WASHINGTON, Nov. 8, 1972 (UPI) - President Nixon, polling more votes than any presidential candidate in history, crushed George S. McGovern in a near-record landslide that solidified his personal leadership. But, once again, his Republican party failed to -- With more Americans voting than ever before, Nixon swept McGovern aside in every jurisdiction but Massachusetts and the District of Columbia in piling up 521 out of 538 electoral votes.
It was the worst defeat ever dealt a Democratic presidential candidate.
The Nixon margin rivaled Lyndon B. Johnson's 1964 record of 61.3 per cent of the vote - biggest ever. Nixon received the greatest popular presidential vote ever cast - more than 44 million. Johnson got 43.1 million eight years ago.
With 95 per cent of the precincts counted at 10:15 a.m. EST Wednesday, Nixon led 61 per cent to 38 per cent, with a popular vote total of 44,506,019 to McGovern's 27,706,816. John Schmitz had 1,010,627, a far cry from the almost 10 million votes by George C. Wallace, the 1968 American Independent Party candidate.
In victory, Nixon once again echoed the themes of statesman as opposed to politician, urging the nation to work with him for world peace in the final four years of the Republican's second term.
He said he had tried to "conduct myself in this campaign in a way that would not divide our country" - seemingly a concession that a deliberate stand above partisanship was his goal, even if it cost his party control of Congress.
Nixon, who will be 60 on Jan. 9 - 11 days before inauguration - lost the presidency in 1960 by the thinnest margin of any candidate this century. And four years ago he won the White House with only 43.4 per cent of the total vote.
And his victory came 10 years to the day after the "retired" from politics upon losing a bid for the governorship of California with the comment "You won't have Nixon to kick around any more ... ."
But his strategy of running as president rather than an all-embracing party leader left its casualties as a result of massive ticket-splitting. Defeated were such GOP names as Sens. Margaret Chase Smith of Maine, Sen. Gordon Allot of Colorado, Jack Milec of Iowa and Caleb Boggs of Delaware.
Instead of picking up the five seats they needed to control the Senate, the Republicans lost ground in the Senate, with the Democrats increasing their majority by two to 57 to 43. The Republicans made a few inroads in the House, but fell short of the 39 increase they needed for control. It appeared the new House would be 243 to 192 in favor of the Democrats.
McGovern was acquiescent in conceding defeat before midnight of election day but firm in his resolve to continue as the "loyal opposition." His voice strained, and his brow furrowed, he told a late night rally in Sioux Falls, S.D., "there can be no question that we pushed this country in the direction of peace and I think each of us prefers the title of peacemaker to any other title in the land."
As with Congress, Nixon's sweep failed to transfer itself to the governors contests. The Democrats picked up one more statehouse, increasing their total to 31, to 19 for the Republicans. The biggest win came in Illinois where Daniel Walker ousted Republican Gov. Richard V. Ogilvie.
In his victory Nixon scored heavily in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and other areas where traditional Democratic forces among blue collar workers, Jews and Catholics deserted the party. While he didn't carry some of these, he made severe inroads into normal Democratic majorities.
The big cities - traditional Democratic strongholds - failed to deliver. At best they gave McGovern only fractional leads, not enough to offset Republican votes elsewhere.