Thursday, April 5, 2012

April 5, 1972

The president and his men had reason to be happy: Wisconsin. Not only did George McGovern win, but George Wallace wound up beating Hubert Humphrey for second place -- and Ed Muskie, who after all had won three of the four primaries that preceded Wisconsin back in those pre-frontloading times, faded to a miserable 4th place, barely ahead of Scoop Jackson and John Lindsay. Let's was sort of like the Colorado/Minnesota/Missouri day this cycle, except if Romney finished fourth, Ron Paul took second, and a late-entering Jeb Bush was third. In other words, think of the chaos that pundits were overreading into Romney's mild setbacks this cycle, but for real. Oh, and picture too Paul having won Florida. And with no one really understanding the rules and incentives within the system because it was the very first time through.

Haldeman, on Wednesday, April 5: "Everybody was highly pleased with the Wisconsin primary results, with McGovern winning by such a wide margin, which thoroughly screws up the Democrats one more time."

Nixon, as usual, was obsessed with Ted Kennedy. Haldeman: "The P wanted to be sure that we get people to follow up on the line, that Kennedy is now the obvious Democratic candidate. He liked my idea of waiting a few days and then having [Treasury Secretary] Connally give Teddy Secret Service protection on the basis that there's general agreement that he's going to be the candidate."

The thinking was that McGovern was most likely a stalking horse for Kennedy -- that is, he was running only to eventually turn over his delegates to EMK. Indeed, while Haldeman's diary doesn't mention it, his notes on April 5 (cited by Emery, who gets the date of the primary wrong) have Nixon telling Haldeman that they need to make a "big effort to smoke Teddy out." Oh, and "be sure we have a McGov plant to see how close the K. alliance is."

Have I mentioned that Nixon was planting people in Democratic campaign offices? Yeah, they were doing that. Breaking and entering to place bugs on the phones and photograph documents, as Gemstone was designed to do, was only supplementing those existing efforts.

At any rate, Muskie was done. And the last bit on April 5 is that Haldeman, here in Emery's words, "called Strachan into his office and told him to inform Liddy to transfer whatever intelligence capability Liddy had for Muskie to McGovern."

Of course, as we all know the McGovern campaign wasn't the only target for Liddy. More on that soon.

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