The United States presidential election of 1972, the 47th quadrennial presidential election was held on Tuesday, November 7, 1972. The Democratic Party ’s nomination was eventually won by Senator George McGovern of South Dakota, who ran an anti-war campaign against Republican incumbent President Richard Nixon, but was handicapped by his outsider status, limited support from his own party, the perception of many voters that he was a left-wing extremist and the scandal that resulted from the withdrawal of vice-presidential nominee Thomas Eagleton.
Emphasizing a good economy and his successes in foreign affairs, such as coming near to ending American involvement in the Vietnam War and establishing relations with China, Nixon won the election in a landslide. Overall, he won 60.7% of the popular vote, a percentage only slightly lower than Lyndon B. Johnson's in 1964, but with a larger margin of victory in the popular vote (23.2%), thus becoming the fourth largest in presidential election history. He received almost 18 million more popular votes than McGovern, the widest margin of any United States presidential election. McGovern only won the electoral votes in Massachusetts and the District of Columbia. No candidate since has managed to equal or surpass Nixon's total percentage or margin of the popular vote, and his electoral vote total and percentage, which rank sixth, have been surpassed only once, and his state total matched only once, by Ronald Reagan in 1984.
Also in this election, Democrat Shirley Chisholm became the first black person to run for a major party nomination, and Patsy Mink was the first Asian candidate to run for the Democratic Party candidacy. It was also the first time that Hawaii was carried by a Republican. Together with the House and Senate elections of 1972, it was the first electoral event in which people aged 18 to 20 could vote in every state, according to the provisions of the 26th Amendment. It was also the first election in which California had the most votes in the electoral college and it has remained the most populous state since then.
Furthermore, the presidential term of 1973–1977 is notable for being the only one in American history in which both the original President and Vice President fail to complete the term. Vice President Spiro Agnew, who resigned less than a year after the election over allegations that he had accepted bribes as Governor of Maryland, was replaced by Gerald Ford under the terms of the 25th Amendment, while Nixon would resign due to the Watergate Scandal in August 1974. Ultimately, the 1973–77 term would see two different Presidents and three different Vice Presidents. As of 2017, the 1972 election was the last one where the winning candidate did not serve his full term of office, and the last time the state of Minnesota went for a Republican candidate for President.
Overall, fifteen people declared their candidacy for the Democratic Party nomination. They were: 
- George McGovern, Senator from South Dakota
- Hubert Humphrey, Senator from Minnesota and former Vice President, presidential nominee in 1968
- George Wallace, Governor of Alabama
- Edmund Muskie, Senator from Maine, vice presidential nominee in 1968
- Eugene J. McCarthy, former Senator from Minnesota
- Henry M. Jackson, Senator from Washington
- Shirley Chisholm, Representative of New York's 12th congressional district
- Terry Sanford, former Governor of North Carolina
- John Lindsay, Mayor of New York City, New York
- Wilbur Mills, Representative of Arkansas's 2nd congressional district
- Vance Hartke, Senator from Indiana
- Fred Harris, Senator from Oklahoma
- Sam Yorty, Mayor of Los Angeles, California
- Patsy Mink, Representative of Hawaii's 2nd congressional district
- Walter Fauntroy, Delegate from Washington, D.C.
|Democratic Party Ticket, 1972|
|George McGovern||Sargent Shriver|
|for President||for Vice President|
|U.S. Senator from South Dakota (1963–1981)||21st U.S. Ambassador to France (1968–1970)|
Senate Majority Whip Ted Kennedy, the youngest brother of late President John F. Kennedy and late United States Senator Robert F. Kennedy, was the favorite to win the 1972 nomination, but he announced he would not be a candidate.  The favorite for the Democratic nomination then became Senator Ed Muskie, the 1968 vice-presidential nominee.  Muskie's momentum collapsed just prior to the New Hampshire primary, when the so-called " Canuck letter " was published in the Manchester Union-Leader. The letter, actually a forgery from Nixon's "dirty tricks" unit, claimed that Muskie had made disparaging remarks about French-Canadians – a remark likely to injure Muskie’s support among the French-American population in northern New England. Subsequently, the paper published an attack on the character of Muskie's wife Jane, reporting that she drank and used off-color language during the campaign. Muskie made an emotional defense of his wife in a speech outside the newspaper’s offices during a snowstorm. Though Muskie later stated that what had appeared to the press as tears were actually melted snowflakes, the press reported that Muskie broke down and cried, shattering the candidate's image as calm and reasoned.
