1972 Republican Convention - History

1972 Republican Convention - History

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1972 republican Convention

Miami Beach, FL
August 21 to 23, 1972

Nominated: Richard M Nixon of California for President
Nominated: Spiro T Agnew of Maryland for Vice President
Nixon was renominated without opposition.


1972 Republican National Convention

The 1972 National Convention of the Republican Party of the United States was held from August 21 to August 23, 1972 at the Miami Beach Convention Center in Miami Beach, Florida. It nominated President Richard M. Nixon and Vice President Spiro T. Agnew for reelection. The convention was chaired by then-U.S. House Minority Leader and future Nixon successor Gerald Ford of Michigan. It was the fifth time Nixon had been nominated on the Republican ticket as either its vice-presidential (1952 and 1956) or presidential candidate (1960 and 1968). Hence, Nixon's five appearances on his party's ticket matched the major-party American standard of Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democrat who had been nominated for Vice President once (in 1920) and President four times (in 1932, 1936, 1940 and 1944).


San Diego, California, had originally been selected as host city for the convention. Columnist Jack Anderson, however, discovered a memo written by Dita Beard, a lobbyist for the International Telephone and Telegraph Corp., suggesting the company pledge $400,000 toward the San Diego bid in return for the U.S. Department of Justice settling its antitrust case against ITT. [1] Fearing scandal, and citing labor and cost concerns, the GOP transferred the event—scarcely three months before it was to begin—to Miami Beach, which was also hosting the Democratic National Convention. It was the sixth and, to date, last time both the Republican and Democratic national party conventions were held in the same city Chicago had hosted double conventions in 1884, 1932, 1944, and 1952, and Philadelphia in 1948. [2] The RNC did not return to San Diego until 1996.

1972 Republican Convention - History

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    The protests at the Republican National Convention in Miami, Fl., August 21-23, 1972 marked a fierce battle between President Richard Nixon and the movement that demanded an end to the war in Indochina.

    Nixon struck first when eight leaders of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) were indicted on charges of conspiracy to disrupt the Convention with automatic weapons, explosives, incendiary devices, as well as slingshots and crossbows.

    The government also leaked out information that they were planning to raise drawbridges to trap protesters in Miami Beach and then shoot at them. In spite of these attempts to suppress demonstrations, the protests went forward.

    While the 5,000 that participated were relatively small in number, the clashes between police and demonstrators were prolonged and intense, occurring over several days and nights. The demonstrations sent the message that disruptions would not cease as long as the war went on.

    Large scale anti Vietnam War protests would come to an end in the early 1973 after 100,000 protested at Nixon’s second Inauguration. Shortly afterwards, the Paris Peace Accords were signed that signaled an end to the U.S. combat role in Vietnam.

    In April 1975, combined forces of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and the National Liberation Front ousted the regime in South Vietnam.

    For an account of the Miami Republican Convention protests written by the Maryland Route 1 Brigade in 1972 shortly after the demonstrations, see

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    Early on June 17, 1972, five men were apprehended at the Watergate Office Building breaking into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee, and Democratic leaders thought they saw a political break. The intruders were laden with electronic eavesdropping equipment and were led by the director of security of the CRP, James McCord. The CRP’s campaign director, former attorney general John Mitchell, quickly fired McCord, but the scandal had only begun to erupt. Eleven days later Mitchell fired G. Gordon Liddy, a counsel to the finance committee of the CRP, because Liddy refused to answer FBI questions about his frequent phone conversations with one of the Watergate bugging team. Mitchell himself resigned a few days later.

    The Democratic National Committee, led by Chairman Lawrence F. O’Brien, was vocally indignant and sued the CRP for $1 million. Furor over the Watergate case was stoked by later revelations that money used by Bernard Barker, one of the Watergate five, came from Nixon campaign funds raised in the Midwest.

