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The Eighteen-Day Running Mate: McGovern, Eagleton, and a Campaign in Crisis Hardcover – August 1, 2012

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The Eighteen-Day Running Mate: McGovern, Eagleton, and a Campaign in Crisis + Call Me Tom: The Life of Thomas F. Eagleton (MISSOURI BIOGRAPHY SERIES)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 392 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (August 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0300176295
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300176292
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #476,608 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“Compelling…[Glasser] has written a rigorously reported, unbiased and readable narrative, with incisive lessons for current and future would-be presidents."—Fred Barnes, The Wall Street Journal
(Fred Barnes Wall Street Journal)

"Timely and impeccably researched . . . Glasser brings out the full human drama and political intrigue of this historic episode, which forever changed the way presidential candidates pick their running mates."—Adam Kirsch, Christian Science Monitor
(Adam Kirsch Christian Science Monitor)

“A gripping account of the political earthquake that ensued when Missouri Sen. Thomas Eagleton, the hastily picked and poorly vetted vice-presidential candidate, was forced to disclose a history of hospitalizations for depression and treatments that included electroshock therapy.”—Publishers Weekly
(Publishers Weekly)

“An engaging new book.”—Jon Meacham, Time Magazine and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House
(Jon Meacham Time Magazine 2012-08-06)

“Crisply written, meticulously researched, and insightful, this fascinating book underscores the similarities of our country as it was 40 summers ago and as it is today.  Both then and now, we are involved in an unpopular war, we are anxious about the economy and many are distrustful of our government and ambivalent about civil rights. This is political reporting at its very best.  Glasser makes this event in history not just interesting but relevant.”—Larry Cox, Kings Features Syndicate
(Larry Cox Kings Features Syndicate 2012-08-06)

"Engrossing account of the doomed McGovern-Eagleton partnership... [Glasser] imparts lessons for both then and now.... Glasser's tick-tock chronicle of July 13, the day McGovern settled on Eagleton, is both a fasinating piece of political history and a devastating portrayal of executive irresolution." —John J. Miller, National Review
(John J. Miller National Review)

“If you think V.P. picks aren't interesting, just read ‘The 18-Day Running Mate: McGovern, Eagleton and a Campaign in Crisis. ‘ This is the story of an epic political fail, and it is fascinating.”—Melissa Harris-Perry, Melissa Harris-Perry Show
(Melissa Harris-Perry The Melissa Harris-Perry Show 2020-07-08)

“A gripping examination of how McGovern chose Thomas F. Eagleton of Missouri as his running mate without knowing the senator had undergone electroshock therapy.”—David Shribman, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
(David Shribman Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

“Josh Glasser has recovered the McGovern-Eagleton crisis in all its messy grandeur. More impressively, he uses the episode as a lightening flash that illuminates the way we were in the summer of 1972: trapped in an unpopular and unnecessary war; on the cusp of a new presidential primary system that transferred control from the back room politicians to the media; slouching towards Watergate; losing our way.”—Joseph J. Ellis, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Founding Brothers: the Revolutionary Generation
(Joseph J. Ellis)

"There are no heroes in this exhaustively reported, beautifully written tale of one of the great political disasters of modern times. But there are plenty of lessons, not just about the undoing of the 1972 Democratic Presidential nominee and the hopes he carried, but of what can happen when hapless naivete smacks into unbridled ambition. As a bystander to these events, I thought I knew everything worth knowing about the pairing of decent George McGovern and tortured Tom Eagleton. Then I read this book. Boy, was I wrong."
—Robert Sam Anson, author of McGovern: A Biography
(Robert Sam Anson)

“The Eighteen-Day Running Mate is a riveting page-turner of a book about a forgotten episode in American political history. The moral? Politics is personal, for better and worse. And politicians—struggling to balance an appetite for public life with a penchant for family privacy—are simply humans like the rest of us, trying to find the best path forward.”—Martha A. Sandweiss, author of Passing Strange: A Gilded Age Tale of Love and Deception Across the Color Line
(Martha A. Sandweiss)

“A good read.”—Ken Rudin, NPR.ORG's Political Junkie Blog
(Ken Rudin NPR's Political Junkie Blog 2020-07-16)

“A gripping examination of how McGovern chose Thomas F. Eagleton of Missouri as his running mate without knowing the senator had undergone electroshock therapy.”—David Shribman, The Salem News
(David Shribman The Salem News 2002-07-28)

About the Author

Joshua M. Glasser is a researcher for Bloomberg Television in New York. He graduated magna cum laude from Amherst College, Eagleton's alma mater. He lives in the Bronx, NY.

