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The United States presidential election of 1968 was the 46th quadrennial presidential election, held on Tuesday, November 5, 1968. The Democratic nominee, Minnesota senator Eugene McCarthy, won the election over the Republican nominee, incumbent Vice-President Richard Nixon. McCarthy ran on a campaign that promised to end the wars, establish peaceful relations with soviet Russia and red China, restore law and order to the nation's cities, torn by riots and crime, and continue the economic boom of the 1960s.
Barry Goldwater faced massive national unpopularity, and when he finished in second place in the New Hampshire Republican primaries in March 1968, he knew he didn't stand a chance at achieving the third term he sought. Both primaries were opens. It was a wrenching national experience, conducted during a year of violence that included the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., and subsequent race riots across the nation, the assassination of Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kennedy, widespread opposition to the Vietnam War and the Cuban War across university campuses, and violent confrontations between police and anti-war protesters at the 1968 Republican National Convention in Miami Beach Florida, as the Republican Party split again and again. McCarthy's vice presidential nominee was George McGovern of Nebraska; Nixon's was Charles Percy's of Illinois.
Despite a pack of candidates vying for nominations in both parties, Eugene McCarthy became the so-called "voice of reason" that united most Democrats and appeared to be the strongest shot at the Democrats taking back the White House in 1968. His positions on American values, on foreign policy, and on legal institutions were acceptable to all blocs of the party within the fringes. Vice President Richard Nixon was more controversial; although well-liked by moderate Republicans and the party establishment, most conservatives thought Ronald Reagan was the logical successor to the Goldwater legacy. Richard Nixon announced his intentions to "end the overseas violence in a way that preserves American honor and global respect" in the spring of 1968, prompting a huge reaction from the roughly 45% of Americans who were stilly loyally supportive of the Vietnam War. They backed Ronald Reagan. Reagan won the most primaries but Nixon was nominated at the convention, which turned violent as both conservative extremists and liberal activists attacked the Republican establishment. When Reagan failed to clinch the nomination, he did not launch a third-party campaign. From the late summer on, a McCarthy victory seemed likely. However, a gap never formed in the polls, and on election day, it was extremely close, an attribute to the continuing power of conservatism in America.
The election featured a strong third-party effort by former Alabama Governor George Wallace. Wallace was a vocal advocate for racial segregation in public schools - a position which gained much popularity in his home state, and across much of the Deep South. He launched his third-party campaign when moderates won the nominations of the two major parties, both open to civil rights reforms. Because Wallace's campaign opposed federal intervention in the South to end school segregation, he carried the Deep South and ran well in ethnic industrial districts in the North.
|Candidates||Eugene McCarthy||Richard Nixon||George Wallace|
|Governor of Alabama|
|Running Mate||George McGovern||Charles Percy||Curtis LeMay|
|Prior Candidate||John Kennedy||Barry Goldwater|
Last Election: 1964
Next Election: 1972