The Press: The Hairline Fracture

Now that "Front Runner" Edmund Muskie has fallen to the rear, much of the campaign's pre-primary political reportage reads in retrospect as if it were about some other election. Through midwinter, most print journalists and TV commentators declined to take Hubert Humphrey seriously, gave George McGovern relatively spare coverage and underestimated George Wallace's strength. The press consensus until New Hampshire strongly implied that Muskie already had it made.

There were caveats, of course —there always are—but the reportorial thrust was plain. Joseph Kraft in November found Muskie "still in commanding position." In December, New York Times Political Correspondent R.W. Apple Jr. wrote...

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