EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part of a weekly series examining the events of 40 years ago that led to Mitchell native George McGovern’s Democratic presidential nomination.
By TOM LAWRENCE
The Daily Republic
“McGovern Scores Smashing Victory in Wisconsin.”
That was the headline atop Page 1 in the April 5, 1972, edition of The Daily Republic. It was also major news all over the country.
McGovern, the junior senator from tiny, rural South Dakota, was suddenly at the front of the pack in the heated contest to be the 1972 Democratic nominee for president.
He won the Wisconsin primary with 30 percent of the vote, a win he had predicted the day before votes were cast.
“I think we’re going to be all right,” he said while campaigning in Milwaukee. “I still say we’re going to win.”
McGovern topped Sen. Hubert Humphrey, the Doland native who rose to national prominence after he moved to neighboring Minnesota, and Alabama Gov. George Wallace.
Former New York City Mayor John Lindsay dropped out of the race after the primary as the crowded Democratic field started to be winnowed. The liberals were coalescing around McGovern, reports stated.
That was part of the plan, according to McGovern senior advisers Gary Hart and Frank Mankiewicz.
They said the Democratic Party had two wings, and they aimed to seize control of one. By winning the Wisconsin primary, the strategists told reporters, they had done so, and now could concentrate on taking over the entire party.
It was now clear, Mankiewicz said, that McGovern had the best chance of all Democrats of defeating President Richard Nixon in the November election.