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Democratic Party presidential primaries, 1968


Democratic Party presidential primaries, 1968

Democratic Presidential Primaries, 1968

March 12 to June 11, 1968

Nominee Eugene McCarthy Robert Kennedy Stephen M. Young
Party Democratic Democratic Democratic
Home state Minnesota New York Ohio
States carried 6 4 1
Popular vote 2,914,933 2,305,148 549,140
Percentage 38.73% 30.63% 7.30%

Nominee Lyndon B. Johnson George Smathers
Party Democratic Democratic
Home state Texas Florida
States carried 1 1
Popular vote 383,590 236,242
Percentage 5.10% 3.14%

Gold denotes a state won by denotes a state that did not hold a primary. Grey. Stephen M. Young denotes a state won by Orange

President before election

Lyndon B. Johnson

Democratic presidential candidate-elect

Hubert Humphrey

The 1968 Democratic presidential primaries were the selection process by which voters of the Democratic Party chose its nominee for President of the United States in the 1968 U.S. presidential election. Incumbent Vice President Hubert Humphrey was selected as the nominee through a series of primary elections and caucuses culminating in the 1968 Democratic National Convention held from August 26 to August 29, 1968 in Chicago, Illinois.


  • Primary race 1
    • Johnson withdraws 1.1
  • Contest for the Democratic nomination 2
  • Primaries 3
    • Statewide results by winner 3.1
  • Gallery of candidates 4
  • Democratic Convention and antiwar protests 5
    • Endorsements 5.1
  • See also 6
  • References 7

Primary race

Though President Lyndon B. Johnson had served during two presidential terms, the 22nd Amendment did not disqualify Johnson from running for another term, because he had only served 14 months following John F. Kennedy's assassination before being sworn in for his 'full' term in January 1965. As a result, it was widely assumed when 1968 began that President Johnson would be the Democratic nominee, and that he would have little trouble in winning the Democratic nomination.

Despite the growing opposition to Johnson's policies in Vietnam, no prominent Democratic candidate was prepared to run against a sitting President of his own party. Even Senator Robert F. Kennedy of New York, an outspoken critic of Johnson's policies with a large base of support, refused to run against Johnson in the primaries. Only Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota proved willing to openly challenge Johnson. Running as an anti-war candidate in the New Hampshire primary, McCarthy hoped to pressure the Democrats into publicly opposing the Vietnam War. Normally, an incumbent president faces little formidable opposition within his own party. However, McCarthy, although he was trailing badly in the national polls, decided to pour most of his resources into New Hampshire, the first state to hold a primary election. He was boosted by thousands of young college students, who shaved their beards and cut their hair to be "Clean for Gene." These students rang doorbells and worked hard in New Hampshire for McCarthy. On March 12, McCarthy won 42% of the primary vote to Johnson's 49%, an extremely strong showing for such a challenger, and one which gave McCarthy's campaign legitimacy and momentum. Senator Kennedy announced his candidacy four days later, on March 16.

Johnson withdraws

On March 31, 1968, following the New Hampshire primaries and Kennedy's entry into the election, the President startled the nation by announcing he would not seek re-election. (Not discussed publicly at the time was Johnson's concern that he might not survive another term: Johnson's health was poor, and he had suffered a serious heart attack in 1955. Johnson in fact died two days after the end of Richard Nixon's first term.) Bleak political forecasts also contributed to Johnson's withdrawal: internal polling by Johnson's campaign in Wisconsin, the next state to hold a primary election, showed the President trailing badly, and in fact he lost the April 2 primary to McCarthy, who won 56% of the vote to Johnson's 35%.[1] With Johnson's withdrawal, the Democratic Party quickly split into four factions, all of which distrusted the other three.

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