IN the final days of the campaign, Hubert Humphrey's entourage shared a wistful dream: if only Election Day were a week later. Richard Nixon's aides, on the other hand, were wishing that the voting had taken place a week or two earlier. The calendar remained immutable, of course, but the yearning to stretch it in one direction or another reflected a new tension that enlivened the presidential race in its homestretch.

For the first time since August, hints of anxiety were evident among Republican strategists. Earlier, they had confidently figured on a minimum...

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