accessdate=2008-09-21]
* Senator Mike Gravel of Alaska [cite web|url=http://select.nytimes.com/mem/archive/pdf?res=F00D16F83C591A7493C7A8178AD85F468785F9|title=More Muskie Support|publisher=New York Times|accessdate=2008-9-27]
* Former Senator Stephen M. Young of Ohiocite web|url=http://www.ourcampaigns.com/CandidateDetail.html?CandidateID=11755 |title=Stephen M. Young |publisher=Our Campaigns |work=Candidate |accessdate=2008-09-21]
* Governor Milton Shapp of Pennsylvania
* Former Governor Michael DiSalle of Ohio
* Ohio State Treasurer Gertrude W. Donaheycite web|url=http://www.ourcampaigns.com/CandidateDetail.html?CandidateID=10820 |title=Gertrude W. Donahey |publisher=Our Campaigns |work=Candidate |accessdate=2008-09-21]
* Astronaut John Glenn of Ohio

Shirley Chisholm
* Representative Ron Dellums of California
* Reverend Jesse Jackson of Illinois

Terry Sanford
* Former President Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas

Henry M. Jackson
* Governor Jimmy Carter of Georgia [cite web|url=http://www.ourcampaigns.com/RaceDetail.html?RaceID=58482 |title=D Convention Race - Jul 10, 1972 |publisher=Our Campaigns |work=US President |accessdate=2008-09-21]

= Democratic National Convention =

The tally:
**George McGovern 1864.95
**Henry “Scoop” Jackson 525
**George Wallace 381.7
**Shirley Chisholm 151.95
**Terry Sanford 77.5

**Hubert Humphrey 66.7
**Wilbur Mills 33.8
**Edmund Muskie 24.3
**Edward M. Kennedy 12.7
**Sam Yorty 10
**Wayne Hays 5
**John Lindsay 5
**Fred Harris 2
**Eugene McCarthy 2
**Walter Mondale 2
**Ramsey Clark, Walter Fauntroy, Vance Hartke, Harold Hughes and Patsy Mink 1 each

Other potential vice-presidential candidates

* Reubin Askew, Governor of Florida
* Frank Church, U.S. senator from Idaho
* John Gilligan. Governor of Ohio
* Hubert Humphrey, U.S. senator from Minnesota
* Ted Kennedy, U.S. senator from Massachusetts
* Patrick Lucey, Governor of Wisconsin
* Wilbur Mills, U.S. representative from Arkansas
* Walter Mondale, U.S. senator from Minnesota
* Edmund Muskie, U.S. senator from Maine
* Gaylord Nelson, U.S. senator from Wisconsin
* Lawrence O'Brien, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee from Massachusetts
* Abraham Ribicoff, U.S. senator from Connecticut
* Kevin White, Mayor of Boston

The vice-presidential vote

With hundreds of delegates either actively supporting Nixon or angry at McGovern for one reason or another, the vote was chaotic, with at least three other candidates having their names put into nomination and votes scattered over 70 candidates.The tally:

** Thomas F. Eagleton 1742
** Frances Farenthold 405
** Mike Gravel 226
** Endicott Peabody 108
** Claiborne W. Smothers 74
** Birch Bayh 62
** Peter Rodino 57
** Jimmy Carter 30
** Shirley Chisholm 20
** Moon Landrieu 18.5
** Edward T. Breathitt 18
** Edward M. Kennedy 15
** Fred R. Harris 14
** Richard G. Hatcher 11
** Harold E. Hughes 10
** Joseph M. Montoya 9
** William L. Guy 8
** Adlai E. Stevenson III 8
** Robert Bergland 5
** Cesar Chavez 5
** Wilbur Mills 5
** Wendell R. Anderson 4
** Stanley Arnold 4
** Ronald Dellums 4
** John J. Houlihan 4
** Roberto Mondragón 4
** Reubin Askew 3
** Herman Badillo 3
** Eugene McCarthy 3
** Claiborne Pell 3
** Terry Sanford 3
** Ramsey Clark 2
** Richard J. Daley 2
** John DeCarlo 2
** Ernest Gruening 2
** Roger Mudd 2
** Edmund Muskie 2
** Claude Pepper 2
** Abraham Ribicoff 2
** Patrick Taylor 2
** Bruno Agnoli 1
** Ernest Albright 1
** William Barrett 1
** Daniel Berrigan 1
** Phillip Berrigan 1
** Julian Bond 1
** Hargrove Bowles 1
** Archie Bunker 1
** Phillip Burton 1
** William Chappell 1
** Lawton Chiles 1
** Frank Church 1
** Leon Cook 1
** George A. Dowdy 1
** Robert Drinan 1
** Nick Galifianakis 1
** John Goodrich 1
** Michael Griffin 1
** Martha Griffiths 1

** Charles Hamilton 1
** Patricia Harris 1
** James B. Hunt 1
** Daniel Inouye 1
** Henry "Scoop" Jackson 1
** Robert Kariss 1
** Allard Lowenstein 1
** Mao Zedong 1
** Eleanor McGovern 1
** Martha Mitchell 1
** Ralph Nader 1
** George Norcross III 1
** Jerry Rubin 1
** Fred Seaman 1
** Joe Smith 1
** Benjamin Spock 1
** Patrick Tavolacci 1
** George Wallace 1
** 4 others 88.49

The vice presidential balloting went on so long that McGovern and Eagleton were forced to make their acceptance speeches at around three in the morning, local time.