    See also

    The 1972 United States presidential election was the 47th quadrennial presidential election. It was held on Tuesday, November 7, 1972. Incumbent Republican President Richard Nixon from California defeated Democratic U.S. Senator George McGovern of South Dakota. Until the 1984 election, this was the largest margin of victory in the Electoral College for a Republican in a U.S. presidential election. It was the first time when California had more electoral votes than New York.

    The Republican National Convention (RNC) is a series of presidential nominating conventions held every four years since 1856 by the United States Republican Party. They are administered by the Republican National Committee. The goal of the Republican National Convention is to officially nominate and confirm a candidate for president and vice president, adopt a comprehensive party platform and unify the party, as well as publicize and launch the fall campaign. Delegates from all fifty U.S. states and from American dependencies and territories such as Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands attend the convention and cast their votes. Like the Democratic National Convention, the Republican National Convention marks the formal end of the primary election period and the start of the general election season. In 2020 all parties replaced the usual conventions with short online programs.

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    The 1988 Republican National Convention of the Republican Party of the United States was held in the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana from August 15 to August 18, 1988. It was the second time that a major party held its convention in one of the five states known as the Deep South, coming on the heels of the 1988 Democratic National Convention, which was held in Atlanta, Georgia. Much of the impetus for holding the convention in the Superdome came from the Louisiana Republican National Committeewoman Virginia Martinez of New Orleans, who lobbied on behalf of her adopted home city as the convention site as a member of the RNC Executive Committee.

    The 1976 Republican National Convention was a United States political convention of the Republican Party that met from August 16 to August 19, 1976, to select the party's nominee for President. Held in Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Missouri, the convention nominated President Gerald Ford for a full term, but only after narrowly defeating a strong challenge from former California Governor Ronald Reagan. The convention also nominated Senator Bob Dole of Kansas for vice president, instead of Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, who did not seek nomination for a full term. The keynote address was delivered by Tennessee Senator Howard Baker. Other notable speakers included Minnesota Representative Al Quie, retired Lieutenant Colonel and former Vietnam prisoner of war Raymond Schrump, former Texas Governor John Connally, Providence, Rhode Island mayor Vincent Cianci and Michigan Senator Robert P. Griffin. It is the last national convention by either of the two major parties to feature a seriously contested nomination between candidates.

    The 1952 Republican National Convention was held at the International Amphitheatre in Chicago, Illinois from July 7 to 11, 1952, and nominated the popular general and war hero Dwight D. Eisenhower of New York, nicknamed "Ike," for president and the anti-communist crusading Senator from California, Richard M. Nixon, for vice president.

    The 1984 National Convention of the Republican Party of the United States convened on August 20 to August 23, 1984, at Dallas Convention Center in downtown Dallas, Texas. The convention nominated President Ronald W. Reagan and Vice President George H. W. Bush for reelection.

    The 2000 National Convention of the Republican Party of the United States convened at the First Union Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from July 31 to August 3, 2000. The 2000 delegates assembled at the convention nominated Texas Governor George W. Bush for president and former U.S. Secretary of Defense Richard B. "Dick" Cheney for vice president.

    The 1964 National Convention of the Republican Party of the United States took place in the Cow Palace, Daly City, California, from July 13 to July 16, 1964. Before 1964, there had been only one national Republican convention on the West Coast, the 1956 Republican National Convention, which also took place in the Cow Palace. Many believed that a convention at San Francisco indicated the rising power of the Republican party in the west.

    The 1968 National Convention of the Republican Party of the United States was held at the Miami Beach Convention Center in Miami Beach, Dade County, Florida, from August 5 to August 8, 1968, to select the party's nominee in the general election. It nominated former Vice President Richard M. Nixon for president and Maryland Governor Spiro T. Agnew for vice president. It was the fourth time Nixon had been nominated on the Republican ticket as either its vice presidential or presidential candidate (1960).

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    The 1980 National Convention of the Republican Party of the United States convened at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan, from July 14 to July 17, 1980. The Republican National Convention nominated former Governor Ronald W. Reagan of California for president and former Representative George H. W. Bush of Texas for vice president.