Nearly two years before the election, South Dakota Senator George McGovern entered the race as an anti-war, progressive candidate. McGovern was able to pull together support from the anti-war movement and other grassroots support to win the nomination in a primary system he had played a significant part in designing.
On January 25, 1972, New York Representative Shirley Chisholm announced she would run, and became the first African-American woman to run for the Democratic or Republican presidential nomination. Hawaii Representative Patsy Mink also announced she would run and became the first Asian American to run for the Democratic presidential nomination. 
On April 25, George McGovern won the Massachusetts primary. Two days later, journalist Robert Novak quoted a "Democratic senator" later revealed to be Thomas Eagleton as saying: "The people don't know McGovern is for amnesty, abortion, and legalization of pot. Once middle America – Catholic middle America, in particular – finds this out, he's dead." The label stuck and McGovern became known as the candidate of "amnesty, abortion, and acid." It became Humphrey’s battle cry to stop McGovern—especially in the Nebraska primary.  
Alabama Governor George Wallace, an anti-integrationist, did well in the South (he won every county in the Florida primary) and among alienated and dissatisfied voters in the North. What might have become a forceful campaign was cut short when Wallace was shot in an assassination attempt by Arthur Bremer on May 15. Wallace was struck by five bullets and left paralyzed from the waist down. The day after the assassination attempt, Wallace won the Michigan and Maryland primaries, but the shooting effectively ended his campaign and he pulled out in July.
In the end, McGovern won the nomination by winning primaries through grassroots support in spite of establishment opposition. McGovern had led a commission to re-design the Democratic nomination system after the divisive nomination struggle and convention of 1968. The fundamental principle of the McGovern Commission —that the Democratic primaries should determine the winner of the Democratic nomination—have lasted throughout every subsequent nomination contest. However, the new rules angered many prominent Democrats whose influence was marginalized, and those politicians refused to support McGovern’s campaign (some even supporting Nixon instead), leaving the McGovern campaign at a significant disadvantage in funding compared to Nixon.
Primaries popular vote results: 
- Hubert Humphrey – 4,121,372 (25.77%)
- George McGovern – 4,053,451 (25.34%)
- George Wallace – 3,755,424 (23.48%)
- Edmund Muskie – 1,840,217 (11.51%)
- Eugene McCarthy – 553,990 (3.46%)
- Henry M. Jackson – 505,198 (3.16%)
- Shirley Chisholm – 430,703 (2.69%)
- Terry Sanford – 331,415 (2.07%)
- John Lindsay – 196,406 (1.23%)
- Samuel Yorty – 79,446 (0.50%)
- Wilbur Mills – 37,401 (0.23%)
- Walter E. Fauntroy – 21,217 (0.13%)
- Unpledged – 19,533 (0.12%)
- Ted Kennedy – 16,693 (0.10%)
- Vance Hartke – 11,798 (0.07%)
- Patsy Mink – 8,286 (0.05%)
- None – 6,269 (0.04%)
- Former Governor of and Secretary of Commerce W. Averell Harriman from New York 
- Senator Harold Hughes from Iowa 
- Senator Birch Bayh from Indiana 
- Senator Adlai Stevenson III from Illinois 
- Senator Mike Gravel of Alaska 
- Former Senator Stephen M. Young from Ohio 
- Governor Milton Shapp of Pennsylvania 
- Former Governor Michael DiSalle of Ohio 
- Ohio State Treasurer Gertrude W. Donahey 
- Astronaut John Glenn from Ohio 
- Representative Ron Dellums from California 
- Feminist leader and author Betty Friedan 
- Reverend Jesse Jackson from Illinois 
- Feminist leader, journalist, and DNC official Gloria Steinem
Henry M. Jackson
1972 Democratic National Convention
- George McGovern – 1864.95
- Henry M. Jackson – 525
- George Wallace – 381.7
- Shirley Chisholm – 151.95
- Terry Sanford – 77.5
- Hubert Humphrey – 66.7
- Wilbur Mills – 33.8
- Edmund Muskie – 24.3
- Ted Kennedy – 12.7
- Sam Yorty – 10
- Wayne Hays – 5
- John Lindsay – 5
- Fred Harris – 2
- Eugene McCarthy – 2
- Walter Mondale – 2
- Ramsey Clark – 1
- Walter Fauntroy – 1
- Vance Hartke – 1
- Harold Hughes – 1
- Patsy Mink – 1
The vice presidential vote
With hundreds of delegates displeased with McGovern, the vote was chaotic, with at least three other candidates having their names put into nomination and votes scattered over 70 candidates.  The eventual winner was Senator Thomas Eagleton from Missouri.