A couple of weeks after the convention ended, it was discovered that Eagleton had undergone psychiatric electroshock therapy for depression, and had concealed this information from McGovern. McGovern initially claimed that he would back Eagleton “1000%”, only to ask Eagleton to withdraw 3 days later. This perceived indecisiveness was disastrous for the McGovern campaign.

After a week in which six prominent Democrats publicly refused the VP nomination, Sargent Shriver, brother-in-law to the Kennedys and former ambassador to France and head of the War on Poverty, finally accepted. He was officially nominated by a special session of the Democratic National Committee. By this time, McGovern's poll ratings had plunged from 41% to 24%.

The Hunter S. Thompson book "Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72" covers McGovern's campaign to win the Democratic nomination.

Amnesty, Abortion and Acid

On April 25, 1972, George McGovern won the Massachusetts primary and journalist Bob Novak phoned Democratic politicians around the country, who agreed with his assessment that blue-collar workers voting for McGovern did not understand what he really stood for. On April 27, 1972 Novak reported in a column that an unnamed Democratic senator had talked to him about McGovern. "The people don’t know McGovern is for amnesty, abortion and legalization of pot," the Senator said. "Once middle America — Catholic middle America, in particular — finds this out, he’s dead." The label stuck and McGovern became known as the candidate of "amnesty, abortion and acid." [http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19694666/page/7/ Meet the Press Transcript for July 15, 2007. "Interview with Robert Novak] ] Columbia Tribune. " [http://www.columbiatribune.com/2007/Aug/20070819Feat004.asp A slice of history: Biographers of the late U.S. Sen. Thomas Eagleton of Missouri will find some vivid anecdotes when they comb through his large collection of journals, letters and transcripts housed in Columbia] " by Terry Ganey. 2008-09-21.]

Novak was accused of manufacturing the quote. To rebut the criticism, Novak took the senator to lunch after the campaign and asked whether he could identify him as the source. The senator said he would not allow his identity to be revealed.cite news |url=http://www.kansascity.com/news/columnists/steve_kraske/story/209499.html |archiveurl=http://peacecorpsonline.org/messages/messages/2629/2204062.html |archivedate=2007-09-22 |title=With another disclosure, Novak bedevils the dead |last=Kraske |first=Steve |date=July 28, 2007 |publisher=Kansas City Star |quote="Oh, he had to run for re-election", said Novak.] "The McGovernites would kill him if they knew he had said that." Novak added.

On July 15, 2007, Novak disclosed on "Meet the Press" that the unnamed senator was Thomas Eagleton. Political analyst Bob Shrum says that Eagleton would never have been selected as McGovern's running mate if it had been known at the time that Eagleton was the source of the quote. "Boy, do I wish he would have let you publish his name. Then he never would have been picked as vice president," said Shrum. "Because the two things, the two things that happened to George McGovern—two of the things that happened to him—were the label you put on him, number one, and number two, the Eagleton disaster. We had a messy convention, but he could have, I think in the end, carried eight or 10 states, remained politically viable. And Eagleton was one of the great train wrecks of all time."

Republican Party nomination

* Republican Candidates
** John Ashbrook, United States representative from Ohio
** Pete McCloskey, a United States representative from California
** Richard Nixon, the incumbent president of the United States

Candidates gallery

The primaries

Nixon was a popular incumbent president in 1972, as he seemed to have reached détente with China and USSR. He shrugged off the first glimmers of what, after the election, became the massive Watergate scandal.

Polls showed that Nixon had a strong lead. He was challenged by two minor candidates, liberal Pete McCloskey of California and conservative John Ashbrook of Ohio. McCloskey ran as an anti-war and anti-Nixon candidate, while Ashbrook opposed Nixon's détente policies towards the China and the Soviet Union. In the New Hampshire primary McCloskey's platform of peace garnered 11% of the vote to Nixon's 83%, with Ashbrook receiving 6%.

Nixon won 1323 of the 1324 delegates to the GOP convention, with McCloskey receiving the vote of one delegate from New Mexico.

