He wouldn’t be vice president pick, but Ted Kennedy campaigned for McGovern

The Daily Republic

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.

Ted Kennedy declined to run as George McGovern’s vice presidential candidate in 1972, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t campaign for him.

September 11-13, Kennedy toured the Midwest and Northeast with his fellow Senate liberal, rallying the faithful and delivering large crowds and media attention for the struggling campaign. After Kennedy, arguably the most popular Democrat in the country, turned down repeated requests to run with McGovern, Missouri Sen. Thomas Eagleton was selected.

Eagleton was forced from the ticket after his medical records revealed a history of depression and shock therapy. McGovern then chose Sargent Shriver as his VP candidate. Shriver was Ted Kennedy’s brother-in-law.

On Sept. 11, McGovern and Kennedy urged Chicago and Cook County voters to vote Democratic on Election Day.

Kennedy said Chicago played a crucial role in the election of his brother, John F. Kennedy, in 1960. He said the city and county needed to stand with the Democrats again.

“This was true in 1960, and I believe it will be true in 1972,” Kennedy said.

The Massachusetts senator then asked people at the rally if they would do the “hard and dreary work” needed to elect McGovern. After what was reported as a “rousing” 10-minute speech, Kennedy introduced McGovern.

McGovern had glowing words for Mayor Richard M. Daley, whom he termed “the great mayor of a great city.”

That was a different message than was delivered to the man known as “Boss” in July, when McGovern’s reform movement kept Daley and his largely handpicked Illinois delegation from being seated during the Democratic National Convention.

But McGovern had come to Chicago after the convention to make peace with Daley, and during the rally with Kennedy, the three Irish-American politicians formed a united front.

McGovern and Kennedy were both elected to the Senate in 1962 and grew to become allies and close personal friends.

In September 1972, the McGovern-Kennedy team repeated its Chicago performance in four other cities on Sept. 11 and appeared before tens of thousands of people in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh the next day. McGovern said he was told by Kennedy that such large crowds so early in the contest were very unusual.

“So I think it’s a good sign,” he said. “I kind of have the feeling we’re turning the corner in the last few days and are on the way up.”