John McCaslin

"Interesting discussion with one of my clients in Texas," a leading political observer in Washington tells Inside the Beltway. "Topic was that Bill Clinton is treating this election as his third, and that the missus looks far less presidential while he grabs more and more limelight on the stage.

"My client was reminded of an old, real-life Texas story of Ma and Pa Ferguson — she being the first woman governor of Texas."

We learn more about Miriam "Ma" Ferguson and her "impeached" other half from Fort Worth, Texas, writer Judy Alter, winner of the 2005 Owen Wister Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Western Writers of America. She wrote that Ma "was a quiet, private person who preferred to stay home in her big house in Temple, Texas, and take care of her husband, raise her two daughters and tend to her flower garden."

"But in 1923, she was elected governor of Texas, the first woman governor elected in the United States. Her husband, Jim Ferguson, served two terms as governor, but during his second term he was impeached, which meant he could not run again for public office. So Miriam agreed to run to clear his name and restore the family's honor."

Hmmm, sounds familiar.

The story goes on to say that Ma served two terms as governor, when she and her husband became better known as "Ma and Pa." Ma's campaign slogan, by the way: "Two Governors for the Price of One."

So that's it

Democratic leaders in Washington are none too happy with the appearance of a divided party, what with all the back-and-forth mudslinging of late between Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois as the pair competes in earnest for the White House.

So one way to divert attention from the Democratic divide is to make it a Republican problem, too, as Tom McMahon, executive director of the Democratic National Committee, does with this explanation he sent to Inside the Beltway yesterday:

"You see, unlike the Democrats, Republicans aren't split because of an abundance of good choices. They're divided because none of their candidates are what they're looking for."

Reaganite emerges

No immediate reaction from Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean or Tom McMahon, the DNC's executive director, after Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois this week praised the late President Ronald Reagan during an interview with the Reno Gazette-Journal's editorial board.

Mr. Obama, if you didn't hear by now, said: "Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not, and a way that Bill Clinton did not."

Pass the oil

John McCaslin

John McCaslin is a contributing columnist on and author of Inside The Beltway: Offbeat Stories, Scoops, and Shenanigans from around the Nation's Capital .

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