Fear and Loathing: on the Campaign Trail '72

collection of articles covering the 1972 presidential campaign

Fear and Loathing: on the Campaign Trail '72 (1973) by Hunter S. Thompson, is an extensive collection of articles originally written for Rolling Stone while covering the 1972 U.S. presidential campaign. It focuses primarily on the fracturing of the Democratic party and George McGovern's dark horse campaign.

Author's Note

  • ...off to the right of this typewriter, on the floor between the beds, I can see an 8x10 print of Frank Mankiewicz yelling into a telephone at the Democratic Convention in Miami; But that one will never be used, because the god-damn hound put five big claw-holes in the middle of Frank's chest.

December 1971

Is This Trip Necessary?...Strategic Retreat into National Politics...Two Minutes & One Gram Before Midnight on the Pennsylvania Turnpike...Setting Up the National Affairs Desk...Can Georgetown Survive the Black Menace?...Fear and Loathing in Washington...

  • "Jesus Christ!" Jerry muttered. "That's weird! The Stone is into politics?"


The Million Pound Shithammer...Pros Scorn the Youth Vote...Fresh Meat for the Boys in the Back Room..."The Death of Hope" & A Withering of Expectation...Another McCarthy Crusade?...John Lindsay?...The Rancid Resurrection of Hubert Humphrey...Violence in the Press Box & Mano a Mano on TWA...Who is Big Ed & Why Is Everybody Sucking Up to Him?...

  • I have a peculiar affection for McCarthy; nothing serious or personal, but I recall standing next to him in the snow outside the "exit" door of a shoe factory in Manchester, New Hampshire, in February of 1968 when the five o'clock whistle blew and he had to stand there in the midst of those workers rushing out to the parking old. I will never forget the pain in McCarthy's face as he stood there with his hand out, saying over and over again: "Shake hands with Senator McCarty...shake hands with Senator McCarthy...shake hands with Senator McCarthy...," a tense plastic smile on his face, stepping nervously towards anything friendly. "Shake hands with Senator McCarthy"...But most of the crowd ignored him, refusing to even acknowledge his out-stretched hand, staring straight ahead as the hurried out to their cars.


Fear & Loathing in New Hampshire...Back on the Campaign Trail in Manchester, Keene & The Booth Fish Hatcheries...Harold Hughes Is Your Friend...Weird Memories of '68: A Private Conversation with Richard Nixon...Will Dope Doom the Cowboys?...A First, Massive & Reluctantly Final Judgment on the Reality of George McGovern...Small Hope for the Hammer & No Hope At All for the Press Wizards...

  • There were only two of us in back: just me and Richard Nixon, and we were talking football in a very serious way.

  • It was a very weird trip; probably one of the weirdest things I've ever done, and especially weird because both Nixon and I enjoyed it.

  • Whatever else might be said about Nixon-and there is still serious doubt in my mind that he could pass for Human-he is a goddamn stone fanatic on every facet of pro football. At one point in our conversation, when I was feeling a bit pressed for leverage, I mentioned a down & out pass-in the waning moments of the 1967 Super Bowl mismatch between Green Bay and Oakland-to an obscure, second-string Oakland receiver named Bill Miller that had stuck in my mind because of it's pin-point style & precision.
    He hesitated for a moment, lost in thought, then he whacked me on the thigh& laughed: "That's right, by God! The Miami boy!"
    I was stunned. He not only remembered the play, but he knew where Miller had played in college.


The View from Key Biscayne...Enter the Savage Boohoo; Madness 7 Violence on the "Sunshine Special"...Lindsay Runs Amok, Muskie Runs Scared...First Flexing of the Big Wallace Muscel; First Signs of Doom for the Democrats...Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here...Except Maybe Ted Kennedy...

  • What happened, according to Chitty, was that "the Boohoo reached up from the track and got hold of Muskie's pants-leg waving an empty martini glass through the bars around the caboose platform with his other hand and screaming: 'Get your lying ass back inside and make me another drink, you worthless old fart!"
    "It was really embarrassing," Chitty told me later on the phone. "The Boohoo kept reaching up and grabbing Muskie's legs, yelling for more gin...Muskie tried to ignore him, but the Boohoo kept after him and after a while it got so bad that even Rubin backed off."
    "The Boohoo," of course, was the same vicious drunkard who had terrorized the Muskie train all the way from Palm Beach, and he was still wearing a press badge that said "hunter S. Thompson - Rolling Stone."

Later in March

The Banshee Screams in Florida...The Emergence of Mankiewicz...Hard Times for the Man from Maine...Redneck Power 7 Hell on Wheels for George Wallace...Hube Slithers out of Obscurity...Fear and Loathing on the Democratic Left...

  • Mankiewicz had nothing to claim. He has learned to travel light. His "baggage," as it were, consisted of one small canvas bag that looked like an oversize shaving kit.
    My own bundle-two massive leather bags and a Xerox telecopier strapped into a fiberglass Samsonite suitcase-would be coming down the baggage-claim chute any moment. I tend to travel heavy; not for any good reason, but mainly because I haven't learned the tricks of the trade.


