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Hubert Humphrey 1968.jpg
Campaign U.S. presidential election, 1968
Candidate Hubert Humphrey
Mayor of Minneapolis 1945-1948
U.S. Senator 1949–1965
Vice President 1965-1969
Affiliation Democratic Party
Slogan Some People Talk Change, Others Cause It

Vice President of the United States Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota began his quest for the 1968 Democratic Party nomination for President of the United States following the decision by President Lyndon B. Johnson to not seek re-election.

Humphrey entered the race too late to participate in any primaries, and relied on "favorite son" candidates to help him win delegates. He was also faced with the stigma of the Vietnam War, which was intensified during his tenure as Vice President and grew unpopular.

Humphrey faced the challenge of anti-war Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota, whose showing in the New Hampshire Primary had forced President Johnson to withdraw. Senator Bobby Kennedy of New York also challenged Humphrey until his assassination in June 1968. Humphrey won his party's nomination at the 1968 Democratic National Convention amidst riots, and selected Senator Edmund Muskie of Maine as his running mate.

During the general election, Humphrey's main challenge came from former Vice President Richard Nixon of California, the Republican Party nominee. Nixon criticized the Vice President's role in Vietnam, and connected Humphrey to the unpopular president. Despite a surge by Humphrey in the days prior to the election, he was narrowly defeated by Nixon.



Humphrey and Johnson discuss the Vietnam War

Hubert Humphrey previously ran for president in 1952 and 1960, the latter being his most successful run, winning primaries in South Dakota and Washington D.C. but ultimately lost the Democratic nomination to future President John F. Kennedy. In 1964, Humphrey was tapped as the running mate of Lyndon Johnson, who went on to win in a landslide victory over Republican nominee Barry Goldwater. As Vice President, Humphrey oversaw turbulent times in America, including race riots and growing frustration and anger over the large number of American casualties in the Vietnam War. President Johnson's popularity had plummeted as he looked to re-election.[1]

Lyndon Johnson campaign

Prior to Humphrey's run, President Lyndon Johnson began a campaign for re-election, entering his name into the first in the nation New Hampshire primary for March 1968. Late in 1967, building upon anti-war sentiment, Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota entered the race, making his challenge to the president no mystery, with heavy criticism of his Vietnam War policies. [2] Even before McCarthy's entrance, Johnson grew concerned about a challenge. He confided to Democratic Congressional leaders that an opponent could pull Martin Luther King Jr. and Dr. Benjamin Spock into their corner, defeating him in New Hampshire, and forcing his withdrawal from the race, similar to the 1952 challenge posed to President Harry Truman by Senator Estes Kefauver, which caused the president to not seek re-election. [3]

Humphrey was assigned the task of campaigning for Johnson, and was described by one source as the "administration's strongest advocate on Vietnam" policy. [4] The campaign tried many different tactics including a circulation of the slogan, "the communists in Vietnam are watching the New Hampshire primary...don't vote for fuzzy thinking and surrender," which the challenger compared to fear mongering. [5] Despite polls that placed McCarthy around 10% to 20% in the state, the Senator won 42.2% of the vote, compared to Johnson's 49.4%. [6] The media began to describe the results as a "moral victory" for McCarthy, [7] and soon afterwards, inspired by the result, Senator Bobby Kennedy of New York entered the race, [8] despite previously stating he would not challenge the president for the nomination. [9]

As the next primary approached in Wisconsin, it appeared McCarthy would defeat Johnson. A week prior to the primary, the president announced that he would not seek nor accept the Democratic Party nomination, [10] setting the stage for a presidential run by Humphrey. [11]


After weeks of speculation, Humphrey announced his candidacy on April 26, 1968, in front of a crowd of 1,700 in Washington D.C. His words, "I shall seek the nomination of the Democratic Party for President of the United States" were broadcast throughout the nation on television and radio. He further commented that the election would be about "common sense, and a time for maturity, strength and responsibility." He set his goals at not simply winning the nomination but winning in a way that would "unite [the] party" so he could then "be able to unite and govern [the] nation." Humphrey's entrance was too late for the candidate to enter any primaries. [12]