Primaries popular vote result: [cite web|url=http://www.ourcampaigns.com/RaceDetail.html?RaceID=46959 |title=R Primaries Race - Mar 07, 1972 |publisher=Our Campaigns |work=US President |accessdate=2008-09-21]
* Richard Nixon - 5,378,704 (86.92%)
* Unpledged - 317,048 (5.12%)
* John Ashbrook - 311,543 (5.03%)
* Pete McCloskey - 132,731 (2.15%)

Third parties

Perhaps the only major third party candidate in the 1972 elections, Conservative congressman John G. Schmitz of the American Party (the party on whose ballot George Wallace ran in 1968), was on the ballot in 32 states and received 1,099,482 popular votes. Unlike Wallace, however, he received no electoral votes at all. Schmitz would make news again in the late 1990s when his daughter, Mary Kay Letourneau, was arrested for statutory rape.

John Hospers of the newly-formed Libertarian Party was on the ballot only in Colorado and Washington and received only 3,573 popular votes. However, he did receive one electoral vote from Virginia from a Republican dissenter (see below). His vice-presidential candidate, Tonie Nathan became the first woman in U.S. history to receive an electoral vote.

Benjamin Spock was nominated by the People's Party, which was formed in 1971.

General election


George McGovern ran on a platform of ending the Vietnam War and instituting guaranteed minimum incomes for the nation's poor. However, his campaign was greatly crippled because of the electro-shock therapy controversy involving his original running mate, and because his view on the primaries had alienated many powerful Democrats. With McGovern's presence weakened by these factors, the Republicans successfully portrayed him as a half-crazy radical, and McGovern suffered a landslide defeat of 61%–38% to Nixon. Nixon's percentage of the popular vote was only slightly less than Lyndon Johnson's record in the 1964 election, and his margin of victory was slightly larger. Nixon won a majority vote in 49 states (including McGovern's home state of South Dakota), with only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia voting for the challenger, resulting in an even-more-lopsided Electoral College tally.

Richard Nixon ran a harsh campaign with an aggressive policy of keeping tabs on perceived enemies, and his campaign aides committed the Watergate burglary to steal Democratic Party information during the election. Nixon's level of personal involvement with the burglary was never clear, but his tactics during the later coverup would eventually destroy his public support and lead to his resignation. Also, Nixon's so-called "southern strategy" of reducing the pressure for school desegregation and otherwise restricting federal efforts on behalf of blacks had a powerful attraction to northern blue-collar workers as well as southerners.

The election was held on November 7. This election had the lowest voter turnout for a presidential election since 1948, with only 55 percent of the electorate voting. Part of the steep drop from the previous elections can be explained by the ratification of the 26th Amendment which expanded the franchise to 18-year-olds.


Source (Popular Vote): Leip PV source 2| year=1972| as of=August 7, 2005

Source (Electoral Vote): National Archives EV source| year=1972| as of=August 7, 2005

(a)"A Virginia faithless elector, Roger MacBride, though pledged to vote for Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew, instead voted for Libertarian candidates John Hospers and Theodora Nathan."
(b)"In Arizona, Pima and Yavapai counties had a ballot malfunction that counted many votes for both a major party candidate and Linda Jenness of the Socialist Workers Party. A court ordered that the ballots be counted for both. As a consequence, Jenness received 16% and 8% of the vote in Pima and Yavapai, respectively. 30,579 of her 30,945 Arizona votes are from those two counties. Some sources don't count these votes for Jenness."

Close states

#Minnesota, 5.51%
#Rhode Island, 6.19%
#South Dakota, 8.63%
#Massachusetts, 8.97%
#Wisconsin, 9.68%


* From 1960 to the present day, this was the only Presidential election in which Minnesota voted for a Republican.
* The 1972 election was the first in American history in which a Republican candidate carried every Southern state. Arkansas was the last Southern state to go Republican; prior to 1972, the Natural State was NOT carried by the Democrats only twice: 1872 (by Republican Ulysses S. Grant) and 1968 (by third-party candidate George Wallace). Nixon carried Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia in 1968, and Barry Goldwater carried Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina in 1964. All of Goldwater's states except South Carolina went to Wallace in 1968.
* Hunter S. Thompson’s book "" provides an informed and surreal insiders look at the year and campaigns working up to the election.
* Alice Cooper (Vincent Damon Furnier) of the Alice Cooper Band participated in the election of 1972 as a publicity stunt to promote the group's album "Billion Dollar Babies", which was due to be released in 1973. Though the shock rock band received few votes, their campaign song "Elected" became a hit.Fact|date=January 2008


External links

* [http://geoelections.free.fr/USA/elec_comtes/1972.htm 1972 popular vote by counties]
* [http://psephos.adam-carr.net/countries/u/usa/pres/1972.txt 1972 popular vote by states]
* [http://uselectionatlas.org/RESULTS/datagraph.php?year=1972&fips=0&f=1&off=0&elect=0 1972 popular vote by states (with bar graphs)]
* [http://www.msu.edu/~sheppa28/elections.html#1972 How close was the 1972 election?] - Michael Sheppard, Michigan State University

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