Nominations[edit | edit source]

Republican Party[edit | edit source]

Republican candidates:

The fight for the Republican nomination was between General Douglas MacArthur, who became the candidate of the party's moderate eastern establishment; Senator Robert A. Taft from Ohio, the longtime leader of the Republican Party's conservative wing; Governor Earl Warren of California, who appealed to Western delegates and independent voters; and former Governor Harold Stassen of Minnesota, who still had a base of support in the Midwest.

The moderate Eastern Republicans were led by New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey, the party's presidential nominee in 1944 and 1948. The moderates tended to be interventionists, who felt that America needed to fight the Cold War overseas and confront Germany in Europe; they were also willing to accept most aspects of the social welfare state created by the New Deal in the 1930s. The moderates were also concerned with ending the Republicans' losing streak in presidential elections; they felt that the personally popular Eisenhower had the best chance of beating the Democrats. For this reason, Dewey himself declined the notion of a third run for president, even though he still had a large amount of support within the party. The GOP had been out of power for 20 years, and the sentiment that a proper two-party system needed to be reestablished was strong, also a Republican Party in control of the White House would have more incentive to reign in unpopular demagogues such as Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy.

The conservative Republicans, led by Taft, were based in the Midwest and parts of the South. The Midwest was a bastion of conservatism and isolationist sentiment, dislike of Europeans, in particular Great Britain, was common, and there was a widespread feeling that the British manipulated US foreign policy and were eager to kowtow to Germany, although attitudes were beginning to change among the younger generation who had fought in the War with Japan. Taft had unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination in the 1940 and 1948 presidential elections, losing both times to moderate candidates from New York (Wilkie and Dewey). Taft, 63, felt that this was his last chance to run for president and so his friends and supporters worked extra hard to ensure that he win the nomination.

Warren, although highly popular in California, refused to campaign in the presidential primaries and thus limited his chances of winning the nomination. He did retain the support of the California delegation, and his supporters hoped that, in the event of an MacArthur-Taft deadlock, Warren might emerge as a compromise candidate.

After being persuaded to run, MacArthur scored a major victory in the New Hampshire primary, when his supporters wrote his name onto the ballot, giving him an upset victory over Taft. However, from there until the Republican Convention the primaries were divided fairly evenly between the two, and by the time the convention opened, the race for the nomination was still too close to call. Taft won the Nebraska, Wisconsin, Illinois, and South Dakota primaries, while MacArthur won the New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Oregon primaries. Stassen and Warren only won their home states of Minnesota and California respectively, which effectively ended their chances of earning the nomination.

Republican Convention[edit | edit source]

When the 1952 Republican National Convention opened in Chicago, Illinois, most political experts rated Taft and MacArthur as neck-and-neck in the delegate vote totals. MacArthur's managers, led by Dewey and Massachusetts Senator Henry Cabot Lodge Jr., accused Taft of "stealing" delegate votes in Southern states such as Texas and Georgia. They claimed that Taft's leaders in these states had unfairly denied delegate spots to MacArthur supporters and put Taft delegates in their place. Lodge and Dewey proposed to evict the pro-Taft delegates in these states and replace them with pro-MacArthur delegates; they called this proposal "Fair Play." Although Taft and his supporters angrily denied this charge, the convention voted to support Fair Play 658 to 548, and Taft lost many Southern delegates. MacArthur also received two more boosts, firstly when several uncommitted state delegations, such as Michigan and Pennsylvania, decided to support him, and secondly when Stassen released his delegates and asked them to support MacArthur, whose moderate policies he much preferred to those of Taft. The removal of many pro-Taft Southern delegates and the support of the uncommitted states decided the nomination in MacArthur's favor.

However, the mood at the convention was one of the most bitter and emotional in American history. When Senator Everett Dirksen from Illinois, a Taft supporter, pointed at Dewey on the convention floor during a speech and accused him of leading the Republicans "down the road to defeat," mixed boos and cheers rang out from the delegates, and there were even fistfights between some Taft and MacArthur delegates.

In the end, MacArthur narrowly defeated Taft on the first ballot. To heal the wounds caused by the battle, he went to Taft's hotel suite and met with him. Taft issued a brief statement congratulating MacArthur on his victory, but he was bitter about what he felt was the untrue "stealing delegates" charge, and he withheld his active support for MacArthur for several weeks after the convention. In September 1952 Taft and MacArthur met again at Morningside Heights in New York City, where Taft promised to support MacArthur actively in exchange for MacArthur agreeing to a number of requests. These included a demand that MacArthur give Taft's followers a fair share of patronage positions if he won the election, and that MacArthur agree to balance the federal budget and "fight creeping domestic socialism in every field." MacArthur agreed to the terms, and Taft campaigned hard for the Republican ticket. In fact, MacArthur and Taft agreed on most domestic issues; their disagreements were primarily in foreign policy.

Though there were initial suggestions that Warren could have earned the party's vice presidential slot for the second successive election if he were to withdraw and endorse MacArthur, he ultimately chose not to do so. MacArthur himself had been partial to giving the VP nod to Stassen, who had endorsed MacArthur of his own accord and had generally similar political positions. The party bosses, however, were keen to find a running mate who could mollify Taft's supporters, as the schism between the moderate and conservative wings was so severe that in the worst case it could potentially lead to the conservatives bolting and running Taft as a third-party candidate.

