George McGovern: How he picked his veep

Roundup: Talking About History

When I arrived in Miami on the Sunday before the Democratic convention in 1972, I had yet to select a running mate. I had already asked Ed Muskie, the senator from Maine, and Hubert Humphrey, the 1968 nominee and my longtime friend, if they would be on the ticket with me. Each had said no.

So at the convention, I met with my staff in my hotel room on Thursday, the day after I was nominated. We had until 4 p.m. to find a vice-presidential nominee.

My first pick that morning was Senator Ted Kennedy, whom I had called the night before. He declined, and instead suggested that I pick Senator Tom Eagleton of Missouri, who was openly campaigning for the post. I rejected the advice because I didn’t know Eagleton very well.

My next choice was Sargent Shriver, the first director of the Peace Corps and Senator Kennedy’s brother-in-law, but I could not reach him because he was in the Soviet Union. So I called Walter Mondale, another Senate colleague. Like Senator Kennedy, he said no and recommended Eagleton. I still felt unsure.

Then I turned to Abe Ribicoff, a senator from Connecticut and another longtime friend. He said it would be an honor to be the first Jew on the national ticket of either party, but he was about to marry. “I just can’t cancel a honeymoon and take on a national campaign,” he told me....

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