1972Flag of the United States 1980 › ›
United States presidential election, 1976
November 2, 1976
McGovern Strom Thurmond
Nominee George McGovern Strom Thurmond
Party Socialist Christian Democratic
Home state South Dakota South Carolina
Running mate Edmund Muskie Lester Maddox
Electoral vote 297 243
Popular vote 26,109,598 23,107,222
Percentage 53 47
The United States presidential election, 1976, was a democratic election held in the United States to decide the nation's next president. The incumbent president, Robert Kennedy, left office after honoring a campaign pledge during the 1972 election season to only have one term as president. Kennedy had won in an utter landslide in 1972.

The Socialists nominated George McGovern, Kennedy's Vice President, of South Dakota to fill his shoes. McGovern was perceived to be more extremist than Kennedy.

This was the first election the Christian Democrats took part in. The Christian Democratic Party was fromed in 1974 by the right-wingers in the Republican Party, which had collapased that same year. The CDP went off on a terrible start for their first presidential election, however, as the extremist J. Strom Thurmond was their nominee. His support was rendered null in solid Socialist or swing states, and was very extremist. His nomination in the very first election the CDP took part in eventually led to a reform in 1977 which moved the CDP from an pro-segragation anti-Civil Rights paleoconservative platform to a more moderate party, but still with strong ties to Thurmond's crowd.

The Vice Presidential candidates were Senator Edmund Muskie of Maine and former Governor Lester Maddox of Georgia. Muskie was seen as much more Moderate than Maddox.

In 1979, McGovern suffered a mental breakdown as he was unable to deal with the pressure of being president. He resigned in March and gave the presidency over to Muskie.


Bold denotes party nominees

Socialist Party

Vice President George McGovern, South Dakota

Senator Edmund Muskie, Maine

Former Governor Jimmy Carter, Georgia

NEACO Head Ted Kennedy, Massachusetts

Governor Jerry Brown, California

Senator Morris Udall, Arizona

Ambassador Sargent Shriver, Maryland

Senator Henry M. Jackson, Washington

Rep. Shirley Chisholm, New York

Senator Frank Church, Idaho

Senator Fred Harris, Oklahoma

The Socialist primary included members of both the Socialist and Progressive parties. There were plays for a unified ticket (a Socialsit president, a Progressive Vice President) but those were shot down. It was obvious that George McGovern, Robert Kennedy's Vice President, was going to be nominated. The question was who would be his Vice President. McGovern wanted a centrist to counteract his perceived extremism, so he chose Ed Muskie of Maine to be his VP.

Christian Democratic Party

Senator J. Strom Thurmond, South Carolina

Former Governor Lester Maddox, Georgia

Former President George Wallace, Alabama

Former Vice President Richard Nixon, California

Former Governor Ronald Reagan, California

Former President Spiro T. Agnew, Maryland

The first-ever Christian Democratic primary, despite having a number of candidates ranging from centrist to extreme, was solidly in the bigoted hands of Thurmond and Maddox. Disgraced former president Spiro Agnew tried to make a run, but he failed to receive next to any support.

Moderate Party

Governor Nelson Rockefeller, New York

Senator Birch Bayh, Indiana

Rep. Gerald Ford, Michigan

Senator Robert Byrd, West Virginia

Former Rep. Sam Yorty, California

Rockefeller and Bayh held the most cards entering the election, and they were unsurprisingly nominated.


The McGovern/Muskie campaign were able to play off Thurmond and Maddox's racist backgrounds, and that played to their benefit. McGovern won, not quite in a landslide, but not in a narrow election either.

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