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Former Senator McGovern in good condition in hospital

By Andrew Stern

(Reuters) - George McGovern, the former senator and Democratic presidential candidate, was in good condition on Thursday in a hospital near his Florida home, being evaluated for fainting spells, a hospital spokeswoman and friends said.

McGovern, 89, who lost to Richard Nixon in the 1972 presidential election, was undergoing tests to determine why he has suffered from "brief transient spells where he passes out and becomes verbally unresponsive," his family said in a statement.

South Dakota Democratic Party Chairman Ben Nesselhuf said a member of McGovern's family told him that the former senator may be released from the hospital on Thursday.

McGovern was admitted to Flagler Hospital in St. Augustine, Florida, on Tuesday, where a spokeswoman said he was in good condition.

McGovern spoke extemporaneously for 20 minutes at Saturday's annual dinner sponsored by South Dakota's Democratic party, Nesselhuf said.

Afterward McGovern, a historian and prolific author, signed copies of his book about Abraham Lincoln, then went out with friends. McGovern is working on his memoirs, Nesselhuf added.

"I don't think he recognizes that he's 89," Nesselhuf said. "He keeps a full schedule."

McGovern served in the U.S. Senate from South Dakota from 1963 to 1981. He made an unsuccessful bid to unseat Nixon in 1972 on a platform opposing the Vietnam war.

The son of a Methodist minister, McGovern flew combat missions over Europe as a B-24 bomber pilot during World War Two, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross. He also headed the Food for Peace program during the administration of President John F. Kennedy.

(Reporting By Andrew Stern; Editing by Philip Barbara)