Campaign developments

Presidential Nominee Hubert Humphrey (D-MN)

As the campaign got underway, Humphrey tried to position himself as the conservative Democrat in the race, hoping to appeal to Southern delegates. Republicans, feeling that the Vice President may be the nominee, began to attack him, describing his positions as socialistic and reminding voters that Southern Democrats once considered him a "wild-eyed liberal." Democrats conceded this point but argued that compared to McCarthy and Kennedy, Humphrey is conservative. [13] He immediately made an impact on the polls, rocketing to number one among Democrats in the beginning of May with 38%, ahead of both McCarthy and Kennedy. [14]

At the Indiana primary, he began the strategy of using "favorite son" candidates as surrogates for his campaign, and to weaken his opponents. Governor Roger Branigin stood in for Humphrey in Indiana, and placed second, in front of McCarthy but below Kennedy. [15] Senator Stephen M. Young of Ohio stood in for the Vice President in Ohio, and won the primary. [16] In the following days, a private poll of the state's delegation showed that 70 or more of the 115 planned to pledge to Humphrey. [17] Later in the month, Humphrey gained 57 delegates from Florida, as favorite son candidate, Senator George Smathers defeated McCarthy in the Florida primary with 46% of the vote. [18] He also picked up delegates from Pennsylvania, following an endorsement from Philadelphia Mayor James Hugh Joseph Tate. [19]

The next month, Humphrey's rival Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles, prompting the Vice-President to return to his home in Minnesota and "think about the next stage." [20] A large number of Kennedy delegates shifted to Humphrey following the assassination but popular opinion polls shifted in favor of Senator McCarthy. [21] In fact, Humphrey was booed by 50,000 people on June 24 at the Lincoln Memorial as he was introduced at a Solidarity March for civil rights. The response to the Vice President was seen by commentators as ironic given that he was booed at the 1948 Democratic National Convention after advocating a civil rights platform. [22] He then tried to defend his record against the liberal detractors, stating in Mississippi: "I stand as I always did for equal rights and opportunity." [23] At the end of the month, Republican Senator Mark Hatfield of Oregon, assessed the Democratic situation, stating that Humphrey would be the party's nominee for president but criticized the Vice President for being too closely aligned with Johnson policies. [24]

McCarthy challenged Humphrey to a series of debates on an assortment of issues in July. The Vice-President accepted the invitation but modified the proposal by requesting there be only one debate prior to the Democratic National Convention. [25] He then criticized the Senator for simply complaining about the war effort and offering no plan for peace. [26] At the end of the month, Humphrey began to court Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts as a possible running mate, hoping the young Senator would increase his chances of winning the support of liberals, and alleviate the criticism spawned from his connections to Johnson. [27]

As former Vice President Richard Nixon gained the Republican Party nomination, Humphrey held what he thought was a private meeting with 23 college students in his office. There, he discussed his thoughts about the political climate of the day. He was unaware that reporters were also in the room, and his comments soon became public. Humphrey stated that youths were using the Vietnam War as "escapism" and ignoring domestic issues. He remarked that he received thousands of letters from young people about the Vietnam War but received zero about Head Start as part of the program designed for poor preschool children began to expire, and was only saved by his tie-breaking Senate vote. [28] As the national convention approached with Humphrey's likely nomination, the war continued to divide the party and set the stage for a battle in Chicago. [29]

Democratic national convention

Vice Presidential nominee Edmund Muskie (D-ME)

