Hubert Humphrey - The 1968 Presidential Election

The 1968 Presidential Election

As 1968 began, it looked as if President Johnson, despite the rapidly decreasing approval rating of his Vietnam War policies, would easily win the Democratic nomination for a second time. Humphrey indicated to Johnson that he would like to be his running mate again. However, in the New Hampshire primary Johnson was nearly defeated by Senator Eugene McCarthy, who challenged Johnson on an anti-war platform, but was not expected to be a serious contender for the Democratic nomination. A few days later, Senator Robert Kennedy of New York also entered the race on an anti-war platform. On March 31, 1968, a week before the Wisconsin primary, where the polls predicted a loss to McCarthy, President Lyndon B. Johnson stunned the nation by withdrawing from his race for a second full term.

Following this announcement, Humphrey quickly re-evaluated his position, and announced his presidential candidacy in late April 1968. Many people saw Humphrey as Johnson's stand-in; he won major backing from the nation's labor unions and other Democratic groups that were troubled by young antiwar protesters and the social unrest around the nation. Humphrey avoided the primaries (and/or was too late to enter them) and concentrated on winning delegates in non-primary states; by June he was seen as the clear front-runner for the nomination. However, following a key victory over McCarthy in the California primary, it appeared that Kennedy could win the nomination. But the nation was shocked yet again when Senator Kennedy was assassinated the night of his victory speech in California.

Humphrey and his running mate, Ed Muskie, went on to easily win the Democratic nomination at the party convention in Chicago, Illinois. Unfortunately for Humphrey and his campaign, outside the convention hall there were riots and protests by thousands of antiwar demonstrators, many of whom favored McCarthy, George McGovern, or other "anti-war" candidates. These protesters – most of them young college students – were attacked and beaten on live television by Chicago police, which merely amplified the growing feelings of unrest in the general public. Humphrey's inaction during the riots, as well as public backlash from securing the presidential nomination without entering a single primary, highlighted turmoil in the Democratic party's base that proved to be too much for Humphrey to overcome in time for the general election. The combination of the unpopularity of Johnson, the Chicago riots, and the discouragement of liberals and African-Americans when both Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. were assassinated during the election year, were all contributing factors that caused him to eventually lose the election to former Vice President Nixon. Although he lost the election by less than 1% of the popular vote, (43.4% for Nixon (31,783,783 votes) to 42.7% (31,271,839 votes) for Humphrey, with 13.5% (9,901,118 votes) for George Wallace), Humphrey only carried 13 states with 191 electoral college votes. Richard Nixon carried 32 states and 301 electoral votes, and Wallace carried 5 states in the South and 46 electoral votes (270 were needed to win). He said: "I have done my best. I have lost, Mr. Nixon has won. The democratic process has worked its will."

Thirty percent of Humphrey’s campaign funding was raised from contributions of $500 or less, compared to 85 percent of George Wallace’s funding.

Read more about this topic:  Hubert Humphrey

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