1968 Nixon VS. Humphrey VS. Wallace

"E.G. Marshall"


Museum of the Moving Image
The Living Room Candidate
"E.G. Marshall," Humphrey, 1968

MARSHALL: I'm E.G. Marshall, and I'd like to tell you what I've been thinking about. On November 5th, when each of us goes into that voting booth, we're going to be alone in there with one thing to do, and that's to vote for the best person we are capable of voting for.

When I see this man [Wallace], I think of feelings of my own which I don't like, but I have anyway. They're called prejudices. He has some; we have some. I think we have to recognize the fact that we have these feelings, and that we have the right to conceal them or to express them if we want to. This is our freedom of speech and thought, our freedom from fear. This man, running for the Presidency, is the living proof of this freedom. But his winning the Presidency would be the living death of it.

He is devoted now to his single strongest prejudice. He will take that prejudice and make it into national law. Then he will make other laws from other prejudices. We have heard him tell it as it is. What follows his election is no secret. Law and order: He will make the law, and we will take the orders. It's not a comfortable thought, having to live under the law of a man's personal prejudice, when no one knows which way the prejudice will turn next.

This man [Nixon] has had experience as a Congressman, a Senator, a Vice President for eight years. He has in those years served what he felt to be the interests of the American people. A question I ask is: Which American people's interests has he served? The interests of men and women who work for a living in a factory, on a farm, in an office, a store, a tv studio? No, I don't think so. He has a record of being against minimum wages, against aid to education, against public housing, against consumer protection, against Medicare. He's been against many things that mean a lot to me.

Now, I've heard there's a new Nixon. But when I ask myself, what is new about Nixon, I find this answer: His technique is new. In the past, he discussed and debated issues, and he lost an election. Now, he will not discuss, and not debate, and in that way, hopes to win an election. I can't trust a man like that to be my President. He talks of himself as the new leader of the people but he can't tell us where he's going to lead us! Out of the war? How? Out of violence? Again, how? We have only his personal assurance that he'll get war and violence to disappear. This is no hero. There is no new Nixon, there's only the same old Nixon. In 1964 he campaigned for Barry Goldwater. In 1968, he is campaigning for Spiro Agnew.

There is only one man of the three who trusts me, and who trusts you. He [Humphrey] has trust in our ability to distinguish right from wrong. He has trust in our determination to keep what we have worked hard for - our homes, our jobs, our safety, our right to say what it is we like and what it is we don't like. Over and over again, he has proven that it is the strength of our finest instincts - not our worst - that keeps us functioning as the strongest nation in the world.

Now, he is asking us to trust him, to trust his belief that equal justice for every individual is our greatest protection and our greatest strength. He is asking us to trust his belief that the way to bring peace to warring nations and warring groups of people within a nation is to recognize the causes of these wars and work to get rid of them. This is a time when a good man can become a great man. I belive in Hubert Humphrey, and I trust him. And God willing, he will be our next President.

MALE NARRATOR: The preceding politic announcement was paid for by Citizens for Humphrey-Muskie.


"E.G. Marshall," Citizens for Humphrey-Muskie, 1968

Maker: Tony Schwartz and Reenah Schwartz

Video courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society.

From Museum of the Moving Image, The Living Room Candidate: Presidential Campaign Commercials 1952-2012.
www.livingroomcandidate.org/commercials/1968/eg-marshall (accessed April 14, 2024).


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1968 Nixon Humphrey Wallace Results

By 1968, one of the most turbulent years in American history, the number of American troops in Vietnam had risen from 16,000 (in 1963) to more than 500,000. Nightly TV coverage of the "living-room war" ignited an antiwar movement. After a weak showing in the New Hampshire primary, President Johnson shocked the country on March 31 by announcing that he would not seek reelection. Just four days later, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, sparking riots in more than 100 cities. In June, Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated after winning the California primary. Vice President Hubert Humphrey, who entered the race late and had not won any primaries, became the Democratic nominee at a tumultuous convention in Chicago marred by disorder inside the convention hall and by the televised spectacle of violent confrontations between police and antiwar protesters.

