Historic Whispers: Ted Kennedy's Political Future

40 years ago this July, some were unsure if Ted Kennedy would be reelected.

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Astronauts may have first walked on the moon 40 years ago this July, but in Washington a lot of the chatter was about Chappaquiddick instead. The accident involving Sen. Ted Kennedy that killed Mary Jo Kopechne occurred on July 18, 1969 and the controversy slowly picked up steam. By August, according to Whispers, the scandal "almost eclipsed Apollo 11 in conversations in congressional cloakrooms" and left some unsure of Kennedy's political future.

  • Kennedy watchers in the Senate feel that backers of Senator Edward M. Kennedy are pushing the Massachusetts Democrat toward a White House bid too fast. The risk, they insist, is that his popularity will "peak too soon" for either 1972 or 1976. A private poll in Oklahoma shows that most voters in that State already are expressing resentment at the Kennedy activity. (July 28, 1969)
    • Supporters of Senator Ernest F. Hollings, former Governor of South Carolina, advocate a Kennedy-Hollings ticket for the Democrats if Senator Kennedy decides to make hi move for the nomination in '72. (July 28, 1969)
      • The White House has been flooded with requests for admission to tours of the mansion conducted by the President's daughter, Julie Nixon Eisenhower, since "U.S. News & World Report" publicized reports from Capitol Hill that congressmen had been allotted quotas of tickets for such events. Actually, the White House says, guests on the "Julie tours" are selected at random from the daily crowds of tourists—along with handicapped children in Washington for whom special arrangements are made. Congressmen apparently have no voice in the selection. (July 28, 1969)
        • Richard Nixon, a sports fan, is determined, friends report, to be the first American President to attend the Olympic Games. The next international competition is to be held at Munich in the summer of 1972—a presidential-election year in the United States. (July 28, 1969)
          • The case of Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts almost eclipsed Apollo 11 in conversations in congressional cloakrooms. (Aug. 4, 1969)
            • President Nixon's announced plan to push for "multilateral exploration of space" may call for astronauts from every continent to be trained in the United States. (Aug. 11, 1969)
              • Some politicians are predicting the Republicans will not put up formidable opposition to Senator Kennedy's re-election next year. They are reported to be more concerned about re-electing a Governor in Massachusetts, and don't want to stir up opposition from the Kennedy Democrats. (Aug. 11, 1969)
                • Associates of Senator Edmund Muskie, the Maine Democrat, have been quietly confident ever since the last election that their man would be the choice to run against Richard Nixon in 1972. Actually, the Senator has been off and running since the start of the year—having made nearly 100 speeches in 37 States. He has figured all along that both Senator Edward Kennedy and former Vice President Hubert Humphrey were out of the presidential race. (Aug. 18, 1969)
                  • There is a feeling in Congress that not only have Senator Kennedy's presidential prospects been clouded but his influential role in the Democratic leadership in the U.S. Senate has been sharply diminished by the Martha's Vineyard episode and his explanation of the circumstances. (Aug. 18, 1969)
                    • Since the Martha's Vineyard episode, Senator Edward M. Kennedy no longer is a star fund-raiser for the Democrats. He still is in demand for party rallies but, as one friend explained, "does not want to be involved" in fund-raising dinners. (Sept. 1, 1969)
                      • Complained a prominent "liberal" Democrat after the Administration's big welfare plan was unveiled: "Dick Nixon is a hard target to hit." (Sept. 1, 1969)
                        • The political standing of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, has been so damaged by the accident that resulted in the drowning of Mary Jo Kopechne that a number of Democratic politicians in his home State believe he may be defeated in 1970. Some observers even speculate that the Senator may yet decide not to seek re-election. (Sept. 15, 1969)
                          • Transportation Secretary John Volpe, former Governor of Massachusetts, is being mentioned as a possible Republican candidate for the Senate against Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat, next year. Friends of Mr. Volpe say, however, that he probably will not run against Senator Kennedy unless he is pressed by the White House to do so. (Sept. 22, 1969)
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