In 1972, George McGovern of South Dakota was the Democratic Party’s nominee for president.
12 years later, Walter Mondale would find himself in that same role.
Both ran campaigns with strong visions for what they wanted America to be.
Both of them suffered brutal defeats at the ballot box.
When Walter Mondale first arrived in the United States Senate in late 1964, one of the first people he met was fellow senator George McGovern of South Dakota. “He and I were very good friends.”
Mondale says he and McGovern talked a lot and traded jokes during their time together.
He watched as McGovern mounted a challenging presidential bid against Edmund Muskie, Hubert Humphrey and George Wallace. “I know what he was trying to do. He was very hard on the issue of ending the Vietnam War. Making an issue about how bad the war was.”
McGovern not only wanted to end Vietnam, He wanted to cut defense spending by more than a third. He also wanted to do more to focus on the plight of the poor.
And while Mondale says McGovern’s campaign looks good through the lens of history, “It’s not the campaign I would have run.”
Mondale tells me he believes McGovern made a mistake in how he executed the message of his campaign; perhaps too liberal at a time when the country was shifting to more conservative politics. “I think he left behind a lot of people that would have helped him if he’d moderated a little bit. But he did what he wanted to do and he got whopped just like I did.”
On Election Day 1972, McGovern lost to Richard Nixon by nearly 18 million votes…..winning only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia and losing his home state of South Dakota.
Four years later…..1976…..Mondale is elected vice president on the ticket with former Georgia governor Jimmy Carter….