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  McGovern-Humphrey-Yorty-Chisholm Debate
TitleMcGovern-Humphrey-Yorty-Chisholm Debate
Start Date/TimeJune 04, 1972 04:00pm
End Date/TimeJune 04, 1972 05:00pm
Last ModifiedChronicler - September 30, 2008 08:08pm
DescriptionThe fourth and last debate during the Democratic primary season of 1972 was the third in a series of three debates in the week preceding the California primary. For the first time, three debates were held within days of each other, rather than spacing them a week apart. This debate was held just two days before the California primary.

In the five days between the 3d and 4th debates of the primary season, the California Poll was released. It showed McGovern with 46%, followed by Humphrey with 26% and Wallace with 8%. The results of the poll shocked the political world, since the same poll four weeks earlier showed HHH leading McGovern 35-31%. [New York Times, 6/2/1972].

The debate almost did not take place. ABC announced that Gov. Wallace was unable to appear, but that his campaign manager would appear in his place. McGovern already had a full schedule, and he did not want to participate in a debate with a Wallace surrogate unless all active candidates participated. ABC worked to get Shirley Chisholm involved. [NYT 6/4/1972].

Quick Facts
When: 2:00-3:00 p.m. (PST), 6/4/1972
Where: Los Angeles CA. Produced by ABC.
Panel: Sam Donaldson, Bill Matney, Frank Reynolds (all ABC News). The debate was a special broadcast of ABC's news show "Issues and Answers."
Audience size: undetermined
Topics: Vietnam, foreign and domestic policy

Transcript: not available.

Format: Questions and answers; closing one-minute summary

Setting: The candidates sat around a red rug in the ABC studio. From the viewer's perspective, the candidates were Humphrey, Gen. Taylor Hardin (stand-in for Wallace), McGovern, and Yorty. Shirley Chisholm joined in from a New York City studio.

The opening question asked if the candidates would support whoever was the eventual nominee. Only Humphrey and McGovern clearly said they would. Hardin and Yorty would not commit; Yorty had supported Nixon in 1960 against JFK. Chisholm wanted to wait to see how the candidates handled challenged convention delegations before making a commitment on supporting the Democratic nominee. Both HHH and McGovern wanted each slate of contested delegates to make its case before taking sides at the convention.

As always, Vietnam was the leading issue. HHH supported Nixon's belief that an agreement regarding prisoners of war must be part of any peace negotiations, though McGovern believed that North Vietnam would release POWs immediately rather than have to continue feeding them. HHH also recommended that Nixon send Treasury Secretary John Connally to undertake the POW negotiations. Yorty and Hardin supported HHH, while McGovern and Chisholm believed that POW negotiations would delay the end of the war.

A question was asked if the US should send troops to defend Israel. McGovern said "If there's a major Soviet invasion of the Middle East, of course we would have to respond." HHH was more specific, being willing to defend Israel from any attack and reminding voters that McGovern's proposed military cuts would complicate any effort to defend Israel. HHH was not willing to say that he would go to war to defend Israel, however.

In his summary, Yorty argued against holding an additional debate the following day. He said that the two previous debates had been "meaningless" and that a future one would be, too.

Chisholm realized that she did not have the support to win the nomination, although "I could serve as President of this country, believe it or not." She hoped to use her support as leverage to "try to keep them honest at the convention." [New York Times, 6/5/1972].

The final debate appeared to have a major impact upon the voting. McGovern's lead of 20% dwindled, though he still won 44-39% for HHH. Exit polling showed that Californian voters were concerned that his defense and welfare proposals would have a detrimental effect on the economy. Twenty percent of primary voters believed that the debates were important in making their decision on who to support, and the majority of those voters voted for Humphrey. Altogether, 33% of primary voters disapproved of McGovern's defense proposals, but among voters supporting his opponent, 65% opposed McGovern's defense proposals. [NYT 6/8/1972].

1st Democratic primary debate of 1972: [Link]

2d Democratic primary debate of 1972: [Link]

3d Democratic primary debate of 1972: [Link]

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