    The 1956 Democratic National Convention nominated former Governor Adlai Stevenson of Illinois for president and Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee for vice president. It was held in the International Amphitheatre on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois August 13–August 17, 1956. Unsuccessful candidates for the presidential nomination included Governor W. Averell Harriman of New York, Senator Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas, and Senator Stuart Symington of Missouri.

    The 1952 Democratic National Convention was held at the International Amphitheatre in Chicago, Illinois from July 21 to July 26, 1952, which was the same arena the Republicans had gathered in a few weeks earlier for their national convention from July 7 to July 11, 1952. Four major candidates sought the presidential nomination: U.S. Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee, Governor Adlai Stevenson II of Illinois, Senator Richard Russell of Georgia and Averell Harriman of New York.

    The 1960 National Convention of the Republican Party of the United States was held in Chicago, Illinois, from July 25 to July 28, 1960, at the International Amphitheatre. It was the 14th and most recent time overall that Chicago hosted the Republican National Convention, more times than any other city.

    “Tired of Going to Funerals:” The 1972 National Black Political Convention in Gary

    Delegates, including Reverend Jesse Jackson, marching into the National Black Political Convention, courtesy of Gene Pesek/Chicago Sun-Times, accessed

    They agreed that black prisoners should receive fair trials, that black Americans should not die years earlier than white counterparts, that black workers should be afforded a living wage, and that black candidates should be given opportunities to craft legislation that affected their communities. They shared a collective outrage. In 1972, organizers asked them – Americans of color affiliated with Socialists, Democrats, Republicans, Nationalists, and the Black Panthers- if they could overcome differing ideologies to channel this outrage into political action at the National Black Political Convention (NBPC) held in Gary, Indiana. Black poet and activist Amiri Baraka (formerly LeRoi Jones) advocated for the gathering to practice “unity without conformity.”

    According to an essay in Major Problems in African American History, the Gary convention was the culmination of a series of uprisings in protest of discrimination, which historians refer to collectively as the Black Revolt. Black Americans were emboldened by tragic events, such as the assassination of Malcolm X in 1965, as well as legislative progress, like the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In an interview, North Carolina convention delegate Ben Chavis recalled:

    I had gotten tired of going to funerals. . . . so much of the Movement had been tragic. You know. And I have to emphasize [Rev. Martin Luther] King’s assassination was a tragic blow to the Movement. And so four years later, March of 󈨌, for us to be gathering up our wherewithal to go to Gary, Indiana–hey, that was a good shot in the arm for the Movement.

    Historian Stephen Grant Meyer identified 1968, when King was assassinated, as the year in which the modern civil rights movement began to diverge. No longer was integration the primary means to make political and economic gains. This fracture gave rise to a Nationalist faction, which sought to promote black identity and improve living conditions through a separate black nation. The polarization was reminiscent of the late-19th and early-20th century debates between reformer Booker T. Washington and intellectual W.E.B. Du Bois, who both worked to ease the economic and social plight of African Americans. Washington believed this was best achieved by earning the respect of white citizens through hard work and self-help. Du Bois, on the other hand, believed white oppression should be cast off by protests and political activism, in large part through the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), an organization he co-founded.

    Black Panther co-founder Bobby Seale. According to the NWI Times, he declared “all black people, involved in any way with survival programs for the black community, [to be] revolutionaries at the National Black Political Convention,” AP Photo, courtesy of the NWI Times. NBPC organizers, who had begun planning the conference in 1970, struggled to find a city willing to accommodate an influx of politically-engaged black Americans. Gary Mayor Richard G. Hatcher, an advocate of civil rights and minorities and one of the first African American mayors of a major U.S. city, volunteered his predominantly black city. Not since the 1930s, with the first meeting of the National Negros Congress in Chicago, had such a massive and diverse gathering of people of color convened to advance their rights. Approximately 3,000 official delegates and 7,000 attendees from across the United States met at Gary’s West Side High School from March 10 to March 12. The attendees included a prolific group of black leaders, such as Reverend Jesse Jackson, Coretta Scott King, Amiri Baraka, Muslim leader Minister Louis Farrakhan, Black Panther co-founder Bobby Seale, and Malcolm X’s widow Betty Shabazz. Organizers sought to create a cohesive political strategy for black Americans by the convention’s end.

