Eugene Joseph McCarthy (March 29, 1916 – December 10, 2005) was a liberal U.S. Senator from Minnesota who ran for the Democratic Party presidential nomination in 1968 and 1972. He was sometimes considered more a poet than a politician and frustrated his hyperearnest supporters with his nonchalance.
McCarthy polled 42 percent of the ballots in the 1968 New Hampshire primary, compared to 49 percent polled by U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson as a write-in candidate. McCarthy's showing prompted his senatorial colleague Robert F. Kennedy of New York to enter the race, and soon Johnson decided against seeking a second full term. McCarthy won the primaries in Wisconsin and Oregon but Robert Kennedy became the party favorite to win the nomination after defeating McCarthy in Nebraska and California. That very night Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles.
The party favorite for the nomination then defaulted to Vice President Hubert Humphrey, McCarthy's former senatorial colleague from Minnesota. Humphrey, with the liberal Edmund Muskie of Maine as his running mate, were nominated at the party convention in Chicago which was infamous for leftist student agitators rioting in the streets.
In 1972, McCarthy again unsuccessfully sought the Democratic presidential nomination but ran poorly. Primary voters and then the party delegates chose Senator George McGovern of South Dakota. In 1976, McCarthy ran as an Independent in the general election for President, but voters instead elected his fellow Democrat Jimmy Carter of Georgia. In 1980, McCarthy refused to support Carter for reelection and surprisingly endorsed Republican Ronald Reagan, having said that "macromanager" Reagan had "a better perception" of the office of president than did the "micromanager" Carter.
McCarthy did not seek reelection to the Senate in 1970. In time, he became involved in some conservative alliances and causes but overall remained a liberal. In addition to his support for Reagan in 1980, he wrote the introduction to the book 'A New Beginning that year by Libertarian Party nominee Ed Clark. McCarthy supported Official English and the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which seeks to cut both legal and illegal immigration into the United States.
In 1992, Eugene McCarthy again sought the Democratic presidential nomination for President, but was excluded from the debates by the party machinery and did poorly at the polls. The voters nominated Bill Clinton of Arkansas. In 1996 and 2000, McCarthy supported Green Party nominee Ralph Nader for President and joined protests demanding Nader's inclusion in the debates. He also co-authored a book advocating a shorter workweek with Minnesota activist William McGaughey, later a Reform Party candidate who campaigned for the U.S. Senate on a platform of opposition to the liberal cause known as political correctness.
He is not to be confused with U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy, a Republican from the neighboring state of Wisconsin, who exposed communist subversion in the U.S. government during the 1950s..