Eugene McCarthy's 1968 Presidential Campaign

McCarthy Button

(See photos below)

By 1967, opposition to the war in Viet Nam was spreading throughout the Democratic Party. Many were frustrated at their inability to curtail the war even though the Democrats controlled the federal government. Dissident Democrats began looking for someone to challenge the re-election of President Lyndon B. Johnson in the Spring primaries. Many considered it, but the only high ranking Democrat willing to step forward was Senator Eugene J. McCarthy of Minnesota.
On November 30, 1967, he announced that he would run against President Lyndon Johnson for the nomination of the Democratic Party. Although the press and polls were skeptical that McCarthy's candidacy could effectively contest Johnson's war policy, young people in particular flocked to his banner. Thousands left school and work to sleep on floors while walking the streets and phoning the voters for primaries throughout the Spring.
After McCarthy won 42 percent of the vote in the Demoratic primary, the contest changed. On March 31, 1968, President Johnson announced that he would not run for re-election. Two days later, LBJ received only 35 percent of the votes in the Wisconsin primary, to McCarthy's 56 percent.
In 1968, winning the primaries did not necessarily win delegate votes at the national convention. The delegate selection process was often quite separate from the popular vote, and usually controlled by the state party. Consequently, McCarthy only received 23 percent of the 2622 votes at the convention in August. Vice President Hubert Humphrey, a former Senator from Minnesota who replaced LBJ as the candidate of the party establishment, got the nomination on the first ballot with 67 percent. Torn by dissent, the Democrats lost the Presidency in November by a razor thin margin.
This election prompted the Democrats to reform the nomination process. Two commissions made several recommendations that were adopted for the 1972 convention. These made the choices of ordinary Democratic voters more important in the allocation of delegate votes, and required that African-Americans, women and youth be better represented at the convention. The number of states which selected convention delegates through primary elections that reflected the actual vote increased significantly. The nature of the nominating process was never the same again.

Photos of Eugene McCarthy's 1968
Presidential Campaign
by Jo Freeman

Please click on thumbnails to view the complete image

Eugene McCarthy Campaign Photo   Eugene McCarthy Campaign Photo

Senator McCarthy campaigns in the Wisconsin primary.



Senator McCarthy campaigns in the Wisconsin primary.


Eugene McCarthy Campaign Photo
Eugene McCarthy Campaign Photo

" You're never too young...." The Wisconsin primary, March 1968.



McCarthy supporters arrive in Chicago for the Democratic Convention.

Eugene McCarthy Campaign Photo

"McCarthy rising from the people" is the impression given by the McCarthy banner draped over the railing in the lobby of the Hilton Hotel, Democratic convention headquarters in Chicago.



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