Tsongas was born to a working-class Greek father and native Massachusetts mother. He attended Dartmouth and Yale Law School before settling in Lowell, Massachusetts.
He first entered politics as a city councillor and then served two terms in the United States House of Representatives. In 1978 he was elected to the Senate. In 1984, however, he was diagnosed with cancer and left the Senate. After fighting the illness he returned to politics and in 1992 ran for his party's nomination for President. He ran a strong campaign and succeeded in winning the New Hampshire primary, but was eventually eclipsed by a resurgent Bill Clinton (the "Comeback Kid"), who would go on to win the Presidency. Tsongas was viewed as a centrist who embraced a number of Republican policies. He was especially known for his pro-business economic policies that have come to be embraced by the modern Democratic Party.
A few years later the cancer returned and he died of pneumonia and liver failure two days short of what, had he won the presidency, would have been the end of his first term.
- Stephen J. Ducat. 2004. The Wimp Factor. Boston:Beacon Press. ISBN 0807043443. p. 109