The vice-presidential balloting went on so long that McGovern and Eagleton were forced to begin making their acceptance speeches at around 2 am, local time.
After the convention ended, it was discovered that Eagleton had undergone psychiatric electroshock therapy for depression and had concealed this information from McGovern. A Time magazine poll taken at the time found that 77 percent of the respondents said “Eagleton’s medical record would not affect their vote.” Nonetheless, the press made frequent references to his "shock therapy," and McGovern feared that this would detract from his campaign platform.  McGovern subsequently consulted confidentially with preeminent psychiatrists, including Eagleton’s own doctors, who advised him that a recurrence of Eagleton's depression was possible and could endanger the country should Eagleton become president. McGovern had initially claimed that he would back Eagleton "1000 percent," only to ask Eagleton to withdraw three days later. This perceived lack of conviction in sticking with his running mate was disastrous for the McGovern campaign.
McGovern later approached six different prominent Democrats to run for vice-president: Ted Kennedy, Edmund Muskie, Hubert Humphrey, Abraham Ribicoff, Larry O'Brien and Reubin Askew. All six declined. Sargent Shriver, brother-in-law to John, Robert, and Ted Kennedy, former Ambassador to France and former Director of the Peace Corps, later accepted.  He was officially nominated by a special session of the Democratic National Committee. By this time, McGovern’s poll ratings had plunged from 41 to 24 percent.
- Richard Nixon, President of the United States who formed his Committee for the Re-Election of the President
- Pete McCloskey, Representative from California
- John M. Ashbrook, Representative from Ohio
|Republican Party Ticket, 1972|
|Richard Nixon||Spiro Agnew|
|for President||for Vice President|
|37th President of the United States (1969–1974)||39th Vice President of the United States (1969–1973)|
Richard Nixon was a popular incumbent president in 1972, as he was credited with achieving détente with the People's Republic of China and the Soviet Union. Polls showed that Nixon held a strong lead in the Republican primaries. He was challenged by two candidates, liberal Pete McCloskey from California and conservative John Ashbrook from Ohio. McCloskey ran as an anti-war candidate, while Ashbrook opposed Nixon’s détente policies towards China and the Soviet Union. In the New Hampshire primary McCloskey garnered 19.8% of the vote to Nixon’s 67.6%, with Ashbrook receiving 9.7%.  Nixon won 1323 of the 1324 delegates to the Republican convention, with McCloskey receiving the vote of one delegate from New Mexico. Vice President Spiro Agnew was re-nominated by acclamation; while both the party’s moderate wing and Nixon himself had wanted to replace him with a new running-mate (the moderates favoring Nelson Rockefeller, and Nixon favoring John Connally), it was ultimately concluded that the loss of Agnew’s base of conservative supporters would be too big of a risk.
Primaries popular vote result: 
- Richard Nixon – 5,378,704 (86.92%)
- Unpledged – 317,048 (5.12%)
- John Ashbrook – 311,543 (5.03%)
- Pete McCloskey – 132,731 (2.15%)
The only major third party candidate in the 1972 election was conservative Republican Representative John G. Schmitz, who ran on the American Party ticket (the party on whose ballot George Wallace ran in 1968). He was on the ballot in 32 states and received 1,099,482 votes. Unlike Wallace, however, he did not win a majority of votes cast in any state, and received no electoral votes, although he did finish ahead of McGovern in four of the most conservative Idaho counties,  becoming the first third-party candidate to finish even second in any free or postbellum state county since William Lemke did so in five North Dakota counties in 1936. 
