/* 1972 Senate campaign */
Babbitt resigned from HUD to run for the U.S. Senate. In April 1972, he declared his candidacy at the Sam Peck Hotel in Little Rock, now known as The Legacy.<ref>''Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report'', October 7, 1972, p. 2488; Suzi Parker, "Politician 'thrived on challenge'", ''Arkansas Democrat-Gazette'', August 7, 1994, p. 4B.</ref>
John McClellan, meanwhile, ran into strong opposition in the 1972 Democratic primary. McClellan only narrowly won his party's nomination, 52-48 percent, over the determined opposition of then [[U.S. Representative]] (and later Governor and U.S. Senator) David Hampton Pryor. Both McClellan and Pryor lived at the time in Camden in Ouachita County in southern Arkansas. Pryor had the support of [[organized labor]] and among many [[African American]] in the runoff election, but more [[conservative]] voters in small towns and [[rural]] areas throughout Arkansas managed to renominate McClellan for his last term in the Senate, a term that he did not live to complete.<ref>''Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report,'' October 7, 1972, p. 2488.</ref>
In the summer of 1972, McClellan suddenly became chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee on the death of neighboring senator, [[Allen J. Ellender]] of [[Louisiana]]. McClellan seemed to resent the need to campaign against a Republican—something he had never previously done—to win his sixth term. Babbitt erred when he tried to tie McClellan to Democratic presidential nominee [[George McGovern]] of [[South Dakota]], while trying at the same time to appeal to Pryor supporters, many of whom also favored McGovern. Babbitt tended to dwell on certain minor issues. He even called a press conference with two Little Rock housewives to accuse McClellan of failure to alleviate drainage problems from Rock Creek in the southwestern part of the capital city.<ref>''Arkansas Democrat'' October 3, 11, 1972; ''Arkansas Gazette,'', November 2, 1972.</ref>
Babbitt waged an active race, while McClellan refused to take part in the general election campaign. Babbitt spent less than $20,000 on his race. He campaigned in all Arkansas cities of at least a modest population. Though Nixon and [[Spiro T. Agnew]] were coasting to reelection at the head of the national GOP ticket, the party practically abandoned Babbitt and senatorial nominees Gilbert L. "Gil" Carmichael of [[Mississippi]] and Winton Blount of [[Alabama]]. Nixon decided not to alienate Senators McClellan, [[James Eastland]], or [[John Sparkman]] by stumping hard for Babbitt, Carmichael, and Blount. His inaction left the southern GOP Senate choices with little chance of victory. An exception was in [[North Carolina]], where [[Jesse Helms]] won the first of his five terms as a Republican, but there the Democratic candidate was not an incumbent, having unseated the incumbent, B. Everett Jordan, in the party primary.
The Arkansas statewide Republican candidates fared poorly across the board. McClellan defeated Babbitt, 386,398 (60.9 percent) to 248,238 (39.1 percent). Babbitt won only two of the seventy-five counties, Searcy in in the northwestern part of the state, with 58.3 percent, and Garland, which includes [[Hot Springs, Arkansas|Hot Springs]], with 52.8 percent. In twenty-six other counties, Babbitt polled at least 40 percent of the ballots cast. Babbit also ran 14.5 percentage points ahead of his [[Governor|gubernatorial]] ticket mate, [[Len Blaylock]] of Perry County, another Rockefeller associate who was defeated by the incumbent Governor [[Dale Bumpers]].<ref>''Election Statistics, 1972'' (State of Arkansas: Secretary of State).</ref> Other losing Republican candidates that year were Edwin Ruthvin, Jr., seeking the position of attorney general
, and [[Jerry Climer]], a public administrator running for secretary of state.