WASHINGTON, Nov. 7, 1968 (UPI) - Richard Milhous Nixon won his second try for President of the United States Wednesday, promised to work for domestic unity and world peace, and flew to Washington to pay his respects to former President Dwight D. Eisenhowe In the American political comeback of the century, the 55-year-old Mr. Nixon defeated Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey in a closely contested election that was not decided until his Democratic challenger conceded shortly after noon EST.
Humphrey, the hopeless underdog in early campaign polls, fought his way to within striking distance of the White House during the night Tuesday before California and finally Illinois swung to Mr. Nixon.
When the outcome became obvious, the Democratic nominee - chin up, a smile on his lips and tears brimming his eyes - urged his followers to join him in uniting the country.
So close was the election that Mr. Nixon did not comment publicly until Humphrey had conceded. The Republican President-elect praised Humphrey's "gallant and courageous fight" and vowed to "bring us together" as a nation.
Mr. Nixon then left New York City for Washington aboard an Air Force jetliner which the Defense Department provided at his request.
After visiting the ailing Mr. Eisenhower at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, they flew on to Key Biscayne, Fla., for a holiday.
Humphrey, 57, headed from Minneapolis to his lakeside home at Waverly, Minn. Sources close to the Vice President said there was a good chance he would run in 1970 for Sen. Eugene J. McCarthy's seat or for the governorship of Minnesota now held by Republican Harold Levander.
McCarthy, who fought Humphrey unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination has said he would not seek re-election to the Senate as a Democrat but has hinted he might run outside the party.
With 94% of all precincts reporting, the national popular vote was:
Nixon - 29,726,409 - 43%
Humphrey - 29,677,152 - 43%
George C. Wallace - 9,291,807 - 14%
The electoral vote was 299 for Mr. Nixon, 181 for Humphrey and 45 for Wallace, the American Independent party candidate. It takes 270 electoral votes to win.
Contests remained undecided in Alaska, where Mr. Nixon was leading for 3 electoral votes, and in Maryland, where Humphrey was leading by 19,000 votes. Maryland will count 35,000 absentee ballots on Thursday.
The nationwide voter turnout appeared to be a record.
After receiving congratulatory messages from President Johnson and the Vice President, Mr. Nixon told supporters at a Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City that "The great objective of this administration at the outset (will be) to bring us together."
He pledged an "open administration" welcoming the ideas and support of both parties, Americans of all races, the young and the old.
Six years of patient planning and wooing support of the GOP rank and file paid off for Mr. Nixon Wednesday after one of the closest elections in modern times.
Yet Mr. Nixon will have to work with a House and Senate still dominated by the Democrats. It was the first time since 1892 that an incoming President has failed to have his party control Congress.
The indicated lineup in the Senate was 58 Democrats and 42 Republicans, a GOP gain of five seats. The indicated House division was 244 Democrats and 191 Republicans, a GOP gain of only three seats.
Republicans increased their lead in the nation's governorships from 26 to 31. But in the realignment, they saw the defeat of Gov. John H. Chafee of Rhode Island, chairman of the Republican Governors Conference, when Humphrey took that state.
Illinois' swing to Nixon eliminated the possibility that neither major party candidate would get an electoral majority and that Wallace could use his 45 votes to break the deadlock.
Mr. Nixon carried Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. He was leading in Alaska.
Humphrey carried Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Washington, West Virginia and the District of Columbia. He was leading in Maryland.
Wallace carried Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana and Mississippi.