Walter Mondale, the former vice president whose accomplished career was marred by one of the worst electoral shellackings in American history, died Monday.
Mondale, who was also the first presidential candidate to select a woman, Geraldine Ferraro, to be his running mate, was 93. The Associated Press reported his death, citing his family.
The man known as “Fritz” had his seemingly effortless rise in politics halted twice by Ronald Reagan, once in 1980 when the Reagan-Bush ticket stomped Jimmy Carter’s bid for reelection and then, even more forcefully, in 1984, when Reagan obliterated Mondale’s bid for the presidency. Those defeats put an end to the momentum of an accomplished career that included 12 years in the Senate and four as Carter’s uncommonly active vice president.
“Today I mourn the passing of my dear friend Walter Mondale, who I consider the best vice president in our country’s history. During our administration, Fritz used his political skill and personal integrity to transform the vice presidency,” Carter, now 96, said in a statement Monday night.
“You can divide every vice president in American history into two categories: pre-Walter Mondale and post-Walter Mondale,” Al Gore, one of his successors as vice president, once said of him.
Though not a particularly polarizing figure, Mondale was a dedicated Democrat, a party loyalist whose fortunes would rise and fall with the party.
“Carter accepted Mondale’s vision,” wrote Ira Shapiro in “The Last Great Senate: Courage and Statesmanship in Times of Crisis,” “of a vice president as a senior adviser, gave him an office in the West Wing, and made him probably the most influential vice president in history up to that time and a model for future vice presidents.”
His official biography on the U.S. Senate web site said: “As a senator, vice president, and presidential candidate, Mondale played a transitional role in the Democratic Party, seeking to bridge the generational and ideological divisions that racked the party during and after the 1960s.”