The 1972 United States presidential election was the 47th quadrennial presidential election. The election was a contest between Democratic Senator George McGovern and incumbent Republican President Richard Nixon.
The Democratic ballot had 11 potential presidential candidates, and it seemed that any of the candidates had a chance of winning the nomination. McGovern’s campaign held on through the very end and he won the largest delegation of California.
Richard Nixon spent very little time getting involved with his Republican opponents, Rep. Paul McCloskey and Rep. John Ashbrook. His reelection campaign revolved around the idea that he was too busy running the country to involve himself in partisan matters. Nixon received 67.9% of the Republican vote in New Hampshire without ever campaigning in the state.
On June 17, 1972, Nixon’s reelection committee broke into the Watergate complex to wiretap the Democratic Nation Committee’s headquarters. This scandal would later be known as “Watergate.”
After his nomination, McGovern’s campaign did not go smoothly. He wanted Ted Kennedy to be his running mate but Kennedy refused. Several others refused as well, including two of the previous Democratic candidates. He finally settled on Thomas F. Eagleton, a junior senator from Missouri. McGovern’s hasty decision about Eagleton would come back to bite him as, weeks later, news broke that Eagleton has a history of psychiatric problems for which he had been hospitalized. Sargent Shriver replaced Eagleton on the ballot.
During the general election campaign, it became obvious that even Democrats did not like the idea of McGovern being in the White House. Nixon was able to emphasize a good economy and his success in foreign affairs (especially relations with China and pulling the U.S. from the Vietnam War) to help him in his election campaign.
On November 7, 1972, the American people voted for their new president.
George McGovern won the following states in the 1972 election:
- District of Columbia
President Nixon won the following state in the 1972 election:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
McGovern received 28,901,598 popular votes and President Nixon received 46,740,323 population votes. Nixon’s margin of victory in the popular vote was 23.2%, one of the largest margins in history. In the Electoral College, Nixon received 520 votes while McGovern received just 17 votes.
President Nixon was inaugurated for his second term on January 20, 1973. On August 8, 1974, however, Nixon resigned from office due to the Watergate scandal.