    Television crews waiting for convention to start, courtesy of the NWI Times.

    A bomb threat was called into convention headquarters at the Holiday Inn and a local gang reportedly deposited guns in school lockers. These threats to disrupt the convention necessitated additional security. Uniformed and plainclothes policemen reinforced the northwestern Indiana city. Armed civil defense personnel supplemented the police presence and boxer-turned-activist Muhammad Ali served as sergeant-at-arms.

    The high school, decorated with red, white, and blue bunting, thrummed with activity. As vendors sold books, banners, and souvenirs, a band prompted snapping and feet-tapping with “gutsy,” drum-driven music. The Munster Times reported “Two or three white reporters, their faces split with grins, were lost somewhere with the music. A policeman absentmindedly slapped the butt of his pistol to the beat.” Delegates ranging from “pinstripe-suited conservatives to youngsters in colorful flowing robe-type shirts [dashikis] and mod fashions to the black-uniformed para-military” milled about the gym waiting for the delayed convention to finally start. Organizers scrambled to respond to complaints that the elevated platform for journalists blocked the stage.

    Welcome poster, courtesy of the NWI Times.

    Entertainers like James Brown and Harry Belafonte lent their support to the convention by performing. Comic and civil rights activist Dick Gregory, weighing 90 pounds as a result of fasting to protest the Vietnam War, addressed the audience about issues of policing and drug access and asked, “‘[H]ow can a black kid in Harlem find a heroin pusher and the FBI can’t?'”

    State delegations, national organizations, and individuals proposed resolutions in the creation of “A National Black Agenda” (Muncie Evening Press). This agenda would extend the movement beyond the convention. As convention attendee and Distinguished Lecturer at York College City University of New York Dr. Ron Daniels noted, the Black Agenda was “integral to holding candidates, who would seek Black votes, accountable to the interests and aspirations of Black people.”

    Delegates from Illinois suggested fines and prison sentences for businessmen found guilty of discriminatory practices. North Carolina attendees proposed a bill of prisoners’ rights that included humane treatment and fair trials. Delegates from Indiana and other states demanded that the U.S. dedicate resources to the plight of black Americans rather than the Vietnam War and end the conflict immediately. North Carolina representatives also urged that black men receive Social Security benefits earlier than white men since their life expectancy was eight years shorter. The Muncie Evening Press noted that “Politicking was intense . . . as state delegations tried to compromise their own views with positions they felt other delegations could support.” Tensions ran so high that part of the Michigan delegation walked out of the convention.

    Muncie Evening Press, March 11, 1972, 1, accessed

    Keynote speakers Reverend Jackson, executive director of P.U.S.H. and Operation Breadbasket, and Mayor Hatcher ignited the crowd and “stoked rhetorical fires aimed at molding the diverse black communities represented here into a solid unit that can tip the political balance this presidential election year and from now on” (Munster Times).

    While similar in many aspects, the men’s speeches hinted at the divergence in philosophies pervading the convention. Hatcher believed change could come from within the existing two-party system, so long as the parties responded to the needs of African Americans. However, if legislators continued to neglect black constituents, black Americans would create a third party and, he told attendees, “we shall take with us the best of White America . . . many a white youth nauseated by the corrupt values rotting the innards of this society . . . many of the white poor . . . many a White G.I. . . . and many of the white working class, too.” The party would also welcome “chicanos, Puerto Ricans, Indians [and] Orientals” (Indianapolis Recorder).

