The 1968 presidential campaign was the first time that many people outside of Maine and Washington D.C. heard of Edmund Muskie, when Hubert H. Humphrey asked him to join the Democratic Party’s ticket as his vice presidential running mate. Although the Humphrey-Muskie ticket lost to Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew in a very close election, many observers regarded Muskie as the election’s true winner. During the race, he was often viewed more favorably than Agnew, Nixon, or even Humphrey. After the race, he was often looked to as one of the Democratic Party’s rising national stars.
On Election Eve 1970, the Republican and Democratic Parties each purchased 15 minutes of national prime time television, hoping to influence the next day’s midterm elections. During the Republicans’ time, stations broadcast a speech in which President Nixon condemned “a creeping permissiveness in our legislatures, in our courts, in our family life, and in our colleges and universities,” and called for “the great silent majority of Americans . . . to stand up and be counted against appeasement of the rock throwers and the obscenity shouters in America.” Muskie spoke from an armchair in front of a fireplace in Cape Elizabeth, Maine about the need for national unity in addressing racial tension, environmental destruction and economic problems. As Time reported, Nixon appeared “agitated, stern in a noisy setting, and the victim of a bad television tape.” In contrast, the magazine described Muskie’s performance as “calm and concerned, if somewhat theatrical.” The broadcast cemented Muskie’s position as a national political figure who garnered widespread respect and approval.
See Muskies statements made the evening before the election here!
“President Muskie! (Don’t you feel better already?)” was one of several slogans used in the 1972 presidential primaries tocontrast EdmundMuskie against President Nixon. Despite leading the list of potential Democratic candidates throughout 1970 and 1971, Muskie’s campaign financing began to falter late in 1971, and by the spring of 1972 he was effectively, if not officially, out of the primaries. Popular memory holds that Muskie’s campaign collapsed following an angry, impromptu andallegedly teary late-January press conference in front of a Manchester, N.H. newspaper that had insulted his wife, Jane, in print. As Madeline Albright, who first worked for Muskie as a fundraiser on this campaign wrote in her 2003 autobiography: Today a male politician who cried while defending his wife would probably go up in the polls. In 1972 men were not supposed to shed tears in public, especially when running for president. In reality, though, the reasons for Muskie’s loss were more complex. With strong grassroot and youth support, and benefiting from Nixon “dirty tricks” against Muskie, George McGovern won the Democratic primary, but lost to Nixon in one of the largest landslides in the history of presidential elections.
See a clip of one of muskies presidential campaign adds that demonstrates the difference between his and President Nixon's attitudes here!
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