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Timeline of the 1968 Campaign


November 30, 1967 Sen. Eugene McCarthy (D-MN) announces bid for presidency

McCarthy intends to demonstrate opposition to President Johnson's Vietnam policies. He vows to fight LBJ in primaries in Wisconsin, Nebraska, Oregon and California.

January 30, 1968 Tet Offensive begins in Vietnam

North Vietnamese Army and the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam coordinate a massive offensive against South Vietnam. Attack happens in the Vietnamese lunar month of Tet. The surprise strength of the attack creates a crisis for Johnson's administration.

February 1, 1968 Former Vice President Richard Nixon declares candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination.

February 8, 1968 Former Alabama Democratic Gov. George Wallace announces third-party presidential campaign. He launches the American Independent Party.

February 13, 1968 Gallup Poll reports 50 percent of American public disapproves of LBJ's handling of the Vietnam War.

February 27, 1968 Walter Cronkite questions Vietnam War on CBS Evening News.

After returning from Vietnam, Cronkite files special report questioning whether war is winnable. He advocates a negotiated withdrawal, "not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could."

February 29, 1968 Kerner commission on urban violence issues report on U.S. race riots.

In response to urban riots in the summer of 1967, President Johnson appointed a commission to learn why they occurred and how to prevent them. Headed by New York City Mayor John Lindsay and Otto Kerner, Governor of Illinois, the report famously observes that the U.S. is "moving toward two societies, one black, one white - separate and unequal."

March 4, 1968 FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover orders actions to "neutralize" and discredit black militant groups and civil rights leaders he deems a threat.

In a memo, Hoover commands the FBI to, "Prevent the rise of a 'messiah' who could unify, and electrify, the militant black nationalist movement. Malcolm X might have been such a 'messiah;' he is the martyr of the movement today. Martin Luther King, Stokely Carmichael and Elijah Muhammed all aspire to this position. Elijah Muhammed is less of a threat because of his age. King could be a very real contender for this position should he abandon his supposed 'obedience' to 'white, liberal doctrines' (nonviolence) and embrace black nationalism. Carmichael has the necessary charisma to be a real threat in this way."

March 12, 1968 Senator McCarthy nearly defeats LBJ in New Hampshire primary.

McCarthy's narrow margin of loss shocks democrats and embarrasses LBJ, considered a master politician. It signals that the incumbent president is a beatable candidate and helps cement Johnson's decision not to run for reelection.

March 16, 1968 Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-NY) enters presidential campaign.

Kennedy had been pondering the race for months but was reluctant to challenge the incumbent president. When RFK jumps into the race after McCarthy's stong showing in New Hampshire, RFK is accused of being ruthless and opportunistic.

March 31, 1968 President Johnson announces he will not seek reelection.

LBJ's decision opens the way for Vice President Hubert Humphrey to join the race for the Democratic nomination.

April 4, 1968 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated in Memphis, TN

Reacting to King's murder, more than 100 American cities explode in violence. Some 65,000 troops get called up for riot duty. Thirty-nine people die and tens of thousands are arrested, most of them African Americans.

April 23, 1968 Students at Columbia University in New York protest the school's ties with the Vietnam War and plans for construction in Harlem.

Some 150 students take Columbia's acting dean hostage and occupy campus buildings for a week. When police break up the protest, students announce a strike and the university is closed for the rest of the semester.

April 27, 1968 Vice President Hubert Humphrey announces candidacy.

Humphrey says he will run on the Democrats' eight-year record, but will be his "own man."

April 30, 1968 New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller enters GOP race.

Both Rockefeller and Humphrey enter race after deadline passes for primary contests.

May 3, 1968 U.S. and North Vietnam agree to start peace talks in Paris.

May 14, 1968 Kennedy wins Nebraska primary.

Kennedy's first majority victory, defeating McCarthy and also LBJ, whose name remained on the ballot. Nixon easily wins the Republican primary over Ronald Reagan and a write-in effort for Rockefeller.

May 28, 1968 McCarthy wins Oregon primary.

First defeat for a Kennedy in 30 primary and general election contests. Nixon easily wins GOP race.

June 5, 1968 Kennedy wins California primary and is shot after a victory rally at a Los Angeles hotel. Dies the next day.

August 5, 1968 GOP convention opens in Miami Beach, Fla.

August 5, 1968 California Gov. Ronald Reagan announces his bid for the GOP nomination at the convention in Miami Beach.

August 7, 1968 Nixon nominates Maryland Gov. Spiro Agnew for Vice President.

Nixon expects Agnew will help him win voters in Southern and border states. Agnew was considered a moderate on racial issues when he was elected governor in 1966, but he took an aggressive stance against urban rioters that Nixon felt would play well to white voters, especially in the South.

August 7, 1968 Riots break out in Miami ghetto Liberty City.

Nixon tells GOP convention that riot in Liberty City demonstrates need for "law and order" in United States.

August 8, 1968 Nixon wins GOP nomination on first ballot.

In his speech accepting the GOP nomination, Nixon condemns urban riots and massive protests and appeals to the group he often calls the "silent center" or "silent majority" of Americans. They include, "the forgotten Americans, the non-shouters, the non-demonstrators." Like Theodore Roosevelt, Nixon says, "they know that this country will not be a good place for any of us to live in unless it's a good place for all of us to live in."

August 26, 1968 Democratic convention opens in Chicago.

Antiwar protests and street rioting mar the convention and get extensive media coverage. LBJ does not attend, but works behind the scenes to limit opposition to his Vietnam policies.

August 28, 1968 Humphrey wins Democratic nomination on first ballot.

September 1, 1968 Wallace campaign gains momentum.

Wallace appeals to some white voters by vowing to stamp out urban riots and return control of public schools to local governments.

September 30, 1968 After deep slump, Humphrey campaign picks up speed and race narrows

After much foot-dragging, Humphrey distances himself from LBJ's Vietnam policy in a televised speech.

October 3, 1968 Wallace press conference introducing Gen. Curtis LeMay as VP candidate

Wallace's choice of LeMay is a disaster. Many voters perceive LeMay, a retired Air Force general, as a loose cannon because of his apparent support for nuclear bombs. At his first official press conference he tells reporters, "I don't believe the world will end if we explode a nuclear weapon." Support for Wallace begins to decline once LeMay is added to the ticket.

October 16, 1968 Vietnam peace talks move forward

LBJ calls candidates to tell them about accelerating peace talks with the North Vietnamese. Nixon uses back-channels to scuttle talks.

October 31, 1968 LBJ orders halt to all American air, naval and artillery bombardment of North Vietnam.

November 5, 1968 Richard Nixon wins election.

Nixon wins the popular vote by a narrow margin, beating out Humphrey by just under 500,000 votes. Nixon's electoral votes provide a more decisive victory. Wallace wins 13.5 percent of the popular vote and carries five southern states.


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