Forty-nine years ago, Vice President Hubert Humphrey was the Democratic candidate for president.
The year 1968 was a tumultuous one that saw the assassinations of rival candidate Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. Lyndon Johnson’s unpopular lame-duck Democratic administration imploded due to massive protests against the Vietnam War.
Yet Humphrey almost defeated Republican nominee Richard Nixon, losing the election by just over 500,000 votes (43.4 percent to 42.7 percent).
Infighting Democrats could have defeated the unpopular Nixon if not for a few unforeseen developments.
Their convention in Chicago turned into a creepy carnival of televised rioting and radical protests. Hippies and leftists were seen battling police in the streets on primetime news.
The former Democratic governor of Alabama, George Wallace, ran as a states’ rights third-party candidate and drew 13.5 percent of the vote. Wallace destroyed the Democrats’ traditional hold on the old “solid South” by winning five Southern states outright. He also siphoned off enough traditional Democratic supporters to give Nixon astonishing Republican victories in half a dozen other states in the region.