Richard Nixon defeats Senator George McGovern (D-South Dakota) and is re-elected President of the United States.
With only 55 percent of the electorate voting, the lowest turnout since 1948, Nixon carried all states but Massachusetts, taking 97 percent of the electoral votes. During the campaign, Nixon pledged to secure “peace with honor” in Vietnam. Aided by the potential for a peace agreement in the ongoing Paris negotiations and the upswing in the American economy, Nixon easily defeated McGovern, an outspoken peacenik whose party was divided over several issues, not the least of which was McGovern’s extreme views on the war. McGovern had said during the campaign, “If I were President, it would take me twenty-four hours and the stroke of a pen to terminate all military operations in Southeast Asia.” He said he would withdraw all American troops within 90 days of taking office, whether or not U.S. prisoners of war were released. To many Americans, including many Democrats, McGovern’s position was tantamount to total capitulation in Southeast Asia. Given this radical alternative, Nixon seemed a better choice to most voters.
In other races, the Democrats widened their majority in Congress, picking up two Senate seats. Almost unnoticed during the presidential campaign was the arrest of five men connected with Nixon’s re-election committee who had broken into the Democratic Party’s national headquarters in the Watergate apartment complex in Washington, D.C. The Watergate scandal ultimately proved to be Nixon’s undoing, and he resigned the presidency as a result of it in August 1974.