The Vietnam War, the civil rights movement, and protests tied to both combined in a tumultuous year to cause a tight, unusual election closely linked to these issues. Opposition to the war moved Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota to enter the Democratic race, followed by Senator Robert F. Kennedy of New York, both with strong support from liberal constituencies. On March 31, 1968, in the wake of the Tet offensive, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced that he would not seek reelection. This prompted Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey to announce his candidacy. Kennedy won the California primary, but immediately thereafter, he was assassinated by Sirhan Sirhan.
Humphrey then pulled ahead and was nominated for president, with Senator Edmund Muskie of Maine for vice president. The party convention in Chicago was marred by bloody clashes between antiwar protesters and the local police. In comparison, the Republican race was less complicated. Former vice president Richard M. Nixon completed his political comeback by winning the presidential nomination. He chose Governor Spiro Agnew of Maryland as his running mate. The conservative American Independent party nominated Governor George Wallace of Alabama, a segregationist, for president, and Air Force general Curtis LeMay of Ohio, who advocated using nuclear weapons in Vietnam, for vice president.
Nixon campaigned for law and order and said he had a "secret plan" to end the war. Wallace was highly critical of Supreme Court decisions that had broadened the Bill of Rights and of Great Society programs to rebuild the inner cities and enforce civil rights for blacks. Humphrey supported most of Johnson's policies, but late in the campaign he announced he would seek to end American involvement in Vietnam. It was not quite enough to overcome Nixon's lead in the polls. Nixon received 31,710,470 popular votes to 30,898,055 for Humphrey and 9,466,167 for Wallace. Nixon's victory in the electoral college was wider: 302 to 191 for Humphrey and 46 for Wallace, the latter from the South.
The Reader's Companion to American History. Eric Foner and John A. Garraty, Editors. Copyright © 1991 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
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1968 Election. (2013). The History Channel website. Retrieved 2:42, December 5, 2013, from http://www.history.com/topics/elections-1968.
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“1968 Election,” The History Channel website, 2013, http://www.history.com/topics/elections-1968 [accessed Dec 5, 2013].
“1968 Election,” The History Channel website, http://www.history.com/topics/elections-1968 (accessed Dec 5, 2013).
1968 Election [Internet]. The History Channel website; 2013 [cited 2013 Dec 5] Available from: http://www.history.com/topics/elections-1968.
1968 Election, http://www.history.com/topics/elections-1968 (last visited Dec 5, 2013).
1968 Election. The History Channel website. 2013. Available at: http://www.history.com/topics/elections-1968. Accessed Dec 5, 2013.