After Johnson's withdrawal, Vice- President Hubert Humphrey announced his candidacy. Kennedy was successful in four state primaries (Indiana, Nebraska, South Dakota, and California) and McCarthy won six (Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Oregon, New Jersey, and Illinois). However, in primaries where they campaigned directly against one another, Kennedy won three primaries (Indiana, Nebraska, and California) and McCarthy won one (Oregon). Humphrey did not compete in the primaries, leaving that job to favorite sons who were his surrogates, notably Senator George A. Smathers from Florida, Senator Stephen M. Young from Ohio, and Governor Roger D. Branigin of Indiana. Instead, Humphrey concentrated on winning the delegates in non-primary states, where party leaders such as Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley controlled the delegate votes in their states. Kennedy defeated Branigin and McCarthy in the Indiana primary, and then defeated McCarthy in the Nebraska primary. However, McCarthy upset Kennedy in the Oregon primary.
After Kennedy's defeat in Oregon, the California primary was seen as crucial to both Kennedy and McCarthy. McCarthy stumped the state's many colleges and universities, where he was treated as a hero for being the first presidential candidate to oppose the war. Kennedy campaigned in the ghettos and barrios of the state's larger cities, where he was mobbed by enthusiastic supporters. Kennedy and McCarthy engaged in a television debate a few days before the primary; it was generally considered a draw. On June 4, Kennedy narrowly defeated McCarthy in California, 46%–42%. However, McCarthy refused to withdraw from the race and made it clear that he would contest Kennedy in the upcoming New York primary, where McCarthy had much support from anti-war activists in New York City. The New York primary quickly became a moot point, however, for in the early morning of June 5, Kennedy was shot shortly after midnight; he died twenty-six hours later. Kennedy had just given his victory speech in a crowded ballroom of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles; he and his aides then entered a narrow kitchen pantry on their way to a banquet room to meet with reporters. In the pantry Kennedy and five others were shot by Sirhan Sirhan, a Christian Palestinian who hated Kennedy because of his support for Israel. Sirhan admitted his guilt, was convicted of murder, and is still in prison. In recent years some have cast a doubt on this, including Sirhan himself, who said he was "brainwashed" into killing Kennedy and was a patsy.
Political historians have debated to this day whether Kennedy could have won the Democratic nomination had he lived. Some historians, such as Theodore H. White and Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., have argued that Kennedy's broad appeal and famed charisma would have convinced the party bosses at the Democratic Convention to give him the nomination. Jack Newfield, author of RFK: A Memoir, stated in a 1998 interview that on the night he was assassinated, " had a phone conversation with Mayor Daley of Chicago, and Mayor Daley all but promised to throw the Illinois delegates to Bobby at the convention in August 1968. I think he said to me, and Pete Hamill, 'Daley is the ball game, and I think we have Daley.'" However, other writers such as Tom Wicker, who covered the Kennedy campaign for The New York Times, believe that Humphrey's large lead in delegate votes from non-primary states, combined with Senator McCarthy's refusal to quit the race, would have prevented Kennedy from ever winning a majority at the Democratic Convention, and that Humphrey would have been the Democratic nominee even if Kennedy had lived. The journalist Richard Reeves and historian Michael Beschloss have both written that Humphrey was the likely nominee, and future Democratic National Committee chairman Larry O'Brien wrote in his memoirs that Kennedy's chances of winning the nomination had been slim, even after his win in California.
At the moment of RFK's death, the delegate totals were:
Total popular vote:
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Famous quotes containing the word contest:
“By his mere quiet power, on the minds of the now contestants, He could have either saved or destroyed the Union without a human contest. Yet the contest began. And having begun He could give the final victory to either side any day. Yet the contest proceeds.”
“I expect to maintain this contest until successful, or till I die, or am conquered, or my term expires, or Congress or the country forsakes me.”
“It is odd but agitation or contest of any kind gives a rebound to my spirits and sets me up for a time.”
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