Theo Lippman Jr.

October 27, 1992|By Theo Lippman Jr.

This is the 52nd presidential election. In the 47th, held in 1972, Richard Nixon finally had a laugher. He had lost the 1960 election by a margin of 0.17 percent of the popular vote, won in 1968 by 0.3 percent. On his third try, he won by 23.16 percentage points, the most since Franklin D. Roosevelt's landslide of 1936. He carried every state but one, something even FDR had not done.

The hapless victim was South Dakota Sen. George McGovern, a leader in the anti-war movement. He won the Democratic nomination by getting delegate rules rewritten to disenfranchise traditional Democratic bosses, such as big-city mayors and organized labor.

The liberal McGovern ran, as one observer put it, on a strategy of ''universal brotherhood.'' Nixon ran as the candidate of traditional Republicans and ex-Democrats: Southern whites, Northern ethnics and some internationalists who admired his boldness in re-opening relations with China even as they deplored his inability to end the Vietnam War. McGovern also charged Nixon with corruption in connection with the burglarizing of Democratic offices at the Watergate complex, but the voters did not take him seriously.

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