    However, Jackson, appealing to Nationalists, urged the immediate formation of a black party, potentially called the “Liberation Party.” He asserted “‘Without the option of a black political party, we are doomed to remain in the hip pocket of the Democratic party and in the rumble seat of the Republican party'” (Kokomo Tribune). Jackson also called for the establishment of black institutions to oversee black educational, economic, and judicial matters. He asked the crowd “what time is it?” and the audience, electrified, shouted “It’s Nation Time!”

    Harry Williams, “Convention Raps Busing,” The Republic (Columbus, Indiana), March 13, 1972, accessed

    Jackson’s proposal drew criticism from some black organizations, like the NAACP, which believed that continued segregation, albeit black-led, would impede progress. According to Major Problems in African American History, the NAACP circulated a memo at the convention denouncing the proposal of a separate nationhood for African Americans and criticizing the rhetoric for being “‘that of revolution rather than of reform.'” An Indianapolis Recorder editorial articulated this point, noting “The only road to nationwide achievement by a minority is through cooperation with the majority.”

    Presidential campaign poster courtesy of the Library of Congress, accessed

    Another contentious issue in the 1970s: school desegregation through the forced busing of black children to white schools. The Jackson faction opposed busing and defined successful black education not as being able to attend white schools, but rather as children attending black-led schools. The endorsement of the presidential candidate that would best represent black interests also generated conflict at the convention. Some delegations supported Democrat Shirley Chisholm, America’s first black Congresswoman, while many Nationalists wanted a leader from a black party.

    After intense debate, a steering committee tentatively adopted a National Black Agenda. The committee officially published the 68-page document on May 19, Malcolm X’s birthday. The resolutions included black representation in Congress proportionate to the U.S. black population, a guaranteed minimum income of $6,500 for four-person households, a 50% cut in the defense and space budgets, and an end to national trade with countries that supplied the U.S. drug market. The resolutions, designed to move black Americans towards “self-determination and true independence,” represented major, yet tenuous compromise among the black community.

    Image courtesy of NWI Times.

    The steering committee also formed the National Black Political Assembly, a body tasked with implementing the Black Agenda. Dr. Daniels noted that, although many of the agenda’s resolutions never materialized, “thousands of Black people left Gary energized and committed to making electoral politics a more relevant/meaningful exercise to promote Black interests.” He attributed the quadrupling of elected black officials by the end of the 1970s, in large part, to the Gary convention and the “audacity of Black people to . . . defend black interests.” The NBPC was notable too for its inclusion of black Americans from all walks of life, rather than just prominent black figures, in formulating how to ease the struggles of the black community. The Recorder also noted that Mayor Hatcher’s reputation “has been considerably burnished in the white community as well as the black by the success of the historic event” (Indianapolis Recorder).

    In 2012, Gary hosted the 40th anniversary of the National Black Political Convention. Speakers discussed the issues that had prevailed into the 21st century, such as a disparity in prison sentencing and poverty. One speaker remarked that without Shirley Chisholm, America’s first black president Barack Obama would not have occupied the White House. Another speaker, who ran for mayor of Baltimore, lamented that forty years after the convention “we’re still asking what to do instead of how to do it.” When asked if it was still “nation time” one speaker responded “it’s muted nation time.” Black Americans, they agreed, needed to “have the audacity.”

    Contact: [email protected]


    “Black Convention Split Over Separation,” Terre Haute Tribune, March 11, 1972, accessed

    “Black Meet Without Incident Bodyguards, Police Vigilant,” Munster Times, March 12, 1972, accessed

    “Black Political Movement Born in Gary,” Lafayette Journal and Courier, March 13, 1972, accessed

    “Creation of ‘The National Assembly’ Concludes Black Political Convention,” Kokomo Tribune, March 13, 1972, accessed

    Harry Williams, “Convention Raps Busing,” Columbus Republic, March 13, 1972, accessed

    “Hatcher to Keynote Black Convention,” Indianapolis Recorder, March 11, 1972, accessed Hoosier State Chronicles.

