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  |   By Polling+ Staff


                       By Jeffrey Lord

It was January of 1968.

Sitting in the White House is Democrat President Lyndon B. Johnson. And, so went the tales of the day as documented by the legendary journalist Theodore H. White,  LBJ “wasn’t worried” about his re-election.

White had won a Pulitzer Prize for his ground breaking 1961 book The Making of the President 1960.

It was the first time a journalist had spent the years leading up to a presidential election following both the Republican and Democrat candidates as they plotted strategy behind closed doors with top advisors, eventually emerging on the primary campaign trail. Eventually the two parties came up with their nominees. For the Republicans it was the well known incumbent Vice President Richard Nixon. For the Democrats it was the relatively unknown young Senator from Massachusetts John F. Kennedy.

White had trailed both, his book ending with the drama of election night and the young JFK’s pencil-thin margin over Nixon. The book was an immediate success. So much so that White began turning out successive books all plugged into the behind-the- scenes formula of a presidential election.

By 1968, with bestselling books on both the 1960 and 1964 elections behind him, White had the formula down pat, with both President Johnson and wannabe presidential candidates opening their doors to him.

In his recounting of the 1968 race, White begins by telling the tale of LBJ, the incumbent Democrat. Elected in a 1964 landslide after inheriting the presidency with the assassination of JFK, LBJ, JFK’s vice president had been riding high.

But now having achieved his life’s ambition after a Biden-esque political lifetime as a Congressman, Senator and Vice President, Johnson’s four years in the White House were the very definition of turmoil. At the center of turmoil was the U.S. war in Vietnam. An inheritance from JFK, LBJ had accelerated the war rapidly, to the point that there were now half a million American GI’s fighting a land war in Asia.

And his own Democratic Party wasn’t happy with him. Most notably JFK’s brother, New York’s Senator Robert Kennedy, was constantly being pushed to challenge Johnson. Kennedy held back.

Bobby Kennedy’s personal animosity to LBJ was well known. Making Kennedy a reluctant “no” to challenging Johnson for his re-nomination. Kennedy thought it impossible for him to run without being seen as running to settle a personal grudge.

And then.

Out of the blue came the largely unknown Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy. Democrat McCarthy was a staunch opponent of the war. Entering the New Hampshire primary to directly challenge LBJ, McCarthy unexpectedly drew an army of college kids from across the nation who swarmed the small state to campaign for McCarthy. In an era of hippies, the kids adopted the motto to get “clean for Gene” – and they were everywhere in New Hampshire under the “Dump Johnson” banner.

And on election night, there was an earthquake in Democratic politics. McCarthy lost to LBJ – by a mere 7 points.

On the spot, the pressure for RFK to get in the race rose dramatically. A mere four days later, Bobby Kennedy jumped in. And not quite two weeks after that, a humiliated LBJ announced he would not run again.

So the question? Is the candidacy – ironically – of RFK’s namesake son Robert F. Kennedy Jr. going to replicate the role of …Eugene McCarthy?

Could the younger Kennedy, while not winning, do enough damage to President Joe Biden in the New Hampshire and other primaries that it opens the way for a major Democratic official to finally jump in the race and seriously threaten Biden’s renomination?

Can you say California Governor Gavin Newsom?

To make matters dicier for Biden are polls like this one from Insider Advantage. The headline: https://insideradvantage.com/insideradvantage-post-debate-national-republican-presidential-poll-trump-leads-at-45-percent-desantis-takes-solid-18-second-place-haley-rockets-to-third-in-survey/

InsiderAdvantage Post-Debate National Republican Presidential Poll: Trump Leads at 45 Percent; DeSantis Takes Solid 18% Second Place; Haley Rockets to Third in Survey

Which is to say that the former President, Biden’s nemesis, is leading the GOP at this point in a polling landslide.

Raising for Democrats the obvious thought. That thought being the idea that Newsom would make a better nominee against Trump than would Biden.

With Biden, like LBJ decades ago, being upended by his own party.

Stay tuned.