Stunning Upset in Wisconsin...McGovern Juggernaut Croaks Muskie...Humphrey Falters; Wallace Rolls On...Big Ed Exposed as Ibogaine Addict...McGovern Accosts the Sheriff...Bad News from Bleak House: Mojo Madness in Milwaukee; or How Nazis Broke My Spirit on Election Night...Mankiewicz Redicts First Ballot Victory in Miami...

  • There is no avoiding Hubert Humphrey in Wisconsin this week. The bastard is everywhere: on the tube, on the box, in the streets with his sound trucks...and now the bastard is even breaking into Easter morning sermons with his gibberish.
Crank Time on the Low Road...Fear and Loathing in Ohio & Nebraska...Humphrey Gets Ugly, McGovern Backs off...Delirium Tremens at the National Affairs Desk...Acid, Amnesty & Abortion...Massive Irregularities on Election Night in Cleavland; Death Watch in the Situation Room...Wallace Gunned Down in Maryland...Showdown Looms in California...

  • This was very much like Teddy Kennedy telling the press that his wife, his children, and indeed the whole Kennedy blood-clan have decided to vote for McGovern.


California: Traditional Politics with a Vengeance...Return of the Vincent Black Shadow...The Huggernaut Roars on; McGovern Troops Ease off as Polls Predict Sweeping Victory...Hubert's Last Stand: Vicious Attacks, Desperate Appeals, Strange Tales of Midnight Money from Vegas

  • It was almost midnight before the out-state returns began off-setting Hubert's big lead in Omaha, and by 2:00A.M. on Wednesday it was clear that McGovern would win-although the final 6 percent margin was about half of what had been expected ten days earlier, before Humphrey's local allies had fouled the air with alarums about Amnesty, Abortion, and Marijuana.
  • Passive incompetence is one thing, but aggressive Nazi hostility on the corporate level is something else again.
  • The Villon quote leading into this chapter was lifted from a book I wrote a few years ago on outlaw motorcycle gangs and at the time it seemed like a very apt little stroke - reaching back into time and French poetry for a reminder that a sense of doomed alienation on your own turf is nothing new.

Later in June

Mass Burial for Political Bosses in New York...McGovern over the Hump...The Death by Beating of a Six-Foot Blue-Black Serpent...What Next for the Good Ole Boys?...Anatomy of a Fixer...Treachery Looms in Miami...Free Booze & Foul Rumors in the Press Room...Ominous Eleventh-Hour Slump Reveals Fistula in McGovern's Woodpile...

  • It was not until his campaign collapsed and his ex-staffers felt free to talk that I learned that working for Big Ed was something like being locked in a rolling boxcar with a vicious 200-pound water rat. Some of his top staff people considered him dangerously unstable. He had several identities, they said, and there was no way to be sure on any given day if they would have to deal with Abe Lincoln, Hamlet, Captain Queeg, or Bobo the Simpleminded...


Fear and Loathing in Miami: Old Bulls Meet the Butcher...A Dreary Saga Direct from the Sunshine State...How George McGovern Ran Wild on the Beach & Stomped Almost Everybody...Flashback to the Famous Lindsay Blueprint & A Strange Epitaph for the Battle of Chicago...More Notes on the Politics of Vengeance, Including Massive Technical Advice from Rick Stearns & the Savage Eye 0f Ralph Steadman...

  • McGovern had wrapped it up just before dawn on Friday, accepting the bloody nomination with an elegant, finely crafted speech that might have had quite an impact on the nation TV audience...(Time correspondent Hugh Sidey called it "perhaps as pure an expression as George McGovern has ever given of his particular moralistic sense of the nation")...but the main, middle-American bulk of the national TV audience tends to wither away around midnight, and anybody still glued to the tube at 3:30 A.M. Miami time is probably too stoned or twisted to recognize McGovern anyway.

Dark Interlude


*Most of the reporters did not get the word, but a lot of them figured on their own it was prudent to dine at the lodge on the last night, just in case he broke his two-day silence. So, with a few tourists thrown in, this group sat in the Dakota Room eating buffalo steaks and watching one another. Indian pictographs depiction "The Legend of the White Buffalo," surrounded them on the walls.

    • Reprinted from The McGovern Course by William Greider, Washington Post Staff Writer


Down & Out in the Fontainebleau...Nixon Sells Out the Party...Goldwater on the Comeback Trail; Agnew in '76...Mankiewicz Amok; Midnight Violence at The Wayfarer...The Origins of Eagleton; Death Rattle for the New Politics...Can a Bull Elk in the Rut Pass through the Eye of a Camel? A Vicious Attack on the Demonstrators: "These People Should Go Back Where They Belong."...

  • The Vets made their camp in a far corner of the Park, then sealed it off with a network of perimeter guards and checkpoints that made it virtually impossible to enter that area unless you knew somebody inside. There was an ominous sense of dignity about everything the VVAW did in Miami. They rarely even hinted at violence, but their very presence was menacing-on a level that the Yippies, Zippies, and SDS street crazies never even approached, despite all their yelling and trashing.


