The Eighteen-Day Running Mate McGovern, Eagleton, and a Campaign in Crisis Joshua M. Glasser

Publication date:
01 Aug 2012
Yale University Press
392 pages: 235 x 156 x 27mm
15 b-w illus.
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No skeletons were rattling in his closet, Thomas Eagleton assured George McGovern’s political director. But only eighteen days later—after a series of damaging public revelations and feverish behind-the-scenes maneuverings—McGovern rescinded his endorsement of his Democratic vice-presidential running mate, and Eagleton withdrew from the ticket. This fascinating book is the first to uncover the full story behind Eagleton's rise and precipitous fall as a national candidate.

Within days of Eagleton's nomination, a pair of anonymous phone calls brought to light his history of hospitalizations for “nervous exhaustion and depression” and past treatment with electroshock therapy. The revelation rattled the campaign and placed McGovern's organization under intense public and media scrutiny. Joshua M. Glasser investigates a campaign in disarray and explores the perspectives of the campaign’s key players, how decisions were made and who made them, how cultural attitudes toward mental illness informed the crisis, and how Eagleton's and McGovern's personal ambitions shaped the course of events.

Drawing on personal interviews with McGovern, campaign manager Gary Hart, political director Frank Mankiewicz, and dozens of other participants inside and outside the McGovern and Eagleton camps—as well as extensive unpublished campaign records—Glasser captures the political and human drama of Eagleton's brief candidacy. Glasser also offers sharp insights into the America of 1972—mired in war and anxious about the economy, a time with striking similarities to our own.

Joshua M. Glasser is a researcher for Bloomberg Television in New York. He graduated magna cum laude from Amherst College, Eagleton's alma mater. He lives in the Bronx, NY.

"Josh Glasser has recovered the McGovern-Eagleton crisis in all its messy grandeur. More impressively, he uses the episode as a lightning flash that illuminates the way we were in the summer of 1972: trapped in an unpopular and unnecessary war; on the cusp of a new presidential primary system that transferred control from the back room politicians to the media; slouching towards Watergate; losing our way."—Joseph J. Ellis, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Founding Brothers: the Revolutionary Generation

"Eighteen-Day Running Mate is a riveting page-turner of a book about a forgotten episode in American political history. The moral? Politics is personal, for better and worse. And politicians—struggling to balance an appetite for public life with a penchant for family privacy—are simply humans like the rest of us, trying to find the best path forward."—Martha A. Sandweiss, author of Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line