A twist of fate – a vacant post, then an appointment to fill it – had propelled Mr. Mondale into state politics. Now another came who would send him to Washington. When Johnson chose Mr. Humphrey as his running mate, Mr. Mondale was chosen to take Mr. Humphrey’s seat in the Senate. He was sworn in by Mr. Humphrey at Bethesda Naval Medical Center, where Mr. Mondale had an emergency appendectomy. He was then elected twice to the Senate without difficulty.
In the Senate, Mr Mondale sided with Johnson’s Great Society legislation, including the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and worked to enact fair housing laws against powerful opposition. He lobbied for education, child care, health care, employment, desegregation and consumer protection programs.
One of his proudest legislative achievements, he said, was his leadership in making it easier for the Senate to cut an obstruction with 60 votes, under a rule change, rather than a two-thirds vote, as was previously required. One of his biggest regrets, he said, was his delay, until 1969, in turning against the Vietnam War.
In the 1970s, Mr. Mondale’s name was on the lists of possible candidates for national office. In fact, he wrote a campaign book, “The Responsibility of Power: Towards a Responsible Presidency” (1975), in which he criticized the “imperial presidency” of Richard M. Nixon, then joined the race for the presidential nomination of 1976. .
The campaign has gone nowhere. “I remember after a year I was six points behind on ‘I don’t know’,” Mondale said in the 2010 interview. He ended the candidacy early, in 1974. On stepping down, he said he lacked an “overwhelming desire to be president.” The comment would come to haunt him.
No. 2 with a word
The Democratic winner, Mr Carter, a conservative southerner, was looking for a liberal northern vice-presidential candidate who could help him gain support in industrial states. Mr Mondale was at the top of everyone’s list, but he had mixed feelings until he got an agreement from the candidate that he would have a full political role, expanded from the mostly ceremonial duties assigned to the Most vice-presidents.