Eagleton was the 1972 Democratic VP nominee for all of 18 days.
Perhaps the biggest indignity for Eagleton was that they spelled his name wrong on this button.
Republicans had a field day with the Eagleton flap.
The late Paul Wellstone was the only Senate Democrat in a tough election contest to vote against the war in 2002.
Thirty-five years ago today, Sen. Ed Muskie of Maine wins the New Hampshire Democratic presidential primary. But his margin of victory was far less than expected.
If everything you know about national political conventions comes from watching them over the past decade or two, then, boy, do I have a story for you.
Conventions weren't always scripted, or predictable, or (dare I say) boring. In the old days — and God, do I sound old here — there was excitement. And sometimes, tension. Every now and then, something would happen that no one expected.
But while we political junkies live for these moments, they aren't always good for the parties involved. Flashback to Miami Beach, in 1972, as the Democrats were meeting to name a nominee to take on President Richard Nixon.
Four years earlier, as the Vietnam War raged on under the leadership of President Lyndon Johnson, Democrats held their convention in Chicago. Along with mayhem in Southeast Asia, there was mayhem on the streets of Chicago. The Democrats were about to nominate as their standard bearer Hubert Humphrey, LBJ's loyal, pro-war vice president, even though Humphrey had not competed in a single primary. And the delegates were about to endorse Johnson's conduct of the war in Vietnam when they ratified the party's platform.
Something was wrong here. Everyone — not least of all, the Democrats who had gathered to choose Johnson's successor — knew the conflict was a lost cause. Meanwhile, between the protests in the streets and the overreaction from Mayor Richard J. Daley's police, the nation witnessed a party in complete disarray.
The post-election reforms instituted by Sen. George McGovern (D-SD) made sure that, starting in 1972, delegates would be decided in primaries, not backroom deals, and that primaries — not smoke-filled rooms — would determine the nominee. The fact that McGovern, a strong opponent of the war, would win the nomination — helping, along the way, to curtail the power of such longtime Democratic leaders/bosses like Daley — was one reason why many in the Democratic Old Guard refused to unite behind their presidential candidate.
After winning the Democratic nod on July 12, McGovern went through the motions of finding a running mate. His first choice, Sen. Edward Kennedy (MA), stuck to his guns and refused all entreaties. Eventually, McGovern settled on Sen. Thomas Eagleton, a little-known, pro-labor, Roman Catholic liberal from Missouri. In this new, small-d democratic convention, Eagleton was nominated for vice president along with six others: former Gov. Endicott Peabody of Massachusetts, Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel, state Rep. Frances Farenthold of Texas, NYC advertising executive Stanley Arnold, Rep. Peter Rodino of New Jersey, and Clay Smothers, a journalist from Dallas. Then, once the balloting for VP began, others — real and not so real — picked up votes: Martha Mitchell, Archie Bunker and Jerry Rubin, among them. Eagleton wasn't declared the winner until 1:51 a.m., and his and McGovern's acceptance speeches didn't begin until well after 2 a.m.
It gets worse.
Thirteen days later, Eagleton conceded what Democrats and journalists had been whispering about for days: that he had been hospitalized three times in the 1960s for depression and stress, and that he had undergone electric shock therapy. Despite the furor, McGovern insisted that he would not remove Eagleton from the ticket, declaring that he was behind him "1,000 percent."
That "1,000 percent" lasted until July 31, when, after a national uproar and following a meeting with McGovern, Eagleton withdrew from the ticket under pressure. He was eventually replaced by Sargent Shriver, the former director of the Peace Corps and ambassador to France under Johnson and Nixon.
To be sure, there was much more to Tom Eagleton — who died Sunday at age 77 — than his 18-day tenure as the 1972 Democratic nominee for vice president.
Eagleton was a major figure in Missouri Democratic politics for decades. (His father, Mark Eagleton, ran for mayor of St. Louis in 1953; the button at far right, below, is from that campaign). Tom Eagleton was elected statewide five times: as attorney general in 1960, lieutenant governor in 1964, and three terms as a U.S. senator, beginning in 1968. He played a key role in the passage of the War Powers Act, which limited presidential power, and was a strong opponent of the Vietnam War and the 1970 bombing of Cambodia.