Of Iowa is "the new William Jennings...


August 07, 1991|By THEO LIPPMAN JR

SEN. TOM HARKIN of Iowa is "the new William Jennings 5/8

Bryan," afriend of his told Alex Beam of the Boston Herald.

Just what the Democrats need -- a new version of the biggest loser in presidential election history!

Harkin, like Bryan, is a populist and a great orator "who could easily electrify a convention," Beam wrote. Yes, and electrocute his party.

Bryan was the party's nominee three times, in 1896, 1900 and 1908. He lost to William McKinley in 1896 and 1900 and to William Howard Taft in 1908. He's the only three-time loser in presidential electoral history.

Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas knows history. He told University of Arkansas students, "If you run and get the nomination and lose the general election, those people don't have a very good record of coming back."

They sure don't. In the history of Democratic-Republican contests, only two Democrats and two Republicans have won the presidential nomination, lost the general election, then been renominated.

The Democrats: Grover Cleveland was the incumbent president in 1884, was renominated but lost to Benjamin Harrison in 1888, re-renominated and beat Harrison in 1892. Adlai Stevenson was nominated in 1952 and 1956, losing big to Dwight Eisenhower both times.

The Republicans: Tom Dewey lost to Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944, was renominated and lost to Harry Truman in 1948. Richard Nixon lost to John Kennedy in 1960, was renominated in 1968 and won, beating Hubert Humphrey.

Knowing all this, perhaps wanting to be the new Cleveland, Governor Clinton hinted that he still might make a bid in 1992, expecting to lose, hoping to run and win in 1996. "Rules are made to be broken," he told the U. of A. students. (He sounds more like a Republican Supreme Court justice than a Democratic presidential nominee.)

The Democrats need a new Grover Cleveland more than they need a new William Jennings Bryan. These times, like those of Bryan and Cleveland, are conservative times. Cleveland was the most conservative Democratic president from the 1850s till today.

Mario Cuomo believes the party needs not a new Grover Cleveland, not a new William Jennings Bryan, not a new Adlai Stevenson, but a new Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Guess who he thinks fills the bill. Cuomo said in a recent interview that FDR was elected president in 1932 because as governor of New York he was dealing with problems and conditions that the whole nation was experiencing -- just as Cuomo's doing now. But in fact, the whole nation no longer feels a kinship with New York the way it used to. It hasn't for a while. That's why FDR was the last New York governor to be elected president -- in 1932, the year Cuomo was born.

The nation turns its eyes to Southerners and Westerners to solve its problems now. It has in every presidential election since 1960 and will again in 1992 and . . .


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