Friday, Nov. 14, 2008

Walter Mondale

Walter Mondale is no stranger to second best. Though touted as one of the more influential vice-presidents of our time (he served under Jimmy Carter from 1977 to 1981), an upset early in his political career may have foreshadowed his historic loss to Ronald Reagan in 1984: his bid to be president of his senior class in high school. (Having completed a successful run as the president of his junior class, Mondale appeared certain to win over his peers in his try for higher office, but was unable to prevail). So profound was his defeat in the race against Reagan that he and running mate Geraldine Ferraro won only the District of Columbia and Mondale's home state of Minnesota — coming within less than 3,800 votes of a total shut-out there. In his concession speech he noted, "In over 24 years, never once have the people of Minnesota turned me down." Phew, that was close.

After his loss — Mondale carried 13 electoral votes to Reagan's 525 — he continued to practice law until he was appointed ambassador to Japan by President Clinton in 1993. But Mondale had one more fight in him: in 2002, after Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone was killed in a plane crash, the Democratic Party nominated him to take Wellstone's place on the ballot. Mondale accepted the nomination, only to be narrowly defeated by Republican Norm Coleman. "At the end of what will be my last campaign, I want to say to Minnesota, you always treated me well, you always listened to me," he said upon conceding defeat. Talk about loyalty.