Feb. 26, 1972: Sen. Edmund S. Muskie, D-Maine, defends his wife in a speech he delivers during a snowstorm outside the offices of the Manchester Union Leader while campaigning for the March 7 New Hampshire presidential primary.

The newspaper’s editor, William Loeb, had printed an article accusing Muskie’s wife, Jane, of drunkenness and using off-color language. Muskie, giving the speech from the back of a truck, calls Loeb a “gutless coward.”

Snowflakes melting on his face make it appear that he is crying and newspapers report that he was, damaging his image among voters who wonder whether he is stable enough to lead the country.

Muskie goes on to win the New Hampshire primary but fares worse than expected in the contest because of the incident, as well as unrelated efforts engineered by President Richard Nixon’s reelection campaign.

Muskie places fourth in the Florida primary in March, and withdraws a month later from the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, which Sen. George McGovern of South Dakota eventually wins. McGovern then suffers a landslide loss to Nixon in November.

Joseph Owen is a retired copy desk chief of the Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. He can be contacted at: [email protected]

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