As the convention started, Humphrey stated that he had more than enough delegates to secure the nomination, but commentators questioned the campaign's ability to hold on to the delegates. The Texas delegation announced frustration at the McCarthy campaign's attempts to change procedures, and commented that they might renominate President Johnson as a result. Observers noted that Humphrey's delegates were supporters of Johnson, and may follow suit. Meanwhile, protests and riots raged in the streets of Chicago, forcing Mayor Richard J. Daley to order federal troops into the city. [30] Eventually, 6,000 federal troops and 18,000 Illinois National Guardsmen were outside the convention, defending the premise. [31] Amidst the riots and protests, Humphrey won the party's nomination on the first ballot after a two hour debate,[32] defeating McCarthy 1759.25 to 601. The race's newest entrant Senator George McGovern of South Dakota received 146.5. [33] The results caused the riots to intensify, prompting the use of tear gas, which Humphrey smelt in his hotel room. [32] He also received six death threats while in the city. During his acceptance speech, Humphrey tried to unify the party stating that "the policies of tomorrow need not be limited to the policies of yesterday." [34] He asked former Republican candidate Nelson Rockefeller to be his running mate, but he declined [35] and Senator and former Governor Edmund Muskie of Maine was chosen instead. Observers noted the selection of the politician, active in civil rights and labor and on neither side of the War issue, was a move to appeal to liberals while not upsetting establishment Democrats. [34] Republican nominee Richard Nixon congratulated Humphrey on his victory as the general election campaign began. [36]

General election

Humphrey-Muskie campaign logo

In September, President Johnson gave Humphrey what was described as the strongest endorsement of the campaign, when he asked Texas Democrats to throw their support behind the Vice President. Meanwhile, Humphrey campaigned in New York where he labeled Nixon as a "Hawk," stating the former Vice President "wanted to go to war (in Vietnam) in 1954." At a later stop in Buffalo, Humphrey was met by protesters, whom he told to go do something useful. [34] At this stage, both campaign began to use their running mates to attack the other candidate. Republican Vice Presidential nominee Spiro Agnew criticized the current Vice President for being "soft on communism" and "soft on inflation and soft on law and order." He then compared the nominee to former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain.[37] In Missouri, in preparation for a meeting with former President Harry Truman, Democratic vice presidential nominee Edmund Muskie held a rally where he tried to defend his running mate from connections made by the Nixon campaign to the Johnson administration, stating that Nixon should be held accountable for the shortcomings of the Eisenhower Administration under his logic. He then lambasted the Republican ticket for ignoring such issues as urban renewal, housing, and federal aid for education and sewage.[38] Diplomat George W. Ball soon resigned his position in the Johnson administration to campaign for and advise Humphrey, hoping to prevent a Nixon victory. [39] By the end of September, Humphrey's chances for the presidency seemed to be declining. Media outlets observed that the Republican Party would be the likely winners in the election. Humphrey acknowledged the odds, stating at an event in Boston: "regardless of the outcome of this election, I want it to be said of Hubert Humphrey that at an important and tough moment of his life he stood up for what he believed and was not shouted down." The comment drew boos from the crowd. [40]

The next month, hoping to separate himself from the policies of the Johnson administration, Humphrey delivered a televised speech to a nation-wide audience, and announced that if he was elected, he would put an end to the bombing of North Vietnam. He labeled the new policy "as an acceptable risk for peace." [41] The plan was compared to Nixon's, which the candidate stated would not be revealed until Inauguration Day. [42] Later in the month, Humphrey was criticized by Nixon, who tried to put an emphasis on one of the foci of his campaign, the issue of law and order. The former Vice President stated that a vote for Humphrey, would amount to "a vote to continue a lackadaisical, do nothing attitude toward the crime crisis in America." [43] At this point, polls showed that Nixon led Humphrey between a margin of 5 and 15 points. [44] While campaigning in San Antonio, Humphrey went on the attack against Nixon. He accused the Republican nominee of playing politics with his selection of Spiro Agnew as a running mate, and claimed that he was "on the road to defeat." Hoping to gain favor among the Hispanic community, Humphrey claimed that Nixon "never did one thing for people with Spanish surnames, and Spanish Americans." [45] Nixon continued to tie Humphrey to Johnson. He attacked the Democratic nominee, stating that the administration was playing politics with the Vietnam War by trying to complete a treaty before the election to favor the Vice President. Humphrey fired back at Nixon's allegations, stating that the former Vice President was using "the old Nixon tactic of unsubstantiated insinuation" and requested evidence from him. [46] Humphrey challenged Nixon to a series of presidential debates, but the Republican nominee declined. [47]

