Notes: In some years, a few states had more than one contest (usually a non-binding vote or straw poll and a separate delegate-selection process) which can produce a split decision. Map colors are assigned to the earlier or more competitive result. Usually, by the time of the convention, many states' delegates have been switched to the obvious front-runner, so maps based on convention votes would appear less competitive. Also, some states allow voting for "uncommitted" delegates which occasionally get more votes than any candidate (but not shown on maps).


In the effort to unseat Nixon, the early front-runner was Muskie, who blew his reptutation by sobbing after a scandalous story published by the media about his family. These days this would make him more 'human' or something; maybe Dukakis or Gore should have tried it. Southern conservative/racist Wallace had returned to the party after his 1968 run as an independent, and ran strong in several contests, only to be shot (but of course he was only wounded; assassins always seem to aim better at people like Lincoln and Gandhi and MLK). 1968 loser Humphrey also won some contests, and both he and Wallace were neck-and-neck with McGovern for total votes in the primaries at the end. But the activist, fervently anti-war supporters of McGovern managed to add up enough delegates in a combination of primary and caucus states to give him the nomination. The tactics of primaries and caucuses were in a stage of transition; no longer could party leaders who won a few states (or even just their home state as a 'favorite son') use their block of delegates to influence the nomination in the 'smoke-filled rooms' of a convention. Here a candidate with a well-organized force of zealots had beaten the system in an example of what is now the normal strategy: before 1972, entering and winning a few select primaries was merely a demonstration of support, because victory in the primaries would not guarantee a win at the convention and many candidates avoided potentially embarassing head-to-head showdowns for votes; after 1972, no candidate would be able to win the nomination without winning enough votes nationwide to defeat all challengers. Exciting, up-in-the-air conventions were a thing of the past. Of course the same radical enthusiasm which propelled McGovern caused the Democrats to consider guaranteed incomes and other socialist measures that alienated the 'silent' mainstream of the country, and McGovern would also have some shocking running-mate troubles; he would be humiliated like no loser had been humiliated before--or at least not since 1936 when Republican candidate Landon won 8 electoral votes against FDR.



Schedule of 1972 primaries from Congressional Quarterly’s Presidential Elections, 1789-1996

Jan 24: Iowa [Muskie win, McGovern does well in first race where Iowa got the spotlight]
March 7: New Hampshire [Muskie still ahead]
March 14: Florida [Wallace win]
March 21: Illinois [Muskie win]
April 4: Wisconsin [McGovern wins tight race over Humphrey and Wallace]
April 25: Massachusetts, Pennsylvania [Humphrey wins latter]
May 2: DC (Democrats), Indiana, Ohio
May 4: Tennessee
May 6: North Carolina
May 9: Nebraska, West Virginia
May 16: Maryland, Michigan [Wallace takes both]
May 23: Oregon, Rhode Island
June 6: California, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Dakota [McGovern over Humphrey in California]


Return to main list 1