John Hospers of the newly formed Libertarian Party was on the ballot only in Colorado and Washington and received 3,573 votes, winning no states. However, he did receive one electoral vote from Virginia from a Republican faithless elector (see below). The Libertarian vice-presidential nominee Theodora "Tonie" Nathan became the first woman in U.S. history to receive an electoral vote. 
Linda Jenness was nominated by the Socialist Workers Party, with Andrew Pulley as her running-mate. Benjamin Spock and Julius Hobson were nominated for president and vice-president, respectively by, the People’s Party.
McGovern ran on a platform of immediately ending the Vietnam War and instituting guaranteed minimum incomes for the nation’s poor. His campaign was harmed by his views during the primaries (which alienated many powerful Democrats), the perception that his foreign policy was too extreme, and the Eagleton debacle. With McGovern’s campaign weakened by these factors, the Republicans successfully portrayed him as a radical left-wing extremist incompetent to serve as president. Nixon led in the polls by large margins throughout the entire campaign. With an enormous fundraising advantage and a comfortable lead in the polls, Nixon concentrated on large rallies and focused speeches to closed, select audiences, leaving much of the retail campaigning to surrogates like Vice President Agnew. Nixon did not, by design, try to extend his coattails to Republican congressional or gubernatorial candidates, preferring to pad his own margin of victory.
Nixon’s percentage of the popular vote was only marginally less than Lyndon Johnson’s record in the 1964 election, and his margin of victory was slightly larger. Nixon won a majority vote in 49 states, including McGovern’s home state of South Dakota. Only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia voted for the challenger, resulting in an even more lopsided Electoral College tally. It was the first election since 1808 in which New York did not have the largest number of electors in the Electoral College, having fallen to 41 electors vs. California ’s 45.
Although the McGovern campaign believed that its candidate had a better chance of defeating Nixon because of the new Twenty-sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution that lowered the national voting age to 18 from 21, the plan backfired when most of the youth vote went to Nixon.  This was the first election in American history in which a Republican candidate carried every single Southern state, continuing the region’s transformation from a Democratic bastion into a Republican one as Arkansas was carried by a Republican presidential candidate for the first time in a century. By this time, all the Southern states, except Arkansas and Texas, had been carried by a Republican in either the previous election or the one in 1964 (although Republican candidates carried Texas in 1928, 1952 and 1956). As a result of this election, Massachusetts was the only state that Nixon did not carry in any of his three presidential campaigns.
Through 2016 this remains the last election when Minnesota was carried by the Republican candidate.  Minnesota was later the only state not won by Ronald Reagan in either 1980 or 1984. It also proved the last occasion that Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Rhode Island and West Virginia would be won by Republicans until 1984.
McGovern won a mere 130 counties, plus the District of Columbia and three county-equivalents in Alaska, easily the fewest counties won by any major-party presidential nominee since the advent of popular presidential elections.  In nineteen states, McGovern failed to carry a single county; he carried a mere one county-equivalent in a further nine states, and just two counties in a further seven. In contrast to Walter Mondale ’s narrow 1984 win in Minnesota, McGovern comfortably did win Massachusetts, but lost every other state by no less than five percentage points as well as 45 states by more than ten percentage points – the exceptions being Massachusetts, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Wisconsin, and his home state of South Dakota. This election also made Nixon the second former Vice President in American history to serves two terms back-to-back, after Thomas Jefferson in 1800 and 1804. Since McGovern carried only one state, bumper stickers reading “Nixon 49 America 1”, “Don't Blame Me I’m From Massachusetts” and “Massachusetts: The One And Only” were popular for a short time in Massachusetts.