Election results by county.      Richard Nixon      Hubert Humphrey      George Wallace

A few days before the election, Humphrey gained the endorsement of his former rival Eugene McCarthy. During a stop in Pittsburgh, Humphrey stated that the endorsement made him a "happy man." [48] The hopes of victory for Humphrey also began to look up as a bombing pause was achieved in Paris. However, contemporary debate questions whether Nixon was personally involved in preventing Saigon from coming to the table. Reports show that the Republican nominee advised the South Vietnamese that a Nixon administration would offer them a better deal, which disrupted the prospect for peace on election night. [49] Just prior to the election, Humphrey and Nixon each held a four hour televised forum on rival television networks. Nixon tried to reverse Humphrey's boost from the peace deal by stating that he had been advised that "tons of supplies" were being sent along the Ho Chi Minh Trail by the North Vietnamese, a shipment that could not be stopped. Humphrey described these claims as "irresponsible," which prompted Nixon to proclaim that Humphrey "doesn't know what's going on." [50]

On Election Day, Humphrey was defeated by Nixon 301 to 191 in the electoral college. Independent candidate and Governor of Alabama George Wallace received 46. The popular vote was much closer as Nixon edged Humphrey 43.42% to 42.72%, with a margin of approximately 500,000 votes. Humphrey carried his home state of Minnesota and Texas, the home state of President Johnson. He also won most of the Northeast and Michigan, but lost the west to Nixon and the South to Wallace. [51] Humphrey conceded the race to Nixon, and stated that he would support him as president. On his way out he remarked: "I've done my best." [52]



Humphrey returned to the Senate in 1971, succeeding his former rival Eugene McCarthy. He ran again for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 1972 but lost to George McGovern, who went on to be defeated by President Nixon in a landslide. [54] Humphrey died while serving in the Senate in 1978. [1]


