Former Sen. Eugene J. McCarthy (D-Minn.), whose surprisingly strong showing in the 1968 New Hampshire presidential primary dramatized deepening public opposition to the Vietnam War and effectively ended President Lyndon B. Johnson's political career, died Saturday. He was 89.

"Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), whose late brother Sen. Robert F. Kennedy (D-N.Y.) vied against McCarthy for the 1968 Democratic presidential nomination, said Saturday: "In spite of the rivalry with Bobby in the 1968 campaign, I admired Gene enormously for his courage in challenging a war America never should have fought.

"His life speaks volumes to us today as we face a similar critical time for our country," Kennedy said, alluding to the war in Iraq.

Former Sen. George S. McGovern (D-S.D.), who won the 1972 Democratic presidential nomination when McCarthy ran a second time, said McCarthy's presidential run in 1968 dramatically changed the antiwar movement from "a movement of concerned citizens" to "a national political movement."

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), a volunteer in McCarthy's 1968 campaign and a co-founder two years later of an antiwar group called the Marin Alternative, said: "During the Vietnam War, Eugene McCarthy had the courage to stand up and be a voice for peace. He will always be remembered for that."

Political scientist Steven S. Smith of Washington University in St. Louis told The Times on Saturday that McCarthy "remains the most important national symbol of the peace movement and the view that the U.S. reverts to the use of force too quickly. No one has symbolized that in American politics like McCarthy has."
"The assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King in '68 _ those things had a sobering impact on him. He was always a philosopher as well as a senator, and he decided he wanted to focus on writing and thinking. ... I don't know anyone else who was cut from the same mold as Gene." -- Former Sen. George McGovern, D-S.D.