The politician who got shot today

Fifty years ago, Joe Biden was running for the U.S. Senate, Jimmy Carter was governor of Georgia, Ronald Reagan was governor of California, George H. Bush was swimming uphill in still Democrat Texas, Gerald Ford was the House minority leader, and President Nixon was promoting his foreign policy credentials and wondering whom he'd run against.

Then the stuff hit the fan.  On this day in 1972, George Wallace was shot during a campaign rally in Maryland.  It was a shocker!

Wallace will always be remembered as the man who may have made the Nixon presidency possible.  We don't know for sure, but many of those Southern states (46 electoral votes) would have probably voted for V.P. Humphrey, as Texas did in 1968.  Who knows what other states outside the South would have gone to Humphrey without Wallace?

The final 1968 Electoral College vote was Nixon 301, Humphrey 191, and Wallace 46.  The popular vote was also very close: Nixon 43%, Humphrey 42%, and Wallace 14%.

In 1972, Wallace was running on the same themes but inside the Democrat party.  I don't think he would have won the nomination, but he could have forced the party to nominate a more centrist candidate, such as a rerun of Vice President Humphrey or Senator Scoop Jackson of Washington.  A Jackson or Humphrey would have made it more difficult for President Nixon.  He would not have run against a liberal like George McGovern or carried 49 states.

So the man shot fifty years ago had a lot to do with Nixon winning in 1968 and a landslide re-election in 1972.

George Wallace recovered and returned to Alabama politics.  In the 1980s, Mr. Wallace renounced his segregationist ideology and reconciled with many civil rights leaders.  In 1982, he sought a new term as governor and won the election with substantial support from Black voters.  He died in 1998.

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Image: Kendrick Shackleford via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0 (cropped).

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