  1. ^ a b "Hubert H. Humphrey, 38th Vice President (1965-1969)". United States Senate.  
  2. ^ Marlow, James (December 1, 1967), "Johnson Impassive Amid All the Furor", The Free-Lance Star (Fredericksburg, Virginia): 3,,3298616&dq=eugene+mccarthy+1968  
  3. ^ Allen, Robert S.; Scott, Paul (November 15, 1967), "McCarthy disturbs White House", Rome News-Tribune (Rome, Georgia): 3,,1547138&dq=eugene+mccarthy+1968  
  4. ^ Kelly, Harry (December 22, 1967), "Humphrey Is Give the Job Of Countering Sen. McCarthy", The Free Lance Star (Fredericksburg, Virginia): 5,,881806&dq=eugene+mccarthy+1968  
  5. ^ Pearson, Drew (March 12, 1968), "Gene McCarthy Gets Praise for Views on McCarthyism", Spokane Daily Chronicle (Spokane, Washington): 3,,2863720&dq=eugene+mccarthy+1968  
  6. ^ "Unforeseen Eugene", Time Magazine, March 22, 1968,,9171,828460,00.html  
  7. ^ "LBJ Comes Out Slugging", The Evening Independent (St. Petersburg, Florida): 11, March 19, 1968,,3849108&dq=moral-victory+mccarthy  
  8. ^ "Both Parties Adjusting To Kennedy Emergence", The Free-Lance Star (Fredericksburg, Virginia): 2, March 16, 1968,,1519212&dq=eugene+mccarthy+1968  
  9. ^ Lewis, Ted (December 22, 1967), "McCarthy's campaign lacking fire", The Spokesman-Review (Spokane Washington): 14,,2143309&dq=eugene+mccarthy+1968  
  10. ^ "The Johnson Announcement", The Free-Lance Star (Fredericksburg, Virginia): 3, April 1, 1968,,3167241&dq=eugene+mccarthy+1968  
  11. ^ "Johnson withdrawal frees Humphrey to seek nomination", The Bulletin (Bend, Oregon): 3, April 1, 1968,,1462668&dq=johnson+campaign+humphrey  
  12. ^ "Humphrey: A Happy Yes To Whooping Supporters", St. Petersburg Times (St. Petersburg, Florida): 1, April 27, 1968,,4864036  
  13. ^ "Murfin Sees Humphrey Moving To The Right", St. Petersburg Times (St. Petersburg, Florida): 14, April 28, 1968,,5016203&dq=eugene+mccarthy+1968  
  14. ^ Harris, Louis (May 6, 1968), "Kennedy Slipping, Now Trails Nixon", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania): 3,,796627&dq=eugene+mccarthy+1968  
  15. ^ Harris, Louis (May 8, 1968), "Kennedy Leads Indiana; Branigin, McCarthy Close", St. Petersburg Times (St. Petersburg, Florida): 1,,5066664&dq=branigin+indiana  
  16. ^ "'Young People' Win In Ohio", St. Petersburg Times (St. Petersburg, Florida): 9, May 9, 1968,,5720650&dq=stephen+young+ohio+primary  
  17. ^ Novak, Robert; Evans, Rowland (May 10, 1968), "Victory by Gilligan in Ohio voting seen body blow to Bobby Kennedy", The Bulletin (Bend, Oregon): 15,,4434074&dq=stephen+young+ohio+primary  
  18. ^ "Smathers Takes 57 Delegates; McCarthy 4", The Evening Independent (St. Petersburg, Florida): 2, May 29, 1968,,6191393&dq=smathers+florida+primary+1968  
  19. ^ a b "Humphrey Gathering Pennsylvania Delegates", St. Petersburg Times (St. Petersburg, Florida): 7, May 28, 1968,,4825415&dq=eugene+mccarthy+1968  
  20. ^ Alsop, Joseph (June 12, 1968), "Hubert Humphrey has work cut out for him", The Bulletin (Bend, Oregon): 12,,6881288&dq=hubert+humphrey  
  21. ^ Bartlett, C. (June 14, 1968), "Delaware Sample", The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Washington): 3,,4628667&dq=eugene+mccarthy+1968  
  22. ^ "Humphrey Efforts Forgotten", The Free-Lance Star (Fredericksburg, Virginia): 3, June 24, 1968,,6124503&dq=hubert+humphrey  
  23. ^ McGill, Ralph (July 6, 1968), "Irreconcilable Liberals Do Humphrey Disservice", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania): 4,,1045876&dq=hubert+humphrey  
  24. ^ "Mark Hatfield Fails to Convince", Eugene Register-Guard (Eugene, Oregon): 61, June 24, 1968,,5980092&dq=eugene+mccarthy+1968  
  25. ^ "An American Tradition on TV", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania): 4, July 24, 1968,,3265288&dq=eugene+mccarthy+1968  
  26. ^ Knowles, Clayton (July 23, 1968), "HUMPHREY SCORES M'CARTHY ON WAR; Says He Complains but Has No Peace Plan -- Terms Issues at Home Ignored Humphrey Sharply Criticizes McCarthy on War", New York Times (New York, New York): 1  
