Sunday, January 6, 2008

Muskie as Punchline

It's tough being Edmund Muskie's national legacy these days.

Mike Murphy, a Republican strategist appearing on this morning's Meet the Press, said of Sen. Hillary Clinton: "[I]f she doesn't grab this thing fast...she's going to turn into Ed Muskie in a pantsuit and there's no chance." Murphy, of course, was comparing Sen. Clinton's recent loss in the Iowa caucuses to the late Maine Senator Ed Muskie's surprising defeat in the 1972 Democratic presidential primary. The Muskie in a pantsuits line was funny. Too bad it was just as clumsy.

Yes, Sen. Muskie was an early frontrunner for the Democratic Party's nomination for presidency in 1972. And, yes, Sen. Clinton was the early pick for that party's nomination in 2008. And, yes, both failed (or are failing) to live up to the expectations of the prognosticators. But that is where the similarities end.

Sen. Muskie, for example, actually won the Iowa caucus in 1972, whereas Sen. Clinton finished third in last week's Iowa caucus. Moreover, Sen. Muskie went on to win the New Hampshire primary. So, even though he did eventually collapse, Muskie did at least falter with a few early primary victories to his name. Or, as Yogi Berra might say, at least he failed successfully. Sen. Clinton, on the other hand, has not. Not yet, anyway.

I give Murphy credit, though: At least he didn't refer to the Canuck letter or, um, snowflakes.

- John C.L. Morgan

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