IN the five months since Senator Edmund Muskie started going all out to get the Democratic presidential nomination, his candidacy has steadily gained momentum. There were some rough months for Muskie when he ran short of campaign cash. Now, however, he looks increasingly like the man who will grab the brass ring at Miami Beach in July. In Las Vegas, Soothsayer Jimmy ("the Greek") Snyder is giving 2 to 5 odds that Muskie will be the nominee.
A Jan. 17 Harris poll showed Muskie tied with Nixon in popularity; both got 42%. In that Harris survey, George Wallace scored 11%. Last week, in a Gallup poll of Democratic voters, results for the first time since the Chappaquiddick episode showed that Muskie was the popular choice over Ted Kennedy 32% to 27%. Another Gallup poll, excluding Kennedy, gave Muskie 39% to Hubert Humphrey's 29%.
Democratic Party leaders have been lining up behind Muskie for some time. The endorsements are creating the impression that the smart money is going with Muskie, which can help him win convention delegates in the upcoming primaries. Muskie is far ahead of his competition, but he still must ratify his lead by producing a good showing with the voters. The first few primaries could be crucial; if he wins big in New Hampshire and leads the pack in Florida, he will be almost unstoppable. Muskie is campaigning flat out in Florida against George Wallace, the favorite. If he comes in second to Wallace he will be in good shape still; if Hubert Humphrey beats Muskie in Florida, though, Muskie will have to try to recoup in Wisconsin.
Around the U.S. last week, TIME correspondents in charge of regional political campaign coverage responded to the question: Is Muskie in?
THE EAST: YES
New York Bureau Chief Frank McCulloch is responsible for New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware, with 642 of the 3,103 convention delegates.
If the Democratic National Convention were held today, Ed Muskie would win about 60% of the delegate votes in the five-state Eastern region. Barring a stumble, Muskie will have a heavy majority of delegates in the three largest states, New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. He will get scattered support in Maryland and Delaware. Humphrey's purported strength with organized labor is hard to locate; in New Jersey and New York, says one New Jersey county chairman, Humphrey "hardly shows." That leaves George McGovern in second place in the Easta distant second, to be sure, but far ahead of Lindsay, McCarthy and Chisholm. To Democratic politicians, Muskie's strengths are that he has made few enemies and that he simply looks like a winner.
NEW ENGLAND: YES
Boston Bureau Chief John Stacks is responsible for the six New England states from Maine to Connecticut, with 235 delegates.
Muskie is not only the current front runner in the race for the Democratic nomination, he also is the only candidate in the pack who is a New Englander. He is sure to win almost all of the section's delegates easily. Maine will of course come out solidly for the native son. Vermont and Rhode Island also will support the Muskie nomination. The psychologically important primary in New Hampshire on March 7 is already crowded with candidates, and their sheer number will probably reduce Muskie's winning margin to about 55% of the total vote.