Remembrance Of Things Past: 1968 U.S. Presidential Election- November 5, 1968.
This is the first presidential election in my memory. I was seven years old. That spring my grandparents took me to Washington, D.C. and that was the gateway drug as far as my interest in history goes. I paid some attention to both chaotic Democratic Convention and the Republican Convention. I was interested in the upcoming election. It was Vice President Hubert Humphrey vs Richard Milhous Nixon who I was told had been Vice President for President Eisenhower- and had lost to JFK- and a third party candidate George Wallace. I was in favor of Humphrey for one reason- my parent and grandparents all answered Humphrey when I asked them who they were voting for.
After the conventions were over it looked like the Republican candidate- Richard Milhous Nixon would waltz to victory. The Democratic Convention in Chicago had been a bloodbath and Humphrey suffered from this- trailing The Tricky One by double digits in most polls. Wallace was polling surprisingly well early on.
Milhous Nixon a horrible campaigner went into cruise control thinking all he had to do was run out the clock and he’d win. Then a couple things happened- Wallace’s poll numbers peaked and started to decline after his selection of General Curtis “Bombs Away” LeMay as his Vice Presidential candidate and Humphrey began distancing himself from the Johnson administrations Vietnam policies and then a big break for Humphrey when LBJ announced a bombing halt in Vietnam . Humphrey began closing in on The Tricky One and by Election Day it was seen as too close to call.
In the end Milhous Nixon would win the popular vote by a little over 500,000 votes over Humphrey and would win the Electoral College with 301 to Humphrey’s 191 and Wallace doing well in the south had won 5 states and 46 electoral votes. They would say of this election that if the election would have been a week later Humphrey may have caught Nixon but the election wasn’t a week later- and he didn’t. I don’t think he’d have been a successful president anyway. Nixon- Humphrey was a lesser of two evils election.
Nixon had run claiming to have a ‘secret plan’ to end the Vietnam War. He had no such thing. There were no debates that year- Nixon was still sweating from the 1960 debate with JFK- the first debate where he looked awful on the television and JFK looked a natural. The presidential debates would start back up in 1976 and we’ve had presidential debates every election since.
I was watching the results come in that night- and since it was late before a winner had been declared I didn’t find out until the next morning that Milhous Nixon had prevailed. I have followed every election since- and starting in 1980- I was finally old enough to vote in an election. More on that- my favorite election night at a later date.