In the election of 1884, the phrase "Ma, ma, where's my pa?" was started by the Republican camp backing James Blaine for president and was quickly picked up by political satirists of the time. It referred to an affair which the Democratic nominee, Grover Cleveland, had before he entered public life. While practicing law in Buffalo, New York, he had a brief relationship with a woman named Maria Halpin who later gave birth to a son. Although Maria admitted to having 'relations' with other men around the same time, Grover Cleveland chose to accept paternity since all the other men named were married at the time and he was not.

When the political cartoon depicting a woman with a baby carriage, child plaintively asking "ma, ma, where's my pa?" started circulating, Cleveland's campaign manager advised him to deny the allegation and claim the child belonged to another man. He might have even said to Mr. Cleveland, "Wag your finger at the reporters and say "I have not had sexual relations with that woman."

He chose not to take that advice. He accepted responsibility for the child and provided a modicum of support, though not going so far as to adopt the boy. The strategy apparently worked because Cleveland won the election, though by a narrow margin. His campaign team even ran a retort after he won. "Ma, ma, where's my pa? Gone to the White House, ha ha ha!"

Cigar jokes aside, it seems Bill Clinton could have saved himself a lot of hassle had he just come up with a good slogan.

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