ABC News has learned that former South Dakota Sen. George McGovern, the 1972 Democratic presidential nominee, is planning to endorse the presidential campaign of Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., in Iowa City, Iowa, Saturday, Oct. 6.
The Clinton campaign declined to comment. Reached by phone in Mitchell, S.D., in the midst of getting a haircut at the OK Barber Shop, the 85-year-old World War II veteran was coy with ABC News, saying he wouldn't confirm the news though he allowed he was "leaning that way."
"I think all three of those front-runners are pretty attractive," McGovern said, referring to Clinton, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards.
McGovern then explained all the reasons why Clinton would likely secure his backing. One of them was clearly loyalty -- Clinton worked for McGovern during his 1972 run for the White House.
"I got to know her 35 years ago," McGovern said. "She and her boyfriend, Bill Clinton, took over the McGovern organization in Texas. They did a terrific job against impossible odds. I never forgot that. They worked night and day in that state."
McGovern said that he was "impressed by the experience she had as first lady. I know some people say it's not governing experience, but it really is. You're at the elbow of the power broker. She was there for all the decisions." He said he was impressed with her performance at the debates and her ability to win large re-election margins in both New York City and upstate New York.
McGovern, who endorsed Gen. Wesley Clark in Clark's ill-fated 2004 pursuit of the Democratic presidential nomination, is known in many ways for two positions that don't necessarily square with Clinton's views -- his opposition to the war in Iraq and his support of ethanol.
"I think it was a mistake to support that war at any time," McGovern said of Clinton's vote to authorize use of force against Iraq in October 2002. "I don't expect to find a mistake-free candidate; we all have made mistakes." He said that Clinton's position today on the war is "pretty good."
"She knows that's its gotta be ended," he said. "She said if by any chance [President] Bush were to continue the war that after 2008 she'd terminate it. That's about all you can expect."
McGovern expressed some concern when ABC News told him of some votes she'd cast against renewable fuels that might have affected the region's ethanol industry. During debate over an energy bill in April 2002, for instance, Clinton objected to limits on product liability sought by oil companies blending ethanol and gasoline. "Subsidies on top of subsidies on top of subsidies," she said. "And on top of that, exemption from liability. What a sweetheart deal."
"I'll have to discuss that with her," McGovern said. "I'm not familiar with her position on that. I haven't heard her opponents bring that up. I'm not sure if there's something there I'm not aware of."
McGovern said he currently splits his time between Washington, D.C., and Mitchell, S.D., where he's lived since he was 6 years old. And while Clinton may occupy much of his time in the next week or so, he's currently writing a book on the presidency of a different Illinoisan -- Abraham Lincoln.