The Republicans nominated Richard M. Nixon, who was attempting a political comeback after losing the 1960 presidential election and the 1962 California gubernatorial race. Nixon claimed to speak for the "silent majority" of law-abiding citizens whose voices were presumably drowned out amidst the social upheaval, and he promised a return to the stability of the Eisenhower years.

Discontent with major-party candidates led to an independent run by Alabama Governor George Wallace, who waged the most successful third-party candidacy since 1924.

Richard Nixon for president
Spiro Agnew for vice president

"Vote Like Your Whole World Depended on It"

The centerpiece of the Nixon advertising campaign was a superbly crafted series of spots by filmmaker Eugene Jones. With carefully orchestrated montages of still photographs accompanied by jarring, dissonant music, his ads created an image of a country out of control, with crime on the rise, violence in the streets, and an unwinnable war raging overseas. The ads implicitly linked these problems to the Democratic administration, of which Humphrey was a part.

The most controversial of Jones’s ads, "Convention", juxtaposed unflattering still photographs of a smiling Humphrey with images of Vietnam and the chaos of the Democratic convention, all to the ironic accompaniment of the Dixieland song "Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight." The ad implied that Humphrey either had caused these problems or didn’t care about them. NBC considered it unfair, but federal regulations prohibited the censorship of any political commercial and the ad ran during a broadcast of Laugh-In. However, Democratic protest led the Republicans to pull it after a single showing.

Nixon’s ad campaign was part of a carefully managed television effort that was detailed in Joe McGinnis’s The Selling of the President 1968. The book made the public aware for the first time of the critical role of consultants and advertising executives in creating a candidate’s image. The campaign designed a strategy by which Nixon appeared only in controlled situations. He limited his public appearances and press conferences, and refused to debate Humphrey. Instead, he appeared in a series of hour-long programs, produced by Roger Ailes, in which he was interviewed live by panels of carefully selected citizens. Nixon occasionally faced tough questions, but the discussions took place in front of partisan audiences from which the press was barred.

Hubert Humphrey for president
Edmund Muskie for vice president

"Humphrey-Muskie, Two You Can Trust"

The strategy behind the 1968 Democratic commercials was to convince the public that Hubert Humphrey could be trusted and Richard Nixon could not. While Nixon claimed that he had gained a fresh perspective during his eight years out of public office, the Humphrey ads capitalized on the popular notion that Nixon was an enigmatic figure with little record of public service. The press frequently wondered whether there really was a "New Nixon," and attacked his refusal to reveal the specifics of his "secret plan" to end the Vietnam War. As the sitting vice president in an unpopular administration, it was easier, and safer, for Humphrey to attack Nixon than to promote his own accomplishments. His campaign produced several powerful negative ads reminiscent of Johnson’s anti-Goldwater campaign. One spot, which evoked the famous "Daisy Girl" ad by showing images of mushroom cloudes while criticizing Nixon’s opposition to the signing of a nuclear nonproliferation treaty, aired during a broadcast of Dr. Strangelove.

Humphrey’s positive ads stressed his personality, portraying him as a trustworthy, compassionate man with a commitment to domestic issues such as civil rights, education, and Social Security. One spot, "Voting Booth", openly acknowledged voter apathy, with a narrator wondering aloud about the differences between the candidates, and coming to favor Humphrey only after articulating a lengthy decision-making process.

George Wallace for president
Curtis Lemay for vice president

It was essential for Wallace, the least known candidate, to build public recognition. The Alabama governor appeared in all of his ads, speaking directly from a podium. In simple, straightforward style, Wallace outlined his conservative views, including an opposition to busing as a means of forced integration, a demand for an all-out war on crime, and a call for massive bombing in Vietnam to bring about a quick end to the war.

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