George McGovern and Tom Eagleton: Shock therapy and the bungled selection of a running mate in 1972.

Eighteen Days That Haunted Liberal Politics for Decades

Eighteen Days That Haunted Liberal Politics for Decades

Bite-sized stories from presidential campaign history.
June 10 2015 11:06 AM

One of the Great Train Wrecks of All Time

Slate’s podcast about campaign history looks back at George McGovern’s disastrous handling of the Eagleton Affair in 1972.

McGovern Eagleton
Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern, right, and his running mate Thomas Eagleton at a campaign appearance on July 26, 1972.

Photo by Anthony Korody/Getty Images

Listen to Episode 11 of Whistlestop:

In this episode of Slate’s podcast about presidential campaign history, Slate political columnist John Dickerson examines George McGovern’s hasty selection of a vice presidential running mate during the 1972 campaign.


Dickerson describes how McGovern tapped Missouri Sen. Tom Eagleton for the ticket with minimal vetting. Then, Eagleton was compelled to reveal his history of hospitalizations and electroconvulsive therapy.

McGovern vowed to back his running mate “one thousand percent,” but Eagleton withdrew after just 18 days. Described by McGovern strategist Bob Shrum as “one of the great train wrecks of all time,” the so-called Eagleton Affair left its mark on liberal politics for generations to come.

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John Dickerson is a co-anchor of CBS This Morning, co-host of the Slate Political Gabfest, host of the Whistlestop podcast, and author of Whistlestop and On Her Trail.