Nixon supports Kennedy

Nixon supports Kennedy

The president decides to meddle in the 1972 Democratic primary—and use the Kennedy name to his advantage

President Richard M. Nixon wanted to face the weakest possible Democratic opponent in his reelection campaign. Before primary voting began, the Democratic front-runner was Sen. Edmund S. Muskie of Maine, a centrist Democrat who had been the vice presidential nominee in 1968. In this conversation, Nixon decided to meddle in the New Hampshire Democratic primary by secretly financing a write-in campaign for Sen. Edward M. “Teddy” Kennedy of Massachusetts. Kennedy was not a candidate for the presidency that year, but his popularity was sure to siphon votes from the real candidates. Letters from a dummy organization called “United Democrats for Kennedy” soon appeared in the mailboxes of New Hampshire Democrats, urging them to cast their votes for the non-candidate.

For more, see Michael Koncewicz, “Made by History: How Republican Dirty Tricks Paved the Way for Russian Meddling in 2016,” Washington Post, 9 March 2018.

Date: 1971-12-23
Time: 13:40-14:40
Participants: Richard M. Nixon, Charles W. "Chuck" Colson
Location: Executive Office Building
Tape: 310-017 A