Nixon managed to win 18% of the African American vote (Gerald Ford would get 16% in 1976). He also remains the only Republican in modern times to threaten the oldest extant Democratic stronghold of South Texas: this is the last election when the Republicans have won Hidalgo or Dimmit Counties, the only time Republicans have won La Salle County since William McKinley in 1900, and one of only two occasions since Theodore Roosevelt in 1904 that Republicans have gained a majority in Presidio County.  More significantly, the 1972 election is the last time several highly populous urban counties – including Cook in Illinois, Orleans in Louisiana, Hennepin in Minnesota, Cuyahoga in Ohio, Durham in North Carolina, Queens in New York and Prince George’s in Maryland – have voted Republican. 
Source (Popular Vote): Leip, David.. Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections . RetrievedAugust 7,2005. Source (Electoral Vote): . National Archives and Records Administration . RetrievedAugust 7,2005. Source (Close States): Leip, David, Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections. Retrieved: January 24, 2013.
Results by state
|States/districts won by Nixon / Agnew|
|States/districts won by McGovern / Shriver|
|Richard Nixon Republican||George McGovern Democratic||John Schmitz American Independent||John Hospers Libertarian||Margin||State Total|
|State||electoral votes||#||%||electoral votes||#||%||electoral votes||#||%||electoral votes||#||%||electoral votes||#||%||#|
States where margin of victory was more than 5 percentage points, but less than 10 percentage points (43 electoral votes):
On June 17, 1972, five months before election day, five men broke into the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate hotel in Washington, D.C.; the resulting investigation led to the revelation of attempted cover-ups within the Nixon administration. Known as the Watergate scandal, the exposed corruption cost Nixon public and political support, and he resigned on August 9, 1974, in the face of probable impeachment by the House of Representatives and removal from office by the Senate.
Corporate campaign contributions
As part of the continuing investigation in 1974–75, Watergate scandal prosecutors offered companies that had given illegal campaign contributions to Nixon's re-election campaign lenient sentences if they came forward. Many companies complied, including Northrop Grumman, 3M, American Airlines and Braniff Airlines. By 1976, prosecutors had convicted 18 American corporations of contributing illegally to Nixon's campaign.
- United States House of Representatives elections, 1972
- United States Senate elections, 1972
- United States gubernatorial elections, 1972
- George McGovern presidential campaign, 1972
- Second inauguration of Richard Nixon
- Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72, a collection of articles by Hunter S. Thompson on the subject of the election, focusing on the McGovern campaign.
- McGovern failed to carry a single county in Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont or Wyoming
- McGovern carried only one county-equivalent in Arizona (Greenlee), Illinois (Jackson), Louisiana (West Feliciana Parish), Maine (Androscoggin), Maryland (Baltimore City), North Dakota (Rolette), Pennsylvania (Philadelphia), Virginia (Charles City) and West Virginia (Logan)
- McGovern carried just two counties in Colorado, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio and Washington State
- Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952 also obtained a plurality in Presidio County
- In Arizona, Pima and Yavapai counties had a confusing ballot that resulted in many voters voting for both a major party candidate, and six individual Socialist Workers Party presidential electors. Technically, these were overvotes, and should not have counted for either the major party candidates or the Socialist Workers Party electors. Within two days of the election, the Attorney General and Pima County Attorney had agreed that all votes should count. The Socialist Workers Party had not qualified as a party, and thus did not have a presidential candidate. In the official state canvass, votes for Nixon, McGovern, or Schmitz, are shown as being for the presidential candidate, the party, and the elector slate of the party; while those for the Socialist Worker Party elector candidates were for those candidates only. In the view of the Secretary of State, the votes were not for Linda Jenness. Some tabulations count the votes for Jenness. Historically, presidential candidate names did not appear on ballots, and voters voted directly for the electors. Nonetheless, votes for the electors are attributed to the presidential candidate. Counting the votes in Arizona for Jenness is consistent with this practice. Because of the confusing ballots, Socialist Workers Party electors received votes on about 21 percent and 8 percent of ballots in Pima and Yavapai, respectively. 30,579 of the party’s 30,945 Arizona votes are from those two counties.
- A Virginia faithless elector, Roger MacBride, though pledged to vote for Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew, instead voted for Libertarian candidates John Hospers and Theodora "Tonie" Nathan.