The Presidential Election Of 1972 The Presidential election of 1972 had two strong candidates, President Richard Nixon and George McGovern. There were many issues which had a great deal of importance to the election. The Vietnam war and the stability of the economy at the time were two main factors. The election ended in one the largest political scandals in U.S. history, being the Watergate break-in, and cover-up, by President Richard Nixon.
The Democratic party had a large selection of candidates from which to choose for the primary elections of 1972. There were many well known candidates who entered the race for the nomination. The leading contenders were Edmund S. Muskie of Maine, Senator George McGovern of South Dakota and Hubert H. Humphrey of Minnesota. Other candidates who didn’t receive quite as much recognition were Alabama governor George C. Wallace, Mayor Sam Yorty of Los Angeles, Rep. Wilbur D.
Mills of Arkansas, Sen. Vance Hartke of Indiana, former Senator Eugene J. McCarthy of Minnesota, Mayor John Lindsay of New York City and Rep. Shirley Chisholm of New York. Chisholm was the first black to run in a series of presidential primaries.
(Congressional Quarterly, Guide to U.S. Elections, Third ed., 1994, pg.603-605.) 5 Governor Wallace had a devastating moment in his campaign while in Maryland. In early May a sick young man named Arthur Bremer altered the politics of 1972. As Governor Wallace campaigned toward certain victory in the Maryland primary, Bremer stepped forward out of a shopping-center crowd and shot him four times. Wallace survived, but at the cost of being paralyzed from the waist down. Maryland’s voters surged out on election day to give Wallace a huge victory, his last of 1972. While Wallace recuperated, the millions who would have voted for him as a Democratic or independent candidate began to move in overwhelming proportions behind the candidacy began to move in overwhelming proportions behind the candidacy of Richard Nixon. (Benton, William.
U.S. Election of 1972. Encyclopedia Britannica Book of the Year. pg.12-13, 1973 ed.)1 When the California primary was approaching, Humphrey tried to save the nomination for himself. Humphrey excoriated his old senate friend (McGovern) for his expensive ideas on welfare and his desire to cut the defense budget. It almost worked.
But McGovern won all of California’s giant delegation, and beat Humphrey 44.3% to 39.1% in the popular vote.5 That loss spelled out the end for Humphrey’s Democratic nomination. Many felt Edmund Muskie was sure to win the Democratic nomination for the election of 1972. All political observers agreed on the certainty that Senator Edmund Muskie of Maine would be the Democratic party’s nominee.1 As the front-runner, he wanted to snare the nomination early and so was committed to running in all of the first eight presidential primaries. Prominent Democratic politicians lined up eagerly to endorse him. Among them: Gov.
John Gilligan of Ohio; Leonard Woodcock, President of the United Auto Workers; Iowa Senator Harold Hughes; and Pennsylvania Governor Milton Shapp.1 Muskie had many supporters, and a good chance of receiving the nomination, perhaps even becoming the next President of the United States. President Nixon knew that Muskie had a good chance of winning and felt he had to do something to get Muskie out of the race. Nixon had seven men who were loyal to him make up false press releases about Muskie, and his wife. These press releases claimed that Muskie had had affairs with both men and women, that he beat his wife, and then the topper which claimed that Muskies’ wife was an alcoholic. These false statements destroyed Muskies’ campaign and reputation of being a calm trustworthy candidate. Then one day mounting the bed of a truck parked outside the offices of the archconservative Manchester Union Leader, Muskie launched an attack on the paper’s publisher, William Loeb.
As he spoke of Loeb’s unflattering remarks about Mrs. Muskie, the senator’s voice cracked, and the crowd saw tears form in his eyes.1 This incident badly dented Muskie’s image. After that event, people saw Muskie as a weak person. They didn’t want a weak person running the country. Muskie had finished fourth in Pennsylvania, behind winner Humphrey, Wallace, and McGovern, and a distant second to McGovern in Massachusetts. He then withdrew with dignity.
