Though President Spiro T. Agnew had not been convicted during his impeachment trial, and he maintained his innocence regarding COINTELPRO many people did not believe that he really knew nothing about the program, and Agnew was derided for his blanket pardon to anyone involved in the program, including former President Richard Nixon. This prompted many in the Republican Party to call for President Agnew not to run for reelection. But President Agnew declared his intention to run for reelection.
Two candidates emerged to challenge President Agnew, John Ashbrook and Pete McCloskey. John Ashbrook appealed to conservatives who were upset that President Nixon had ended the Vietnam War, with wage and price controls, the environmental protection agency, and other positions seen as too liberal. Pete McCloskey was a more moderate Republican who campaigned on the platform of ending corruption in Washington and preserving civil liberties. Pete McCloskey also promised to end any federal assistance to the Mexican Restoration Front.
John Ashbrook's message seemed too conservative to win, while Pete McCloskey seemed so liberal that many Republicans said if they voted for him then they might as well just vote Democrat. In the end President Agnew won the nomination, but just barely.
There were several contenders for the Democratic ticket. With the recent COINTELPRO scandal and with the Republican Party divided on what direction to take the Democratic Party expected an easy year. Hubert Humphrey who ran for president in 1968 ran again but faired poorly due to his association with former President Lyndon B. Johnson and therefore the Vietnam War and the COINTELPRO program. Ed Muskie, another contender faired poorly due to his association to Hubert Humphrey, since he was his vice president. George McGovern and Eugene McCarthy were among the favorite Democratic candidates, since they were known for their early opposition to the Vietnam War and their unsuccessful campaigns in 1968 based on that opposition. George McGovern won the nomination and chose Eugene McCarthy as his running mate.
The American Party, a conservative third party that had nominated George Wallace in the 1968 election nominated John G. Schmitz who made the ballot in 40 states, but received no electoral votes. The American Party took away important votes from Republicans who believed their party was not taking a conservative enough direction.
The newly formed Libertarian Party nominated John Hospers, who only got on the ballot in Colorado, Wyoming, Washington, and Nevada. Though small the Libertarian Party and libertarianism in generally had gotten more attention and notice due to the events of the past few years. The Libertarian Right strongly criticized France, and objected that it was not libertarian and certainly not anarchist, though the Libertarian Party and its nominee did not support anarchism. The anarcho-capitalist philosopher Murray Rothbard had written a book in 1970 called "The Anarcho-Statists of France", which proposed that the Confederation that had been formed was a state and that it had tyrannically suppressed property rights.
The Anarchist Party, which had been renamed in 1969 from the Youth International Party had taken a specifically left anarchist view and had decided to begin nominating serious candidates in the 1970 congressional elections nominated Abbie Hoffman. The The Youth International Revolution Party split off over disagreement over whether voting for and fielding real candidates was an acceptable tactic. They only got on the ballot in California, but getting on the ballot anywhere was a significant victory. Abbie Hoffman, as a left anarchist and associated with the Hippy movement pulled in about 732,001 votes in California. Abbie Hoffman had been strongly critical of the Libertarian Party and anarchocapitalists, which he saw as false libertarianism and false anarchism.
On September 3rd allegations were raised concerning President Agnew's taking bribes as Governor of Maryland. Impeachment proceedings began on October the 3rd. The Republican Party tried to save the election by emphasizing that if President Agnew was impeached his Vice President Melvin Laird would be the new president in the event that Agnew won the election. However, the scandal had ruined Agnew's campaign. In November George McGovern won every state, the first time in American history. In California Agnew received less votes than Abbie Hoffman, and in Alabama and Missippi American Party candidate John Schmitz received more votes than he did.
Congress voted no to impeaching President Agnew, but only because they didn't want the vice president to become president and pardon him. After President McGovern was sworn in to office Spiro Agnew plead no contest to charges of tax evasion and money laundering as part of a deal. The Republican Party has a whole had been disgraced, and the Democrats held supermajorities in both houses, meaning that the Democratic Party could push through legislation without any support from Republican candidates.