Former S. Dakota Sen. George McGovern hospitalized

Published April 5, 2012 4:36AM (EDT)

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Former South Dakota senator and Democratic presidential candidate George McGovern has been hospitalized in Florida, his daughter said Wednesday.

Ann McGovern told The Associated Press her 89-year-old father was admitted to Flagler Hospital in St. Augustine, Fla., on Tuesday evening for tests to figure out why he occasionally passes out and loses his ability to speak, she said.

"He's comfortable. The tests are continuing to see if they can determine what's causing this," Ann McGovern said.

Hospital officials said the elder McGovern is in stable condition. McGovern splits his time between Florida and South Dakota, where he was a South Dakota congressman from 1957 to 1961 and a U.S. senator from 1963 to 1981. He has been hospitalized several times in recent months, including for exhaustion.

South Dakota Democratic Party Chairman Ben Nesselhuf said McGovern looked great and was in good spirits when he attended the party's annual fundraiser, named in his honor, last weekend in Sioux Falls. Nesselhuf said the former senator, who gave a 20-minute speech at the affair, resists efforts to schedule rest periods during such events because "he wants to do everything."

"Toward the end of the weekend, I think he was getting a little tired," Nesselhuf told the AP.

McGovern's grandson, Matt McGovern of Sioux Falls, said he talked with his grandfather on the phone Wednesday but didn't know when he would be released from the hospital.

"I think he's going to be all right," said Matt McGovern, who recently announced plans to run for the Democratic nomination for the state Public Utilities Commission.

George McGovern was treated for exhaustion in Sioux Falls in October after he completed a lecture tour. Two months later, he fell and hit his head in Mitchell, S.D., just before he was to be interviewed live on C-SPAN for a program called "The Contenders" that focused on failed presidential candidates who had a lasting impact on American politics.

McGovern lost in a historic landslide his 1972 challenge against President Richard Nixon, who eventually resigned amid the Watergate scandal.

McGovern regularly spends time at a home he owns in Mitchell, across the street from a library bearing his name at Dakota Wesleyan University. He also has owned a home in St. Augustine since the 2008 death of his wife, Eleanor.

Much of McGovern's recent work has focused on world hunger.

He and former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, a Republican, were honored in 2008 with the World Food Prize, a distinction some observers have called the Nobel Prize for hunger.

Their George McGovern-Robert Dole International Food for Education and Nutrition Program, which was established in 2000 and funded primarily through Congress, provides millions of meals to children in the U.S. and some three dozen countries across the world.

McGovern remains an energetic and well-liked figure in his home state, Nesselhuf said.

"We had 500 people at the dinner Saturday night. They were clearly all in love with him. He still has a magnetism to him that's incredible," he said. "I don't think there was anybody in the place who wouldn't have walked across hot coals for George if they needed to."

By Salon Staff

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