  27. ^ Fritchey, Clayton (July 28, 1968), "McCarthy eyes Ted As Running Mate", Ocala Star-Banner (Ocala, Florida): 4,,5135780&dq=hubert+humphrey  
  28. ^ "HHH: Viet Protest Is 'Escapism'", St. Petersburg Times (St. Petersburg, Florida): 3, August 14, 1968,,2348081&dq=hubert+humphrey  
  29. ^ Kraft, Joseph (August 22, 1968), "Humphrey, Caught In Box On Vietnam, Raises Doubt Of Presidential Ability", Toledo Blade (Toledo, Ohio): 11,,4313913&dq=hubert+humphrey  
  30. ^ Macarteny, Roy (August 27, 1968), "More Troops Ordered Into Chicago", The Age (Melbourne): 1,,4690487&dq=hubert+humphrey  
  31. ^ "Warring Democrats Face Floor Fights On 3 Fronts", The Evening Independent (St. Petersburg, Florida): 8, August 26, 1968,,5595848&dq=eugene+mccarthy+1968  
  32. ^ a b "Humphrey Chosen As Demo Nominee", The Victoria Advocate (Victoria, Texas): 1, August 29, 1968,,4052600&dq=hubert+humphrey  
  33. ^ "All The Votes...Really". CNN.  
  34. ^ a b c d Macartney, Roy (August 31, 1968), "Promises, but no solutions", The Age (Melbourne): 1,,5466610&dq=hubert+humphrey  
  35. ^ "HHH-Rocky Liaison Charged", The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Washington): 5, October 28, 1968,,4942978&dq=hubert+humphrey  
  36. ^ "Nixon Congratulates Humphrey", Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois): 1, August 29, 1968  
  37. ^ "THE COUNTERPUNCHER", Time Magazine, September 20, 1968,,9171,838729,00.html  
  38. ^ "Muskie Defends Humphrey", The Free-Lance Star (Fredericksburg, Virginia): 2, September 21, 1968,,4548933&dq=hubert+humphrey  
  39. ^ a b c "Ball Resigns UN Post to Help Humphrey", Toledo Blade (Toledo, Ohio): 2, September 27, 1968,,4319048&dq=hubert+humphrey  
  40. ^ Howard, Anthony (September 28, 1968), "Protests, Frustration Plague Humphrey Campaign Tour", The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Washington): 82,,4488211&dq=hubert+humphrey  
  41. ^ "Mr. Humphrey Tippy-Toes", The Victory Advocate (Victoria, Texas): 3, October 3, 1968,,292355&dq=hubert+humphrey  
  42. ^ "The Known and the Unknown", St. Petersburg Times (St. Petersburg, Florida): 12, October 2, 1968,,571882&dq=hubert+humphrey  
  43. ^ "Nixon Charges Humphrey Comforts Looters, Rioters", St. Petersburg Times (St. Petersburg, Florida): 7, October 22, 1968,,572685&dq=hubert+humphrey  
  44. ^ "Polls Vary Widely On Nixon Lead Size", The Milwaukee Sentinel (Milwaukee, Wisconsin): 3, October 19, 1968,,4166486&dq=hubert+humphrey  
  45. ^ "Humphrey: Nixon Is On 'Road To Defeat'", St. Petersburg Times (St. Petersburg, Florida): 7, October 24, 1968,,1960115&dq=hubert+humphrey  
  46. ^ "Humphrey Blasts Peace Move Talk", The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Washington): 3, October 28, 1968,,4942978&dq=hubert+humphrey  
  47. ^ "The Phony Debate Issue", The Victoria Advocate (Victoria, Texas): 3, October 22, 1968,,3174683&dq=hubert+humphrey  
  48. ^ "McCarthy Endorsement Is Given to Humphrey", The Free-Lance Star (Fredericksburg, Virginia): 1, October 29, 1968,,470690&dq=hubert+humphrey  
  49. ^ Johnson, Robert "K.C." (January 26, 2009). "Did Nixon Commit Treason in 1968? What The New LBJ Tapes Reveal". History News Network. George Mason University.  
  50. ^ "Nixon, Humphrey give their views in four-hour telethons from California", The Bulletin (Bend, Oregon): 4, November 5, 1968,,3967014&dq=hubert+humphrey+pause  
  51. ^ Leip, David (2005). "1968 Presidential General Election".  
  52. ^ "Hubert concedes election to Nixon", The Bulletin (Bend, Oregon): 1, November 6, 1968,,3997295&dq=humphrey+concedes  
  53. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "The Pulchritude-Intellect Input", Time Magazine, May 31, 1968,,9171,844498,00.html  
  54. ^ Leip, David (2005). "1972 Presidential General Election".  


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