The liberal South Dakotan told The Associated Press that Kerry's proposal to delay accepting the Democratic nomination would show that "money is king and everything else takes a back seat." And while McGovern said he wished he'd had more funds in his unsuccessful campaign against Republican Richard Nixon (search), he said money isn't everything.
Kerry may delay accepting the Democratic nod at the July 26-29 party convention in Boston so he can raise more campaign money and stay on a more equal financial footing with President Bush, whose convention is five weeks later.
A decision was expected sometime this week, but McGovern said the proposal is bad politics.
"It's the worst idea I've heard on timing since I gave my (acceptance) address at 2 a.m. in the morning," said McGovern, whose middle-of-the night speech accepting the Democratic nomination missed most television viewers. "I don't believe in monkeying around with things like that."
Once nominated, Bush and Kerry are expected to accept $75 million each in public money for the general election campaign. But with Democrats meeting five weeks earlier than the Republicans, Kerry's money would have to last that much longer.
In a telephone interview, McGovern said the Boston convention should be Kerry's shining moment. To tinker with the timing, he said, would send a signal that the convention is not all that important.
"Conventions are losing their appeal," said McGovern, who won only one state — Massachusetts — in his presidential bid. "They don't have the sense of drama that one would like and anything that further diminishes the central drama of the convention is regrettable."
Overall, however, he said Kerry is doing well. And McGovern, who ran on a staunch anti-Vietnam War campaign, said the war in Iraq is "going to become an apparent disaster" for Bush.
"The whole campaign could stand or fall on that," he said.