1 Muskie later said of this incident: It changed people’s minds about me, of what kind of a guy I was. They were looking for a strong, steady man, and here I was weak. (Congressional Quarterly, Chronology of Presidential Elections, Fourth ed. 1994, pg.329-330)6 After a long primary campaign, and all the primary elections, Senator George McGovern won the nomination for the Democratic party in the 1972 presidential election. McGovern did not get to deliver his acceptance speech– perhaps the best speech of his career–until 2:48 a.m., when most television viewers were already in bed.6 Senator McGovern had a difficult campaign ahead of him. His opposition, President Richard Nixon, already had the upper hand on him because he had been elected President four years before. President Nixon was the Republican candidate. President Richard Nixon told a reporter that the election was over the day he (Sen.
George McGovern) was nominated. 1 McGovern campaigned very hard. Between September 3 and September 15, the South Dakotan barnstormed through 29 cities and towns in 18 states covering some 14,000 miles and being seen by more than 175,000 people. (U.S. News and World Report, Can Democrats Close the Gap, Sept. 25, 1972, Vol.
LXXXIII, No.13, pg.17-22)3 McGovern knew, if he wanted to win, he had to focus on the important issues of 1972. There were four very important issues. These were the war in Vietnam, the economy, foreign policy, and defense. The two major ones were the war in Vietnam, and the economy. McGovern was sure that if he was elected president, he would be able to end the war. We will be able to end the war by a simple plan that need not be kept secret: The immediate total withdrawal of all Americans from Southeast Asia.
(Congressional Quarterly’s Guide to U.S. Elections, 1972 Conventions, Third ed., 1994 pg.127-132.)4 McGovern goes on to say in another interview that I will stake my whole political career on being able to withdraw our forces and get our prisoners out within 90 days after inauguration. I really think I can do it faster than that. (U.S. News and World, How McGovern Sees The Issues, August 7, 1972, Vol. LXXIII No.6, pg.18- 22)8 McGovern, like everyone else wanted to end the war in Vietnam as soon as possible.
McGovern felt the Nixon could have ended the war years earlier, and could have spared all those lives. There’s nothing that we can negotiate now in ending this war that we couldn’t have done four years ago. We haven’t gained anything in these four years of continued slaughter that’s gone on in this present Administration.8 I’ll be one of those rejoicing even if Nixon does end this war and it does accrue to his advantage. I just wish he had done it four years ago. If he had, I might not now be running for the President.8 McGovern makes it seem as though his sole purpose, and reason for wanting to become President is to simply end the Vietnam war.
Nixon along with the Republican party, and their platform stated that We will continue to seek a settlement of the Vietnam War which will permit the people of Southeast Asia to live in peace under political arrangements of their own choosing. We take specific note of the remaining major obstacle to settlement-Hanoi’s demand that the United States overthrow the Saigon government and impose a Communist-dominated government on the South Vietnamese. We stand unequivocally at the side of the President in his effort to negotiate honorable terms, and in his refusal to accept terms which would dishonor this country.4 We insist that, before all American forces are withdrawn from Vietnam, American prisoners must be returned and a full accounting made of the missing in action and of those who have died in enemy hands. (U.S. News and World Report, Promises Republican Make, Sept. 4, 1972, Vol.
LXXIII No.10, pg.28-29)2 Although the Republicans held the basic idea that the Democrats did, which was to end the war in Vietnam as soon as possible, they didn’t specify an allotted amount of time in which they would accomplish this goal as did the Democrats. The second major issue of 1972 was the economy. The Nixon record increased unemployment by 3 million people.8 There were price freezes, and wage-price controls. McGovern and the Democrats stated that their goal was for full employment, and for those who are unable to work, that they would receive a guaranteed income. The heart of a program of economic security based on earned income must be creating jobs and training people to fill them. Millions of jobs — real jobs, not make-work — need to be provided.
Public service employment must be greatly expanded in order to make the government the employer of last resort and guarantee a job for all. What I offer is a balanced, full- employment economy–where we can provide enough, both to protect our interest abroad and to bring progress at home.4 Part of McGovern’s economic plan incl …