Nixon’s Illinois victory, which emerged more than 15 hours after the voting ended in Tuesday’s election, prevented third-party candidate George C. Wallace from using his 15 electoral votes to determine the choice of the 37th President and, alternatively, kept the contest from going to the House of Representatives for the first time since 1824.
Taking note of the serious division reflected in their near-even split of the popular vote, both Humphrey and Nixon referred in their post-election statements to the overriding need for national unity.
The Vice President, in his telegram of concession to Nixon and in a brief talk to supporters in Minneapolis, pledged that he would continue to work on “the urgent task of unifying this country.”
A half-hour later, the President-elect, in his first statement of the voters, said from New York that the “great objective of this Administration will be to bring the American people together.”
Shortly before midnight last night Humphrey moved 4000 votes ahead of Nixon in the popular vote on the basis of 53,120 votes cast for the second slate of electors pledged to him in Alabama.
There were two slates pledged to the Vice President in Alabama -- the National Democratic Party of Alabama, a largely Negro splinter group, and the Alabama Independent Democratic Party.
Nixon, who had stayed awake past dawn awaiting returns from the last half-dozen crucial states, was joined by his family for the celebration of his almost incredible comeback from successive defeats for the Presidency in 1960 and the governorship of his native California in 1962.
But his jubilation at the victory was clouded by his reference to the problems of an unsettled war in Vietnam and the bitter divisions in America he is inheriting from retiring President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Mr. Johnson, who renounced any effort for re-election last March rather than “permit the Presidency to become involved in the partisan divisions that are developing this political year,” as he said, told Nixon in a telegram from his Johnson City, Tex., ranch that he would “do everything in my power to make your burdens lighter.”
The pledges of cooperation from the Democratic leaders were of special significance to Nixon, who is the first President since Zachary Taylor in 1848 to be confronted at the start of his White House tenure with an opposition Congress.
Democrats on Tuesday retained control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, though losing a handful of seats in each chamber to the GOP.