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
The Democratic nomination for president appeared within reach for George McGovern as this week dawned 40 years ago.
McGovern was about to embark on a three-primary winning streak that positioned him as the solid favorite as the party’s choice to run against President Richard Nixon.
On May 23, voters in Oregon and Rhode Island headed to the polls.
McGovern trounced his main liberal rival, Sen. Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota, in both states.
He took Oregon with 50 percent of the vote while Humphrey claimed just 13.
Alabama Gov. George Wallace, paralyzed by a would-be assassin’s bullets the week earlier, received 20 percent.
In Rhode Island, McGovern received 41 percent of the vote while Humphrey garnered 20 percent and Wallace came in third with 15.
“Not bad for one day’s work,” McGovern told reporters after the twin wins.
The long-shot candidacy that had started in January 1971, with McGovern barely registering in national polls, had become a well-oiled machine.
Led by campaign manager Gary Hart and campaign director Frank Mankiewicz, McGovern’s team had out-organized, out-worked and outlasted 10 other declared candidates.
There was only one more round of primaries, on June 6, and the nomination now appeared within McGovern’s grasp.