WASHINGTON -- Striking his name from the list of potential presidential candidates, former Sen. George S. McGovern announced yesterday that he would not seek the Democratic nomination in 1992.
Mr. McGovern, who lost a record 49 states to President Richard M. Nixon in 1972, said that personal factors, including "the risk of ridicule" and possible rejection, led him to pass up a third full-fledged presidential attempt.
The former South Dakota senator also made an unsuccessful run for the nomination in 1984.
The 68-year-old South Dakota native told a National Press Club audience that a "younger, less battle-scarred" candidate was likely to become the Democratic nominee.
New York Gov. Mario M. Cuomo is the Democrat with the best chance of defeating President Bush, he said. He praised several other potential candidates, including Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey and the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, as well as former Massachusetts Sen. Paul Tsongas, the only formally declared candidate.
Democrats trying to craft a new, more centrist message for 1992 had, both publicly and privately, expressed the hope that Mr. McGovern would stay out of the race and spare the party the inevitable, unflattering comparisons with the liberal past.
But Mr. McGovern advised his fellow Democrats not to "run away from liberalism."
"If we surrender our principles," he said, "we don't deserve to win."
In a personal aside near the close of his prepared remarks, Mr. McGovern noted that he had been described as "a big loser. And, in a sense, that's true." But, he said, he was "a liberal and proud of it, proud of the things for which I have stood, the battles I have fought."
After his speech, Mr. McGovern acknowledged wistfully that he did not know whether anyone would have listened to him if he had run.