Primary Campaign Begins
As McCarthy planned to visit Miami, Florida, Democratic bigwigs decided to stage their own rally in the state. It was unclear if the plan had developed from the White House, but diversionary tactics were used to take away attention from a McCarthy appearance when establishment Democrats scheduled a meeting of their own on the same days in Tallahassee. The purpose of McCarthy's visit was to campaign and begin discussion about the presidential nominating slate for the May 28 Florida primary. He discussed civil rights during the trip, remarking that "it would take 30 to 50 years of constant action and concern to carry out all promises to the emancipated Negro who has been treated as a colonial people in America." Following the speech, the Conference of Concerned Democrats unanimously decided to award him pledged delegates from the state of Florida. Meanwhile, an anonymous poll showed that no members of Congress described McCarthy as the strongest candidate for the Democratic nomination, with the majority naming President Johnson. However, he gained the endorsement of the Americans for Democratic Action, who failed to support an incumbent Democratic president for the first time in 20 years. Later on, McCarthy announced that he would take part in the Pennsylvania primary, turning in 3,400 signatures on the filing deadline.
The month of March kicked off with charges from the media that McCarthy's campaign was just dragging along. Cited was his tardiness to the Senate floor, which failed to prevent a Southern filibuster against a civil rights bill drafted by fellow Minnesota Senator Walter Mondale. Despite the setback, three precincts in Minnesota elected McCarthy supported delegates to caucuses, to the detriment of Vice-President Hubert Humphrey, and President Johnson decided to abandon Massachusetts, giving 72 delegates to McCarthy. He described the news as "encouraging." At this point, McCarthy had spent a large amount of time campaigning in New Hampshire, hoping to improve his standing before the state's critical primary. Meanwhile, President Johnson's campaign circulated the slogan that "the communists in Vietnam are watching the New Hampshire primary...don't vote for fuzzy thinking and surrender." McCarthy likened this statement to McCarthyism, a reference to Senator Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin. Opinion polls prior to the New Hampshire primary showed that McCarthy's support stood at only 10 to 20 percent. Although he did not win the contest, he stunned spectators of the race by winning a surprising 42.2 percent of the vote to Johnson's 49.4 percent. Media outlets described the results as a "moral victory" for McCarthy, and influenced Robert Kennedy's decision to enter the race on March 16. Kennedy's announcement did not affect McCarthy's campaign. He remained committed to the "young people" who had supported his campaign all along, and remarked that he was "better qualified to run for the presidency" than Kennedy. McCarthy set his sights on Wisconsin and began to prepare for the state's April primary. He ran advertisements in newspapers throughout the state and included his platform. In it, he called for "more federal aid for education," collective bargaining rights for farmers, "a guaranteed minimum livable income for all Americans," the construction of "at least one million new housing units each year, and more "federal funds to stop pollution." While in Wisconsin, he criticized the government of South Vietnam, saying that it would be "too kind" to label the entity as corrupt and a dictatorship. He then announced his intentions to enter the primaries in Indiana and Florida, and hoped to compete in California in the upcoming months. On March 31, President Johnson made the surprise announcement that he was dropping out of the race and would not seek to be renominated for the presidency.
Famous quotes containing the words begins, primary and/or campaign:
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