    Jay Harris, “Black Political Agenda Hit on Busing, Israel,” Wilmington (DE) Evening Journal, May 19, 1972, accessed

    John Hopkins, “Leaders Mold Black Power: Warn Parties” and James Parker, “Blacks Marching to Different Drums,” Munster Times, March 12, 1972, accessed

    “Keeping Watch,” Lafayette Journal and Courier, March 10, 1972, accessed

    Major Problems in African American History: Documents and Essays, Second Edition, eds. Barbara Krauthamer, Chad Williams, and Thomas G. Paterson (Cengage Learning, 2016): 510-515.

    Tv The Presidency Richard Nixon 1972 Republican National Convention CSPAN August 22, 2020 5:07pm-5:52pm EDT

    President Nixon accepted the nomination to be the 1972 Republican candidate for president of the United States. In his remarks he outlined domestic and foreign policy agendas for the re-election campaign.

    Sponsor: Republican National Committee

    TOPIC FREQUENCY Us 23, United States 12, Vietnam 7, Nixon 4, Tanya 3, United States Of America 3, Soviet Union 2, China 2, America 2, George Mcgovern 1, Dole 1, Anne Armstrong 1, Ted Agnew 1, Richard Nixon 1, Howard Baker 1, Zhenya 1, Grannie 1, Uncle Vasya 1, Trump 1, Abraham Lincoln 1

    Richard Nixon: Campaigns and Elections

    Richard Nixon's presidential defeat in 1960 and gubernatorial defeat in 1962 gave him the reputation of a loser. He spent six years shaking it before he could win the 1968 Republican presidential nomination. During that time, he joined a prestigious law firm in New York City, became financially well off, and argued a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. Nixon played a marginal role in presidential politics in 1964, introducing his party's nominee at the GOP convention in San Francisco's Cow Palace: "He is the man who earned and proudly carries the title of Mr. Conservative. He is the man who, by the action of this convention, is now Mr. Republican. And he is the man who, after the greatest campaign in history, will be Mr. President—Barry Goldwater." Nixon campaigned for Goldwater and other Republicans that fall, earning the gratitude of conservatives, who together with their standard-bearer went down to defeat in the largest landslide in post-war history.

    It looked like the end of conservatism, the triumph of liberalism. It was neither. Out of the wreckage of Goldwater's candidacy rose a charismatic conservative star, Ronald Wilson Reagan. On the strength of a single, nationally televised speech, Reagan took Goldwater's place as first in the hearts of the conservative movement, confronting Nixon with a formidable rival for the 1968 nomination. But Reagan had never held public office and had to run for governor of California before he could be a credible presidential candidate. He won the 1966 gubernatorial race in a landslide and immediately began seeking the presidential nomination. Nixon had a head start, however, spending 1966 campaigning for Republican candidates and cultivating party conservatives.

    His hard work paid off. Thanks in part to an ill-timed blast from President Lyndon Johnson, who called Nixon a "chronic campaigner," the presidential hopeful found himself the center of attention right before an election in which Republicans made tremendous gains. It was going to be a Republican year anyway, with Vietnam and urban unrest dominating political debate, but Johnson's attack helped make it Nixon's year as well.

    While Reagan continued to woo the conservative movement, Nixon picked off conservative leaders. Goldwater, Senator Strom Thurmond, and other mainstays of the Republican right-wing lined up behind Nixon. He entered every primary and assembled a team of media consultants who helped him create the image of a "New Nixon," more statesmanlike, less combative, more mature and presidential, an effort chronicled in "The Selling of the President 1968" by Joe McGinnis. The centerpiece of this self-recreation was a series of carefully managed television interview programs packaged by the Nixon campaign. These programs showed Nixon at his best, answering questions posed by ordinary Americans, and shielded him from questions by reporters, who sometimes brought out his worst.

