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1968: Nixon wins close contest for president

AUDIO : President-elect Richard Nixon: "Winning is a lot more fun"

After a day when the United States appeared to be on the brink of a constitutional crisis, Richard Nixon has finally emerged as the country's next president.

It was not until midday EST (1800 BST)) that Democrat Vice-President Hubert Humphrey conceded victory to the Republican candidate.

The announcement came after a full 24 hours of waiting when at times it seemed any of the three presidential candidates could have won the race to the White House.

At the latest count, only 25,552 votes separated the two front runners. Mr Nixon and Mr Humphrey have each won 43% of the popular vote.

'Gallant and courageous'

The third nominee, George Wallace, running on his own American Independent Party ticket, made early gains in the Southern states for his segregationist views and calls for the use of nuclear weapons in Vietnam.

At a news conference this afternoon, Mr Nixon, surrounded by his family, appeared in a packed ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria hotel.

He praised his opponent's "gallant and courageous" fight and pledged to "bring us together" in a united country.

The president-elect did not dwell on the closeness of the race.

He told reporters he had received a "gracious" message of congratulations from Mr Humphrey and had spoken to him on the phone.

He had also been congratulated by President Johnson and the two men had pledged to work together for a smooth transition of power.

The president-elect clinched his winning margin in the electoral college by taking Illinois - the same state which cost him victory against John F Kennedy eight years ago.

Illinois's 26 votes have taken him above the 270 majority required - although not all the electoral college votes are in yet.

However, Mr Nixon and the Republicans failed to win majorities in Congress. It means he will have to run the country with the legislative branch controlled by the opposition.

The Democrats will provide the leaders for the Senate and the House of Representatives and they will also have majorities on the committees.

Only three out of the previous 36 presidents have not had control of Congress. The last was Dwight D Eisenhower who suffered considerable frustrations and limitations on his powers as a result.

Mr Nixon's election represents a dramatic comeback for the man who was Mr Eisenhower's vice-president and went on to lose the presidential race to Mr Kennedy in 1960.

He lost the race for Governor of California in 1962 and returned to New York to work as a lawyer until returning to politics for the election campaign of 1968.

In Context
Richard Milhous Nixon was sworn in as the 37th president of the United States on 21 January 1969.

His most acclaimed achievements in office included reducing tension with China and the USSR. He also ended the war in Vietnam with what he termed "peace with honour".

He won a second term in 1973 but became the first president in US history to resign - over the Watergate scandal.

It was revealed there had been a break-in at the Democratic National Committee office in the Watergate building during the presidential election campaign which was traced back to Nixon's supporters.

Tape recordings showed the president had tried to influence the police investigation into the break-in.

By the time of his death on 22 April 1994 he had re-established his reputation as an elder statesman in foreign affairs.


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