Now I’m going to end up with the Thomas Boswell problem if Mitt Romney pulls out a win tonight, but he’s starting to look like the Mo Udall of this election cycle. In 1976, there were those who thought Udall would win the Democratic presidential nomination running as a liberal, non-Southern alternative to Jimmy Carter. The trouble was he kept running second in primaries and caucuses he needed to win, including New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, and Michigan. Udall suffered a particularly heartbreaking loss to Carter in Wisconisn, where newspapers proclaimed him the winner based on early returns, leading him to exclaim, “How sweet it is.”
Romney famously finished second to Mike Huckabee in the Iowa caucuses. If the polls are to be believed, he may finish second to John McCain in New Hampshire and then — if tonight’s results don’t move the polls — second again to Huckabee in South Carolina. If he’s lucky, he might get to stick around for a Udall-like run.
Udall was also a Mormon and he had the anti-Mormon card played against him more directly than we’ve seen in this race. In Michigan, the Carter campaign trotted out Detroit Mayor Coleman Young to accuse Udall of racism for belonging to the LDS church, which still banned blacks from the priesthood at the time (the ban wasn’t lifted until 1978). Udall was in fact an opponent of his church’s policy in this area.
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