The supportive spouse has always been a common sight on the presidential campaign trail. But while so many campaigns make a stop at Meet the Press, only two presidential candidates’ wives have appeared on the program solo while their husbands were running for office: Eleanor McGovern and Rosalynn Carter. Both came on Meet the Press at pivotal points in the campaign season. And both did not back down from fiercely arguing their husbands’ cases to the panel, and the country.
Eleanor McGovern was the first candidate spouse to visit the MTP set, in the final months of the tumultuous 1972 election between her husband George McGovern and Richard Nixon. McGovern mentioned the milestone in her memoir “Uphill” and wrote that she was so nervous she was nearly sick. Adding to her nerves, as the Washington Post’s David Broder pointed out: her husband was watching along in the studio audience. But from the beginning, McGovern stayed cool under pressure, as journalist Ron Nessen opened the show by saying, “Mrs. McGovern, why has your husband been able to convince so few voters to vote for him for President?” McGovern responded that she firmly believed her husband would convince the American people that “he is speaking for them, and identifies with them, and they will respond to him.” She later told the panel that her belief in her husband was grounded in “the faith of the wife, and the faith of the American people.”
Rosalynn Carter’s appearance came at a similarly down-to-the wire campaign moment, in September of 1976. Jimmy Carter had recently gone through a series of campaign mishaps and gaffes, including his infamous interview with Playboy magazine. Mrs. Carter appeared to be on the defense as the interview began, and gave short answers, particularly when discussing her husband’s statements in Playboy. But a change came over her when MTP moderator Bill Monroe asked if Jimmy Carter was deliberately trying to present a more conservative persona to Americans to win favor. Mrs. Carter launched into her longest answer of the interview, emphatically defending her husband’s leadership, from his career in Georgia to his present campaign.
You can watch clips of the two solo campaign spouse interviews on Meet the Press below.
Every Monday, Betsy Fischer Martin - the Executive Producer of Meet the Press - poses a trivia question on Twitter about the 64 years of history-making moments and guests on Meet The Press. Check back every week for answers and video clips!