    At the Republican Party convention, Nixon won the nomination on the first ballot. Reagan moved to make the nomination unanimous. The presidential hopeful then tapped Maryland's governor Spiro Agnew as his running mate. In his acceptance speech, Nixon offered hope to a country in chaos: "We extend the hand of friendship to all people. To the Soviet people. To the Chinese people. To all the people of the world. And we work toward the goal of an open world, open sky, open cities, open hearts, open minds."The Republicans' orderly, well run convention was a sharp contrast to their opponents' tumultuous gathering in Chicago. The Vietnam War had split the Democratic party. Antiwar candidate Eugene McCarthy made a surprisingly strong showing against President Johnson in the New Hampshire primary, leading Johnson to withdraw from the race in late March. Robert Kennedy then entered the race, winning the California primary in June and—on the same night—losing his life to an assassin's bullet, adding to the grief of a nation still mourning the death of Martin Luther King two months earlier. At the Chicago convention, antiwar forces were defeated by Johnson loyalists, who gave the nomination to Vice President Hubert Horatio Humphrey. Outside the convention hall, Chicago police clashed with demonstrators, igniting riots.

    Nixon started the general election campaign with a double-digit lead over Humphrey, even in the face of a serious third-party challenge from candidate George Wallace. Wallace came to national prominence early in the 1960s as a staunch segregationist and broadened his appeal to the Right by lashing out at antiwar demonstrators. Nixon pressed his advantages. He refused to debate Humphrey he also raised and spent much more money than his opponent.

    Nevertheless, by Election Day, his lead had all but vanished. Humphrey was buoyed when the North Vietnamese accepted President Johnson's proposal for peace talks in Paris in return for a bombing halt. Publicly, Nixon supported the bombing halt and the negotiations privately, however, his campaign urged South Vietnam's government to refuse to take part in the talks. South Vietnam complied just days before Americans went to the polls and made Nixon their President. But before Nixon took office, he closed ranks with Johnson and insisted that South Vietnam take part in the peace talks.

    Although it was an extremely close race with respect to the popular vote, Nixon won the electoral college by a 3 to 2 margin. Wallace's third party candidacy stole votes from both of the major parties, but hurt the Democrats more many Southern Democrats defected and Nixon was able to win some Southern electoral votes. Only 43 percent of voters supported Nixon, hardly a mandate. In fact, he defeated Humphrey by a margin of less than 1 percent of the vote. The Democrats nevertheless maintained control of the House and Senate, making Nixon the first President elected without his party winning either house of Congress since the nineteenth century.

    In hindsight, the magnitude of Richard Nixon's reelection victory in 1972—the largest Republican landslide of the Cold War—leads some to ask why the President ever got involved in the Watergate cover-up. Nixon won 49 out of 50 states, taking all but Massachusetts. He established an early lead over the Democratic nominee, Senator George McGovern of South Dakota and never lost it.

    McGovern, on the other hand, stumbled early. He selected Thomas Eagleton as his running mate, only to learn later that the senator from Missouri had undergone treatment for mental illness. A political firestorm immediately erupted over whether a man with a history of mental illness should be next in line to become commander in chief in the nuclear age. McGovern hastily declared himself to be "1,000 percent" behind Eagleton. He then dropped him from the ticket. If selecting a vice president is the first presidential decision that a nominee ever makes, McGovern, by choosing and then rejecting Eagleton, had in effect admitted he made the wrong decision. Kennedy brother-in-law Sargent Shriver, an architect of John F. Kennedy's Peace Corps and Lyndon B. Johnson's War on Poverty, replaced Eagleton, but the damage was already done.

    For Nixon, it was the best year of his political life. His diplomatic opening to China reached fruition with a widely televised trip to Beijing. Détente bore fruit with the signing of the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty and a summit in Moscow. And Nixon's decision to bomb North Vietnam and mine Haiphong Harbor to stop a Communist offensive proved highly popular. When Henry Kissinger announced shortly before the election that he had resolved most major negotiating issues with North Vietnam and that therefore "Peace is at hand," it was only icing on the cake.

    During most of this outwardly triumphant year, however, a scandal of epic proportions was quietly growing within the administration.

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