April 1, 1968 – Robert F. Kennedy Holds A Press Conference – Past Daily Reference Room
April 1, 1968. A day after President Johnson announced his decision not to seek re-election, the focus was now on Robert F. Kennedy, who announced his candidacy on March 16th. On March 31, President Johnson stunned the nation by dropping out the presidential race. He withdrew from the election during a televised speech, where he also announced a partial halt to the bombing of Vietnam and proposed peace negotiations with the North Vietnamese. Even after Johnson made his announcement not to run, Kennedy still faced two rival candidates for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination: the leading challenger Eugene McCarthy and Vice President Hubert Humphrey. Humphrey would enter the race after Johnson’s withdrawal, but Kennedy and McCarthy remained the main challengers to the policies of the Johnson administration. During the spring of 1968, Kennedy campaigned in presidential primary elections throughout the United States. Kennedy’s campaign was especially active in Indiana, Nebraska, Oregon, South Dakota, California, and Washington, D.C. Vice President Hubert Humphrey, long a champion of labor unions and civil rights, would enter the race on April 27, with support from the party “establishment”—including the Democratic members of Congress, mayors, governors, and labor unions. Although he was a write-in candidate in some of the contests, Humphrey had announced his candidacy too late to be a formal candidate in most of the primaries. Despite late entry into the primary race, Humphrey had the support of the president and many Democratic insiders, which gave him a better chance at gaining convention delegates in the non-primary states. In contrast, Kennedy, like his brother before him, had planned to win the nomination through popular support in the primaries. Because Democratic party leaders would influence delegate selection and convention votes, Kennedy’s strategy was to influence the decision-makers with crucial wins in the primary elections. This strategy had worked for John F. Kennedy in 1960, when he beat Hubert Humphrey in the West Virginia democratic primary.
Here is that Press Conference, as it was held on April 1, 1968 and broadcast by all the Television and Radio networks.