We doubt that the rest of the country has been holding its breath for Walter Mondale’s endorsement of a Democratic candidate for president, but in Minnesota it’s big news. Yesterday Mondale endorsed John Kerry for president. (To make the endorsement sweeter for Kerry, Mondale’s son Ted is the head of the Dean campaign in Minnesota.) The AP story helpfully reminds readers younger than we are that Mondale is a former senator himself, was vice president under President Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981, and led the Democratic ticket in 1984, when he was “trounced” by Republican Ronald Reagan.
Another AP story noting Mondale’s endorsement also includes a possible glimpse of themes to come as national Republican party chairman Ed Gillespie reacts to Kerry. Gillespie noted in a speech yesterday that Kerry has a more liberal record than Ted Kennedy. “Whether it’s economic policy, national security policy or social issues, John Kerry is out of sync with most voters,” he said in a speech in Virginia. “Who would have guessed it? Ted Kennedy is the conservative senator from Massachusetts!” Gillespie said.
Today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune includes a local sidebar to the AP story on Mondale’s endorsement. Asked about the critique that Kerry, as a liberal from Massachusetts, may not run well in moderate and conservative swing states of the South and West, Mondale quipped: “I remember supporting John F. Kennedy and he did pretty well.”
I believe, however, that before Kennedy flattened Humphrey in the West Virginia primary in 1960, Mondale would have supported Hubert Humphrey for president. Humphrey withdrew from the race for the nomination after decisively losing the West Virginia primary to Kennedy.
Walter Mondale had entered politics as Hubert Humphrey’s acolyte and remained Humphrey’s acolyte throughout Humphrey’s life. Humphrey’s key supporter in Minnesota during the 1960 campaign was Minnesota Governor Orville Freeman. Mondale managed Freeman’s successful 1958 reelection campaign for governor, leading to Mondale’s appointment to the position of Minnesota attorney general by Freeman in May 1960.
After Humphrey withdrew his candidacy he kept his powder dry until the Democratic convention in Los Angeles. At the convention Humphrey joined the “Stop Kennedy” movement, coming out for Adlai Stevenson. Freeman, on the other hand, came out for Kennedy as Kennedy dangled the vice presidency before him.
Among other things, Mondale has apparently forgotten that Kennedy didn’t even run as a liberal in 1960 (Humphrey did, before he lost the nomination to Kennedy) and in fact Kennedy positioned himself to the right of Richard Nixon on defense and foreign policy issues in the presidential election. Which causes me to wonder, has Lloyd Bentsen announced his endorsement?
UPDATE: Reader Mike Kindregan writes: “Big Trunk, I think the bigger story is how Mondale the senior could come out AGAINST his son’s candidate!”
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