1968 Flag of the United States 1976
United States Presidential election, 1972
November 7, 1972
ClydeDawley Dennis Hayward 1972
Candidate Clyde Dawley Dennis Hayward
Party National Democrat
Running mate Alexander Droughns Carl Smith
Electoral vote 347 261
Popular vote 43,677,845 41,168,170
Percentage 50.5 49.5
1972 Election NW

The United States Presidential election of 1972 pitted Texas Governor Clyde Dawley of the National Party against Illinois Senator Dennis Hayward of the Democratic Party. Dawley won a resounding victory in the electoral college but only narrowly won the popular vote in a hotly contested and divisive election. The election is cited as one of the dirtiest elections in history due to the vehement nature of the Democratic nomination process and attacks on Dawley by the Democratic Party.

The election is seen as critical as a moment of loosening Democratic support in the South due to Dawley's ability to turn the issues away from civil rights and towards the economy and practice of small government. Due to this, Dawley became referred to as the "Great Avoider" due to his skill in dodging major issues that could otherwise have made him unpopular.


National Party Nomination


1972 was the first year in which the National Party had unequivocally adopted the primary system as the final and decisive tool to select its nominee after years of a weak primary and strong establishment influence in the decision making process. As such, the Nationalists saw the broadest field of contenders for the Presidency since 1944. With Vice President Thomas Heaps not running and influential Senators such as Edmund Dawes and John Roy declining, the immediate frontrunners appeared to be small-government conservative Cylde Dawley and George Romney, the establishment favorite. Virginia Governor Hugh Veinklasser entered the race as well, running as an outsider highly critical of the Van Dyke administration. Within the Van Dyke administration, there existed a fear that any of the three heavyweight "outsider" candidates, who all ran against the unpopularity of Heaps, the war in Ceylon and the ongoing economic recession, would clean shop within the government, and both Van Dyke and Heaps pressured Secretary of State Gerald Saunders into running.

The lottery primary selected Alabama as the first primary state, where Dawley won decisively on March 1, 1972, largely due to the lack of a Nationalist structure in that Democratic stronghold and the abstinence of campaigning by his opponents. However, four days later, Dawley scored a second win in California, regarded as a wide-open race and where New Mexico Representative Melvin Young was expected to win big. Dawley went on to perform well in the ensuing primaries, sweeping the South outside of Virginia, splitting the West with otherwise long-shot Young and performing well enough in the Midwest and Northeast to convince Romney to withdraw his candidacy by early June.


See also: 1972 National Party Convention

With a commanding delegate lead entering the Los Angeles National Party Convention from July 20-24 1972, Dawley was nominated on the second ballot after attempts by establishment candidates to coalesce around Veinklasser, who had still not withdrawn. Unlike prior years, however, where the Presidential candidate either selected the runner-up as his running mate (or, pre-1952, was required to accept his nearest opponent), Dawley's campaign team identified Tennessee Senator Alex Droughns as its preferred running mate. While there were fears of an establishment revolt at two moderate-to-conservative Southerners running an outsider campaign, Van Dyke gave a surprisingly stirring endorsement of his to-be successor, despite the knowledge that the two men had starkly different political viewpoints and that Dawley's campaign had been built around being "the anti-Van Dyke."

Democratic Party Nomination

General Election Campaign

Coming out of the aftermath of vitriolic Democratic National Convention, Dawley was seen as the stronger candidate due to the positive attitude and nature of his own party's nominating process. Still, he was at a handicap as he was not a well-known national candidate and had benefitted largely from a groundswell of support within the National Party's slowly growing center-right base. His defeat of Hugh Veinklasser for the nomination had been met with a tepid response in some circles, many of whom felt Veinklasser was the best man for the job.

However, even despite the infighting within the Democratic Party, Hayward was seen as more Presidential than Dawley and as the public face of the opposition to Dick van Dyke during the waning years of the Presidency, he had considerable experience and clout in the public mind of attacking the Nationalist policies of the 1960's. His campaign slogans included "1972: A New Beginning" and "Beyond the Past, Embracing the Future." Meanwhile, Dawley stuck to his primary campaign pledge to institute a "friendly neighborhood government," a line that was slammed by the Democrats. In a famous interview on the Ronald Reagan Show, Democratic strategist Howard Plum decried that Dawley's slogan was a veiled attempt to push the government into the daily lives of ordinary Americans.

