By the summer of 1972, the Nixon administration had made great strides in domestic policy in addition to its historic foreign policy achievements in China, Russia and Vietnam.
As a result, President Nixon was riding high in the polls throughout the year, and he was easily renominated on the first ballot at the Republican National Convention.
The divisions that had disrupted the Democratic Party in 1968 still existed, and the Democrats continued to fight among themselves. They finally settled on South Dakota Senator George McGovern. McGovern was the farthest left of all the Democratic contenders and ran as an anti-war candidate.
The Vietnam War was the election’s central issue. Many Americans, while disappointed that it was not over, felt that Nixon’s policies had hastened its end and that he was trying to achieve an honorable peace. By 1972, the President had recalled half a million American troops from Vietnam, a move seen by many as a promise kept. The ending of the draft helped mitigate some of the anti-war protests. And the peace negotiations in Paris seemed finally about to bear fruit.
When Election Day arrived, Nixon amassed one of the biggest landslides in American history, winning more than 60 percent of the vote and capturing 49 of the 50 states. Nixon’s victory margin of nearly 18 million votes is the largest in history. Nixon’s total of 520 electoral votes is close behind Franklin Roosevelt’s record-breaking reelection in 1936 and Ronald Reagan’s reelection in 1984.
Popular Vote total: 77,718,554
60.7% – Nixon
37.5% – McGovern
1.8% – other
On November 7, the evening of the election, President Nixon delivered a victory speech from the Oval Office before arriving at the Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. to address his victory celebration. In his address to his supporters, he remarked, “This will be a great victory depending upon what we do with it. In other words we win elections not simply for the purpose of beating the other party or the other person but to get the opportunity to do good things for our country.”
Watch the full speech here: