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 and run for the White House.
By TOM LAWRENCE
George McGovern and Richard Nixon had a long-distance war of words 40 years ago this week.
Nixon, running for a second term as president, had a huge lead in the polls. On Aug. 24, during an outdoor rally in California, the Republican president offered a prediction. Nixon said he would win in a landslide.
It would be a welcome change for the veteran politician, who lost a razor-close election to John F. Kennedy in 1960 and edged Hubert Humphrey in 1968.
Nixon said there would be a “breakthrough for peace” in his second term. He promised a “secret plan” to end the Vietnam War during the 1968 campaign, but the war dragged on as his first term neared an end. That would change, the president told a cheering crowd. “I think I have learned to negotiate,” Nixon said. The long-running war had fueled McGovern’s campaign, which was based on his long-time opposition to the war. On Aug. 25, McGovern made a speech before heading to his home on the Maryland shore.
“Do we want another four years of war under Nixon?” he asked in a fiery manner.
To show his support for women, McGovern announced Ann Martindell, a New Jersey Democratic leader, had been named his deputy campaign director, and actress Shirley MacLaine and Congresswoman Bella Abzug, D.Y., would be the co-chairwomen of the McGovern-Shriver National Advisory Committee.
McGovern said the nation didn’t need four more years of the “Southern strategy,” as Nixon reached out to the South, luring states that were once solidly Democratic into the Republican fold.
And he said he was weary of Nixon “loading the Supreme Court with second-raters.”