The 1968 U.S. presidential election was the 46th quadrennial presidential election. The election was between Republican candidate Richard Nixon and Democratic candidate Hubert H. Humphrey. George Wallace was the third-party candidate presidential candidate for the newly formed American Independent Party.
The election took place during turbulent times in the United States. Civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated and, as a result, race riots sprung up across the country. Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy was also assassinated. On American universities and college campuses, demonstrations against the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War were widespread and anti-war protestors had violent confrontations with police outside of the 1968 Democratic National Convention.
The incumbent president Lyndon B. Johnson was the front-runner for the Democratic Party’s nomination early on but withdrew from the race after the New Hampshire primary. Eugene McCarthy, Robert F. Kennedy, and Hubert Humphrey remained the three major candidates in the Democratic primaries until Kennedy was assassinated on June 5, 1968. Humphrey, who was Johnson’s Vice President, would win the nominations. The Democratic convention in Chicago was disrupted by organized demonstrations from several activist groups including the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam and the Youth International Party (“Yippies”).
Richard Nixon, who had been President Eisenhower’s Vice President and lost to John F. Kennedy in 1960, declared that new leadership in the White House would end the Vietnam War. He announced his candidacy and entered the New Hampshire primary. Nixon won every primary that he entered except for Massachusetts. At the Republican National Convention, Maryland Governor Spiro Agnew won Nixon’s nomination when he released his delegation and declared for Nixon. Agnew became Nixon’s running mate for the election.
During the general election, the main topics of discussion were Civil Rights, the Vietnam War, and the assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. During the general election campaign, Humphrey was taunted by crowds accusing him of following President Johnson’s policies, putting up a sound barrier that prevented him from being heard by the audience. Nixon called him “tragically naïve.” Humphrey trailed Nixon in the polls during the early part of the campaign until Humphrey elected to stop bombing North Vietnam, which caused young people to listen to him and drown out the hecklers.
Five days before the election, President Johnson announced that the U.S. bombing would stop in North Vietnam the next morning. While this was seen to aid Humphrey’s campaign, it was not enough to push him ahead in the polls.
On November 5, 1968, the American people voted for their new president.
Richard Nixon won the following states in the 1968 election:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- North Dakota
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
Hubert Humphrey won the following states in the 1968 election:
- District of Columbia
- New York
- North Carolina
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia
George Wallace won the following states in the 1968 election:
The popular vote results were 31,710,470 for Nixon, 30,898,055 for Humphrey, and 9,906,473 for Wallace. Nixon received 301 electoral votes, Humphrey received 191, and Wallace received 46. Wallace’s electoral vote tally of 46 marks the most recent election in which a third party candidate has won Electoral Votes.
Richard Nixon became the United States’ 37th president and was inaugurated on January 20, 1969.