McGovern remembered as down to earth by Cape May inn keeper

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CAPE MAY – “He was a down to earth person. He could have been from a farm in Iowa.”

So said Cape May’s Tom Carroll of former presidential candidate George McGovern upon hearing the news of McGovern’s death this week. Carroll and McGovern came to know each other back in the 1980s when McGovern spent the night at Carroll’s Mainstay Inn.

“He had been speaking at the then Glassboro State College and wanted to spend a night in the Cape May he had heard so much about,” Carroll recalled. “He phoned the City Hall and asked for a recommendation for a bed and breakfast place. They recommended the Mainstay because they said my wife and I were the only Democrats in town.”

Carroll said he planned to take McGovern, of South Dakota, on a tour of Cape May, but he was reluctant to do so in his “old Volkswagen.”

“One does not transport presidential candidates in beat up old cars,” Carroll said.

Better travel arrangements were in store for him the next morning when the U.S. Coast Guard and some of its brass showed up with a more modern vehicle to transport McGovern to the Coast Guard base for a visit there.

Their political compatibility was enhanced when Carroll showed McGovern a photo of Carroll and his wife during the 1972 presidential campaign. Carroll is wearing a McGovern campaign button in the photo.

McGovern was interviewed by a Gazette Leader reporter during his brief visit here. He said he knew before the first vote was cast on the election day of 1972 that he was going to lose to Richard Nixon. Preliminary polling results showed Nixon far ahead, he said.

McGoverrn’s visit paved the way for another South Dakota political celebrity to come to Carroll’s South Jersey Mainstay. McGovern liked the location so much that he recommended it to Tom Daschle, who was to serve as United States Senate majority leader. Daschle was to spend more than 15 summers at the Mainstay.

Carroll was to see McGovern for the last time about four years ago at a reception for Daschle in Washington.

McGovern and Carroll had something else in common. They both ran for president, Carroll twice successfully for the presidency of the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts and McGovern unsuccessfully for the presidency of the United States.

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