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10 Bizarre Moments in Presidential Elections


4
1972: The Running Mate Had Undergone Electric Shock Therapy
George McGovern (right) promised to back his running mate Thomas Eagleton (left) "1,000 percent" after Eagelton admitted he'd received electric shock therapy for depression. But the public furor caused Eagleton to step down two weeks later. Bettmann/Getty Images
George McGovern (right) promised to back his running mate Thomas Eagleton (left) "1,000 percent" after Eagelton admitted he'd received electric shock therapy for depression. But the public furor caused Eagleton to step down two weeks later. Bettmann/Getty Images

The Democratic Party picked its presidential candidate that year under a reformed nomination system that took the power away from party bosses and put it in the hands of primary voters. The result was that an anti-establishment candidate, Sen. George McGovern of South Dakota, managed to grab the nomination.

McGovern, though, had difficulty finding a running mate. His first choice, Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, turned him down. Finally, he managed to recruit Sen. Thomas Eagleton of Missouri, to join him.

But at the tumultuous, rebellious convention that year, it wasn't easy to get Eagleton nominated. Six other Democratic politicians were nominated for VP, and delegates started casting votes for others as well, including fictional figures such as Archie Bunker from the TV sitcom "All in the Family."

Eagleton won but didn't last long. Two weeks later, he admitted that he had been hospitalized three times for depression and stress, and had received electric shock therapy. (Back then, background checks were minimal.) McGovern initially said he would back Eagleton "1,000 percent" regardless, but when the furor over Eagleton's mental health didn't subside, he quit the ticket. His replacement was former Peace Corps director Sargent Shriver. McGovern never recovered and lost in a landslide to incumbent Richard Nixon [source: Rudin].


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