Political writing: Shadowing the candidates II

It was standard practice to cover top-of-the-ticket political campaigns in part by spending some time on the campaign trail with the candidate. In 1976 in Maine, the U.S. Senate race was between incumbent Senator Edmund S. Muskie and Republican challenger Robert A.G. Monks. I spent a day with each of the candidates and turned out these stories. Looking back, I’m not sure how much such stories added to the quality of the campaigns. But it was Standard Operating Procedure, so that’s what we did.

 EDITOR’S NOTE: Robert A.G. Monks thinks he can beat Sen, Edmund S. Muskie, D-Maine, this November because of voters’ disenchantment with the Washington establishment. UPI recently spent a day with both Monks and Muskie. Monks campaign style is examined in this, the second part of two parts.

Monks campaigns shaking hands in many places


FREEPORT, Maine (UPI) – Robert A.G. Monks started his day as he has started many others during his campaign against Sen. Edmund S. Muskie; he shook hands with people at their place of employment.

This time it was at L.L. Bean’s in Freeport. The handshaking took up most of the morning, and he stopped off at a lunch program for the elderly and at the local police and fire stations before he took a rare lunch break to talk about his campaign.

Monks is getting around in the same wine-red International Scout he used during the primary, and he’s still usually accompanied by John Miller, who was a graduate student at the University of Maine at Orono before getting involved in Monks’ campaign last April.

The Scout looks the same except for an antenna sprouting from the roof.

“It’s a telephone,” Miller said. “We just put it in. It’s the only way we can keep in touch with the office.”

Monks’ campaign style has some definite patterns. He likes mill gates, country stores, programs for the elderly and fire stations. He claims to have campaigned at more than 70 mill gates and more than 40 programs for the elderly, and he usually stops to talk to the firemen whenever he can.

There was only one fireman on duty at the Freeport Fire Station when Monks arrived, a man perhaps a little taller than Monks, who is six-foot-six-inches.

“You,” Monks told the man, “may be the first person I’ve met during the campaign I can look in the eye.”

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Political writing: Shadowing the candidates l

Part of our campaign coverage, at least in top-of-the-ticket campaigns, was to spend a day with each candidate and then report on campaign styles. Looking back, I’m not sure this contributed much of value to the election process – there was no discussion of issues, for example. It was really a look at style rather than substance. Still, it’s what we did, and I remember these days spent with the candidates as fun and a good excuse to get a day away from the office grind. This story was one that I wrote about Ed Muskie; the next one looks at his Republican challenger, Robert A.G. Monks. 

EDITOR’S NOTE: The elections are less than two months away. Sen. Edmund S. Muskie and his Republican opponent, Robert Monks, are campaigning hard. UPI spent a day with each of the candidates, and their campaign styles are examined in this, the first of a two-part series.


BANGOR, Maine (UPI) — Sen. Edmund S. Muskie, D-Maine, and his Republican opponent, Robert A.G. Monks, have little in common except their neckties.

Like most Maine politicians, Muskie and Monks share an affection for the Maine necktie, something which has become essential to a political campaign.

Sen. William D. Hathaway, D-Maine, is generally credited with starting the necktie binge. He owns no fewer than 12 lobster ties, including a specially-made bow tie.

Hathaway wore a pine-tree-and-potato to the Democratic National Convention in tribute to Jimmy Carter. He said the potatoes looked a great deal like peanuts.

Muskie began a day of campaigning in the Bangor area last week with a news conference at a local television studio. He wore a blue tie speckled with little white lobsters. Monks campaigned early this week in Freeport, first touring the L.L. Bean Co. facilities. Monks’ tie was also blue, and it sported little miniature outlines of the state Maine.

Muskie is 62 and the son of a tailor. He has been in public life ling enough to develop what supporters call dignity and what his detractors see as stuffiness.

Monks is 20 years younger, and lived in Massachusetts until a few years ago. He is wealthy, wealthy enough to list his occupation as “fiduciary.”

Muskie approaches people confidently, and speaks off the cuff. Monks often says the same thing: “I’d like to introduce myself. I’m Bob Monks. I’m running for the United States Senate, and I wanted to pay my respects.”

Muskie’s recent morning began with a news conference at a Bangor television station. Then he went to the local GTE Sylvania plant and shook hands with the workers. He spent more time there than he thought he would.

“There’s people working there from as far away as Millinocket,” Muskie said as he walked form the plant to the car. “I don’t think I met two people from the same town, and that’s why I stayed there so long. They all go back home at night and talk to their friends.”

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