By John Aloysius Farrell
It can happen. On the eve of the midterm elections of 1970, just after President Richard Nixon delivered a campaign-closing national address, Sen. Edmund Muskie of Maine offered the Democratic Party response, and utterly clobbered the Republican president.
Nixon—ranting about law and order in an ill-lit airport hangar in Phoenix, just days after an ugly confrontation with antiwar protesters in California—seemed to have channeled Benito Mussolini. But Muskie, with McLuhan-ish cool, spoke calmly and deliberately about sturdy American values, appearing in a cozy living room in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. He scolded Nixon for his divisive ways—and soon emerged as the Democratic frontrunner for the presidential nomination two years hence.
So take heed, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.). Never mind the belly flops of the last few years by various and sundry colleagues: You can deliver the Republican counterpunch to President Obama’s State of the Union speech on Tuesday and survive—maybe even prosper. You need not be doomed to what CBS White House correspondent Major Garrett called in a Tweet “the Sports Illustrated cover jinx of politics.”