The President spoke from the White House Oval Office just before midnight, after receiving a telegram of concession and congratulation from defeated Democratic nominee George McGovern.
The South Dakota senator, though buried in an electoral defeat of historic dimensions, refused to concede that his platform of immediate peace in Vietnam and populist reform at home had been repudiated along with his candidacy.
Referring to the Nixon stands he had condemned in his long struggle for the presidency, McGovern said from Sioux Falls: “We do not rally to the support of policies we deplore. We love this country and we will continue to beckon it to a higher standard.”
Yesterday, however, only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia followed McGovern’s standard. With the outcome in Minnesota and Alaska still in doubt, Mr. Nixon was in a position to match or exceed Franklin D. Roosevelt’s modern record of carrying all but two states in 1936.
With 74% of the nation’s precincts reporting, the vote was:
ELECTORAL VOTE/POPULAR VOTE
Both winner and loser referred to the Vietnam war issue that dominated all others in their disjointed campaign.
Mr. Nixon said that “we are moving swiftly” toward “peace with honor, the kind of peace that will last.” A Vietnam settlement, he said, could launch “the greatest generation of peace, true peace, for the whole world that man has ever known.”
McGovern told his supporters and a national television audience he would not “shed any tears tonight” because he was convinced “we have pushed this country in the direction of peace.”
Looking back at the 22-month campaign, in which he was the underdog at every stage, the 50-year-old South Dakotan said: “If we pushed the day of peace just one day closer, then every day of bone-crushing effort was worth the sacrifice.”
In conventional political measurements, however, McGovern was destined to go into the history books as one of the all-time great losers -- ranking with Barry Goldwater, Alf Landon, Herbert Hoover and Horace Greeley.
In his fifth national campaign, Mr. Nixon got from the voters what he asked -- “a new majority.” He toppled traditional Democratic Strongholds in the North and made the Solid South solidly Republican.
While Mr. Nixon won the strongest victory imaginable in an election that posed what he called “the clearest choice in this century,” the certainty of continued Democratic control of Congress underlined Republican National Chairman Bob Dole’s comment that “this is a personal triumph for Mr. Nixon -- and not a party triumph.”