Senator Edmund Muskie 1972
In the 1968 presidential election, the Democratic party took a hit when then President Johnson announced he would not be running for re-election. This decision was based mostly on the anti-war sentiment he created in the nation with his decision to escalate military action in Vietnam. With that, Richard Nixon and the Republican Party were able to take back the White House for this first time since Ike in ‘56. The 1972 election was the Democrats opportunity to prove to the American people that the recent Republican victory was merely a fluke and that the nation believed in the liberalism values displayed in the 1960s.
Ed Muskie was the Democratic hopeful in the beginning of the 1972 presidential election. He was a liberal Senator from the state of Maine and had been the Vice Presidential candidate for Hubert Humphrey in the 1968 election. Despite his frontrunner status, Muskie’s image would be destroyed by what was known as the “Canuck letter”, and the nomination would be won by South Dakota Senator George McGovern.
Muskie grew up in Maine and received a law degree from Cornell Law School in 1939. He would go on to serve in the Navy during WWII and then moved back to his home state where he began to build up the Democratic Party and his own political career. He would go on to serve as a state representative, governor, and then senator in 1958. The presidential election in 1968 would help him rise to the national spotlight as Humphrey chose him to be his running mate. Despite their eventual lose, Muskie would go into the next election as the odds on favorite to win the nomination and take on President Nixon in his reelection campaign.
His collapse would come right before the New Hampshire primary with the “Canuck letter”. This was a forged letter sent to the editor of a New Hampshire daily newspaper which proclaimed that Muskie was prejudice against French-Canadian Americans. Although it would later be known that this letter was a part of the dirty tricks of Nixon and his reelection campaign (CREEP), Muskie was reported to have been crying in front of the press as he gave a speech in his defense. This destroyed his image as a strong leader and essentially killed his campaign.
Congressman Morris Udall 1976
The 1976 presidential election in the United States was one of the more interesting in history. Prior to the election, President Richard Nixon resigned his position following the Watergate scandal. Gerald Ford rose to the top political office in the world at the end of the whole debacle, becoming the first sitting President who had not been elected to the national office.
With this backdrop, the 1976 presidential election would be famous both for the challenge Gerald Ford would face from Ronald Reagan on the right, and the unlikely rise of Jimmy Carter on the left. Congressman Udall of Arizona was one of the more well-known candidates running for the Democratic nomination along with Senator Henry Jackson of Washington and Governor George Wallace of Alabama.
Udall grew up in Arizona and later served in the Army during WWII despite having one glass eye. After his service, he went on to attend the University of Arizona where he would join the Sigma Chi fraternity and star as a basketball player. Following graduation, he had a brief stint with the Denver Nuggets while also attending law school. Udall won a seat in the US House of Representatives in 1961 and would go on to have a very successful career in politics. Besides his 1976 presidential bid, he would be well-known for taking on a complex number of environmental issues within Congress.
In the 1976 presidential election, Udall ran on his liberal record as a member of Congress. The changing point in his presidential bid was the Wisconsin primary where many believed him to be the winner (he went on to lose the state to Carter by 1%). Although Udall had a strong campaign, he fell short of Jimmy Carter, who would go on to win the nomination and the presidency.