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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His writing style is excellent.
Midwest Reviewer
Discovering that a prospective Vice President had undergone electric shock therapies and was taking medication made American society very uncomfortable.
Robin Orlowski
If you have any interest in this period of US history, this is a must read.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Reviewer on July 24, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The story of George McGovern's first vice presidential running mate in July 1972 is one of the saddest chapters in modern American politics on many different levels. Tom Eagleton was recommended to McGovern by several respected politicians and advisors and seemed to have lots of enthusiasm and drive to accomplish results. Unfortunately what very few people knew was that Eagleton had mental health problems, to the extent he had been hospitalized for those problems and treated with electric shock therapy, a history that the national media could not help but quickly and ultimately uncover and dissect relentlessly, which would virtually ensure significant damage to the McGovern presidential campaign after it was revealed. It didn't take long for Eagleton to be placed under the microscope and his entire vice presidential candidacy lasted fewer than three weeks.

I remember when these events occurred 40 years ago right after the Democratic convention wrapped up. However, the author of this book reports new information as to how Eagleton ultimately stepped down from the ticket, that when the storm of controversy over Eagleton's fitness to hold high office ensued, McGovern and Eagleton had a meeting in which Eagleton phoned his psychiatrists and turned the phone each time over to McGovern. According to the author, both doctors told McGovern that Eagleton was not fit to be president: "I don't like to think about that prospect" responded one doctor; the other doctor expressed amazement that Eagleton had managed to hold up thus far after four years in the Senate plus the last week of controversy after his psychiatric history was revealed.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jon Hunt on August 5, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"The Eighteen-Day Running Mate", a superb new book by Joshua M. Glasser, is a must read, not only for those of us who well remember those weeks but for a younger age group also...younger adults who can view through this prism the way a sloppily vetted candidate can be wit, Sarah Palin. As bad as the 1972 McGovern nomination had gotten off the ground, his selection of Eagleton turned the campaign into a nightmare.

Except for those with the most jaded view, George McGovern never had a chance of unseating Richard Nixon. As Glasser points out, McGovern's weaknesses were his moralistic and ambitious qualities combined with a sense of decency that even his opponents acknowledged. The "trust" issue went to Nixon that of the great ironies of the time.

The tension that builds in Glasser's book is terrific. After Ted Kennedy turned McGovern down for the second spot, several viable candidates emerged but it was until well past the eleventh hour that Tom Eagleton was selected. The author discusses some of the feelings about depression, electroshock therapy and mental illness within the context of the early seventies. It's one of the many high points of the book. McGovern was careful to try to balance not putting a man overboard for illness and a new revelation, that McGovern and members of his family had also sought help along some of these lines, is startling. (I had known about his daughter Terry's struggles and eventual death) But the real sizzler is the contentiousness between McGovern and Eagleton...and their the days groaned on. In the end, Eagleton had to go, but after his departure from the ticket he continued to be a popular politician...much more so than McGovern.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Garry Boulard on May 24, 2013
Format: Hardcover
The very young Joshua Glasser who was born in 1987 and so was obviously not around to soak up the currents of the 1972 presidential campaign has done an excellent job here putting together the almost hourly melt-down of the 1972 Democratic presidential campaign.

I was a student volunteer for McGovern, and remember very well the sense of disappointment that registered inside his campaign when he dropped Eagleton from the ticket. There had been a sense, up to that point, that McGovern was a different kind of politician, refreshingly honest--always honest--and incapable of the kind of manipulation that we associated with Richard Nixon.

No one really had a great solution to McGovern's dilemma of how to get rid of a running mate with a documented history of mental illness. But how McGovern did it, telling the world for days that he was solidly behind Eagleton and then suddenly announcing that Eagleton was off the ticket, just seemed phony and heartless.

The funny thing about all of this is that McGovern never really had a chance of winning the election anyway. By the time of the 1972 Democratic Convention, Nixon had pretty much wrapped things up by visiting both China and the Soviet Union, putting increasing military pressure on the North Vietnamese, and stabilizing the domestic economy through a series of wage and price control acts that today would be viewed as almost socialistic.

At best McGovern was 10 points behind Nixon before the Eagleton catastrophe. After it, he was more than 20 points behind and never saw daylight again.

None of this mattered, of course, to the hard-core McGovernites who hated Nixon in a way that George W. Bush and Barak Obama have never been hated.
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