The Presidential Election of 1972

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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...
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