Democrats: The Distant Horizon

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Wondering Aloud. It is the chance that Ted may not be available in 1972, plus the unpredictability of the future, that encourages other ambitious Democrats to improve their positions and widen their bases of operations. One of the stronger presidential prospects is Maine's Senator Edmund Muskie, though he is more reluctant than most. On Ted's personal invitation, Muskie attended the Sheraton Plaza banquet and drew heavy applause. Muskie supporters want him to capitalize on his impressive vice-presidential campaign, which made him an instant national figure. Some have even wondered aloud if Ted would be prepared to do in 1972 what Muskie did this year—take the No. 2 spot. They believe that a Muskie-Kennedy ticket could certainly beat Nixon. Muskie himself seems content to wait upon events. He has reportedly refused to make a bid to become the Democratic whip in the Senate and has turned down as many as 15 offers a day, ranging from making speeches to appearing on TV shows.

Another Democratic hopeful, George McGovern, has returned to Washington after being re-elected handily as Senator from South Dakota. The view of McGovern's supporters is that Nixon may get through his first term with no major disasters. In that event, Ted Kennedy might defer his challenge until 1976, leaving the way clear for McGovern to step forward as the liberal Democrat who should oppose Nixon. Meanwhile, McGovern has an ambitious schedule of speaking engagements, mostly on college campuses, and is seeking to enroll as aides bright young men with fresh ideas about U.S. policy and problems.

Minitest. The future plans of Hubert Humphrey are more uncertain, but for the present he is acting out the role of party leader. He conferred last week with Larry O'Brien, urging him to stay on as Democratic National Chairman. McGovern thinks that O'Brien is more likely to quit, and is pushing hard to get the post for Ohio's able former Congressman John Gilligan, a liberal critic of the Administration's Viet Nam policy who was defeated in his Senate bid last month. Some observers see this as a sort of minitest among the Democratic chiefs and especially between Humphrey and McGovern.

Throughout all his political life, Humphrey has been handicapped by his lack of a personal fortune, and his present job as Vice President expires next month. He has had a tempting offer of a joint professorship from the University of Minnesota, his alma mater, and Macalester College (both conveniently located in Minneapolis-St. Paul). In addition, he has been asked to be a consultant to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, an arrangement that would give prestige to the Britannica and supply Humphrey with time and money to plan ahead.

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