The Hayward-Smith ticket caught up to Dawley by late September as further scandals plagued the outgoing van Dyke administration and popular displeasure with the occupation of Ceylon grew. Dawley made a bold campaign pledge to withdraw the American soldiers from Ceylon and to end the policy of mandatory conscription for all males not enrolled in college that had existed since the Pacific War, earning him a boost in the polls, but Hayward was still hanging in tough thanks to his public barrage of Dawley and the disconnect with the van Dyke administration.

Televised Debate: "I didn't go to Harvard"

The candidates agreed to a televised debate to be moderated jointly by Ronald Reagan and Johnny Carson in the middle of October, which led up to one of the most celebrated moments in Presidential electoral history. On a question regarding what professional experiences qualified them for the office of President over the other, Hayward replied, "In my opinion, the Harvard education I received in the field of the law and politics in my youth, my decades of service for the people of Illinois at the local, state and national level, my appointments to several Senate committees, subcommittees and commissions, all have given me an intimate knowledge of the workings of our government, its Constitution, the needs of our great union, and the hopes and desires of the people of the United States." He then went on to say, after a brief follow up from Dawley, "It is my belief that genuine political pedigree makes for better leaders, such as Thomas Sullivan, and that the lack of such pedigree results in policies detrimental to America, as we have seen these past twelve years under Nationalist administrations."

Dawley pondered the question for a moment before giving his response: "I didn't go to Harvard. I went to the University of Texas, a fine institution in its own right, where I learned two things. I learned how to run a small business that my brothers and I built from the ground up, and I learned that in America, anything is possible, even for a poor kid from Salt, Texas. That it is possible for him to build a real estate company, become a successful and influential land developer who helped grow the local economies in small towns all across his state, run for Governor in a Democratic Southern state and win as a Nationalist, to serve there for ten years and pass landmark budget and civil rights reform, and to run on the Nationalist ticket for the highest office in our great nation. I don't talk about pedigree or Ivy League backgrounds; I couldn't have gone to college without a baseball scholarship, and there are millions of Americans who can't afford to go to school right now either who can sympathize with that reality and with that message. Tell me that that isn't the epitome of 'hopes and dreams,' like you talk about, Senator Hayward. Tell me that a poor kid from Salt, Texas being an election away from the Presidency through his own merits isn't as American as it gets and that he doesn't represent the hopes and dreams of this country's people more so than the political pedigree a Harvard diploma supposedly provides!"

The moment, met with a thunderous applause from the studio audience and seen by a record number of viewers for a televised debate, came to define the campaign. The line "I didn't go to Harvard" was immortalized and Hayward's deficit in the polls only increased afterwards. Despite many believing that Carl Smith soundly defeated Alexander Droughns in the vice presidential debate, the Democratic campaign was unable to overcome Dawley's surge of support, or shed the image of Hayward being preppy and out-of-touch with the average voter.

Election Results

On November 7, the Clyde Dawley/Alex Droughs ticket won comfortably, carrying 53% of the popular vote and winning 347 of 608 electoral votes, taking the electoral college by a comfortable margin. The Hayward/Smith ticket was only able to manage 261 electoral votes. Observers who were concerned about Hayward's lack of a Southerner or more conservative voice on his ticket saw the consequences with independents in the South abandoning the Democrats, as the Hayward ticket carried only Louisiana. Dawley dominated in the Deep South, carrying his home state of Texas with 71% of the popular vote, even scoring high in traditionally Democratic rural areas, and ratcheted up an impressive electoral lead with the Southern votes. He did not fare as well in the Northeast, where the New England states, Aroostook and Nova Scotia voted sharply in Hayward's favor, but Dawley's victories in Virginia, New Mexico, Deseret, Nevada, Montana and Oregon offset the losses. Hayward, despite carrying New York, California and Pennsylvania, lost races in Ohio, Michigan and Indiana that wound up deciding the race in electoral-rich states. While Hayward won in Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin, his failure in other critical Midwest states wound up costing him deeply. Many pundits agree that had Hayward campaigned more vigorously in the Midwest, where he was from, he could have offset the damaging losses to Dawley. Hayward scored an interesting win in Maryland and Delaware, both of which were expected to go to Dawley, and lost in Kentucky by only 45,000 votes.

Hayward conceded defeat in Springfield, Illinois, stating, "We fought, we battled, we failed. The great triumph of the modern liberal is not yet at hand for these United States, but our day shall come, and now we congratulate the modern centrist and wish him the best moving forward."

Dawley's victory speech was modest, stating, "We have a lot of work to do, but this is going to be an opportunity we take here that our children will thank us for."

Hayward's prediction of a liberal victory came true when Adam Eisler would defeat Dawley in 1976, although that win was also accredited to Eisler's ability to speak to Southern Democrats through his Vice Presidential nominee, Neill Wallace.

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