Fat City Blues...Fear and Loathing on the White House Press Plane...Bad Angst at McGovern Headquarters...Nixon Tightens the Screws..."Many Appeared to Be in the Terminal Stages of Campaign Bloat."...

  • I was ready for all the standard-brand Secret Service bullshit. The only thing that worried me was that maybe some of the SS boys might have seen the current Rolling Stone-which was available that week at newsstands all over Washington. It contained, along with my calm and well-reasoned analysis of the recent GOP convention in Miami, some of the most brutal and hateful caricatures of Richard Nixon ever committed to print, in this country or any other.

  • If the current polls are reliable... Nixon will be re-elected by a huge majority of Americans who feel he is not only more honest and more trustworthy than George McGovern, but also more likely to end the war in Vietnam. The polls also indicate that Nixon will get a comfortable majority of the Youth Vote. And that he might carry all fifty states... This may be the year when we finally come face to face with ourselves; finally just lay back and say it — that we are really just a nation of 220 million used car salesmen with all the money we need to buy guns, and no qualms at all about killing anybody else in the world who tries to make us uncomfortable. The tragedy of all this is that George McGovern, for all his mistakes... understands what a fantastic monument to all the best instincts of the human race this country might have been, if we could have kept it out of the hands of greedy little hustlers like Richard Nixon. McGovern made some stupid mistakes, but in context they seem almost frivolous compared to the things Richard Nixon does every day of his life, on purpose... Jesus! Where will it end? How low do you have to stoop in this country to be President?


Ask Not for Whom the Bell Tolls...

  • Due to Circumstances beyond my control. I would rather not write anything about the 1972 presidential campaign at this time. On Tuesday, November 7th, I will get out of bed long enough to go down to the polling place and vote for George McGovern. Afterwards, I will drive back to the house, lock the front door, get back in bed, and watch television as long as necessary.

  • At the stroke of midnight in Washington, a drooling red-eyed beast with the legs of a man and a head of a giant hyena crawls out of its bedroom window in the South Wing of the White House and leaps fifty feet down to the lawn...pauses briefly to strangle the Chow watchdog, then races off into the darkness...towards the Watergate, snarling with lust, loping through the alleys behind Pennsylvania Avenue, and trying desperately to remember which one of those fore hundred identical balconies is the one outside of Martha Mitchell's apartment....Ah...Nightmares, nightmares. But I was only kidding. The President of the United States would never act that weird. At least not during football season.


At the Midnight Hour...Stoned on the Zoo Plane; Stomped in Sioux Falls...A rambling Manic/depressive Screed in Triple-Focus on the Last Day of the Doomed McGovern Campaign...Then Back to America's Heartland for a Savage Beating...Fear and Loathing at the Holiday Inn...

  • Ah, jesus...here we go again: another flashback...the doctors say there's no cure for them; totally unpredictable. like summer lighting in the Rockies or sharks on the Jersey Shore.

  • It was eerie, you'd walk out of the press room, through the lobby out of the elevators, into the bar... There'd be a huge crowd in the lobby and only one person talking and you'd hear this voice saying, 'The mood at the McGovern headquarters... is extremely solemn and shocked... one of shock and depression... right now... Illinois has just fallen... California is gone, New York is gone...' They'd read this list of disasters and you knew their faces and what they were saying was on TV screens all over the country... It was like a televised funeral... I was feeling depressed... And John Holum came in. I could see that he'd been crying... and... he's not the kind of person you'd expect to see walking around in public with tears all over his face... That was the only time McGovern cracked. For about a minute he broke down and... and... and couldn't talk for a few minutes. Then he got himself together... He was actually the coolest person in the place from then on. Other people were cracking all around... Stunned, wall-eyed... there was nothing to say... just a helluva shock... you know...a fantastic beating... I remember, when Agnew came on, throwing something at the television set. It was a beer can... That was the last flight of the Dakota Queen and also last flight of the Zoo Plane. It was the trip back to Washington from Sioux Falls, which borders on one of the worst trips I've ever taken in my life... Jesus Christ... it was easily the worst scene of the campaign... There was something... total... something very undermining about the McGovern defeat... There was a very unexplained kind of... ominous quality to it... weeping chaos. People you'd never expect to break down... stumbled off the plane in tears... It was such a shock to me that although I'd gone back to Washington to analyze... I saw how ripped up people were... I decided to hell with this... So I just went right around to the main terminal and got on another plane and went back to Colorado.

Be Angry At The Sun



Purging the McGovernites...Shoot-Out in the Dung-Heap Corral...Where Do We Go From Here: What Next for the 'New Politics"?...A crude Autopsy & Quarrelsome Analysis on Why McGovern Got Stomped...


For more years...Nixon Uber Alles...Fear and Loathing at the Superbowl...

  • A week earlier I'd been locked into the idea that the Redskins would win easily — but when Nixon came out for them and George Allen began televising his prayer meetings I decided that any team with both God and Nixon on their side was fucked from the start.