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Walter Mondale, liberal icon who lost in landslide, dies at 93
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Walter Mondale, liberal icon who lost in landslide, dies at 93

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Mondale, 93, died April 19, 2021

Former Vice President Walter F. Mondale, a liberal icon who lost the most lopsided presidential election after bluntly telling voters to expect a tax increase if he won, died Monday. He was 93.

The death of the former senator, ambassador and Minnesota attorney general was announced in a statement from his family. No cause was cited.

Mondale followed the trail blazed by his political mentor, Hubert H. Humphrey, from Minnesota politics to the U.S. Senate and the vice presidency, serving under Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981.

His own try for the White House, in 1984, came at the zenith of Ronald Reagan's popularity. Mondale's selection of Rep. Geraldine Ferraro of New York as his running mate made him the first major-party presidential nominee to put a woman on the ticket, but his declaration that he would raise taxes helped define the race.

On Election Day, he carried only his home state and the District of Columbia. The electoral vote was 525-13 for Reagan — the biggest landslide in the Electoral College since Franklin Roosevelt defeated Alf Landon in 1936. (Sen. George McGovern got 17 electoral votes in his 1972 defeat, winning Massachusetts and Washington, D.C.)

"I did my best," Mondale said the day after the election, and blamed no one but himself.

"I think you know I've never really warmed up to television," he said. "In fairness to television, it never really warmed up to me."

Years later, Mondale said his campaign message had proven to be the right one.

"History has vindicated me that we would have to raise taxes," he said. "It was very unpopular, but it was undeniably correct."

His Senate career was marked by advocacy of social issues such as education, housing, migrant workers and child nutrition. Like Humphrey, he was an outspoken supporter of civil rights.

Mondale tested the waters for a presidential bid in 1974 but ultimately decided against it. "Basically I found I did not have the overwhelming desire to be president, which is essential for the kind of campaign that is required," he said in November 1974.

In 1976, Carter chose Mondale as No. 2 on his ticket and went on to unseat Gerald Ford.

As vice president, Mondale had a close relationship with Carter. He was the first vice president to occupy an office in the White House, rather than in a building across the street. Mondale traveled extensively on Carter's behalf, and advised him on domestic and foreign affairs.

While he lacked Humphrey's charisma, Mondale had a droll sense of humor.

When he dropped out of the 1976 presidential sweepstakes, he said, "I don't want to spend the next two years in Holiday Inns."

Reminded of that shortly before he was picked as Carter's running mate, Mondale said, "I've checked and found that they're all redecorated, and they're marvelous places to stay."

Mondale never backed away from his liberal principles.

"I think that the country more than ever needs progressive values," Mondale said in 1989.

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Former Associated Press writer Brian Bakst contributed to this report.

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