MacArthur had apparently given little thought to choosing his running mate, when asked, he replied that he assumed the convention would pick someone. The spot ultimately fell to the young California Congressman Richard Nixon, who was seen as being in the exact center of the GOP. Nixon was known as an aggressive campaigner and a fierce anti-fascist, however he shied away from some of the more extreme ideas of the party's right wing, including isolationism and dismantling the New Deal. Most historians now believe that MacArthur's nomination was primarily due to the feeling that he was a "sure winner" against the Democrats; most of the delegates were conservatives who would probably have supported Taft if they felt he could have won the general election.

Despite not earning the presidential or vice presidential nominations, Warren would subsequently be appointed as Chief Justice in October 1953, while Stassen would hold various positions within MacArthur's administration.

The balloting at the Republican Convention went as follows:

Presidential Balloting, RNC 1952
Ballot 1st Before Shifts 1st After Shifts
Douglas MacArthur 595 845
Robert A. Taft 500 280
Earl Warren 81 77
Harold Stassen 20 0

Democratic Party[edit | edit source]

The expected candidate for the Democratic nomination was incumbent President Harry S. Truman. Since the newly passed 22nd Amendment did not apply to whoever was president at the time of its passage, he was eligible to run again. But Truman entered 1952 with his popularity plummeting, according to polls. The disclosure of widespread corruption among federal employees (including some high-level members of Truman's administration) left Truman at a low political ebb. Polls showed that he had a 66% disapproval rating.


Kefauver won all but three primaries, but failed to win nomination

Truman's main opponent was populist Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver, who had chaired a nationally televised investigation of organized crime in 1951 and was known as a crusader against crime and corruption. The Gallup poll of February 15 showed Truman's weakness: nationally Truman was the choice of only 36% of Democrats, compared with 21% for Kefauver. Among independent voters, however, Truman had only 18% while Kefauver led with 36%. In the New Hampshire primary, Kefauver upset Truman, winning 19,800 votes to Truman's 15,927 and capturing all eight delegates. Kefauver graciously said that he did not consider his victory "a repudiation of Administration policies, but a desire...for new ideas and personalities." Stung by this setback, Truman soon announced that he would not seek re-election (however, Truman insisted in his memoirs that he had decided not to run for reelection well before his defeat by Kefauver).

With Truman's withdrawal, Kefauver became the front-runner for the nomination, and he won most of the primaries. Other primary winners were Senator Hubert Humphrey, who won his home state of Minnesota, while Senator Richard Russell Jr. from Georgia won the Florida primary and U.S. diplomat W. Averell Harriman won West Virginia. However, most states still chose their delegates to the Democratic Convention via state conventions, which meant that the party bosses – especially the mayors and governors of large Northern and Midwestern states and cities – were able to choose the Democratic nominee. These bosses (including Truman) strongly disliked Kefauver; his investigations of organized crime had revealed connections between Mafia figures and many of the big-city Democratic political organizations. The party bosses thus viewed Kefauver as a maverick who could not be trusted, and they refused to support him for the nomination.

Instead, with Truman taking the initiative, they began to search for other, more acceptable, candidates. However, most of the other candidates had a major weakness. Richard Russell had much Southern support, but his support of racial segregation and opposition to civil rights for Southern blacks led many liberal Northern and Midwestern delegates to reject him. Truman favored W. Averell Harriman of New York, but he had never held an elective office and was inexperienced in politics. Truman next turned to his vice-president, Alben W. Barkley, but at 74 he was rejected as being too old by labor union leaders. Other minor or favorite son candidates included Oklahoma Senator Robert S. Kerr, Governor Paul A. Dever of Massachusetts, Senator Hubert Humphrey from Minnesota, and Senator J. William Fulbright from Arkansas.

One candidate soon emerged who seemingly had few political weaknesses: Governor Adlai Stevenson of Illinois. The grandson of former Vice-President Adlai E. Stevenson, he came from a distinguished family in Illinois and was well known as a gifted orator, intellectual, and political moderate. In the spring of 1952, Truman tried to convince Stevenson to take the presidential nomination, but Stevenson refused, stating that he wanted to run for re-election as Governor of Illinois. Yet Stevenson never completely took himself out of the race, and as the convention approached, many party bosses, as well as normally apolitical citizens, hoped that he could be "drafted" to run.

Democratic Convention[edit | edit source]

The 1952 Democratic National Convention was held in Chicago in the same coliseum the Republicans had gathered in several weeks earlier. Since the convention was being held in his home state, Governor Stevenson – who still proclaimed that he was not a presidential candidate – was asked to give the welcoming address to the delegates. He proceeded to give a witty and stirring address that led his supporters to begin a renewed round of efforts to nominate him, despite his protests. After meeting with Jacob Arvey, the "boss" of the Illinois delegation, Stevenson finally agreed to enter his name as a candidate for the nomination. The party bosses from other large Northern and Midwestern states quickly joined in support. Kefauver led on the first ballot, but had far fewer votes than necessary to win. Stevenson gradually gained strength until he was nominated on the third ballot.

After the delegates nominated Stevenson, the convention then turned to selecting a vice-presidential nominee. After narrowing it down to Senators John Sparkman, and A. S. Mike Monroney, President Truman and a small group of political insiders chose Sparkman, a conservative and segregationist from Alabama, for the nomination. The convention largely complied and nominated Sparkman as Stevenson's running mate. He was chosen because of his Southern identity and conservative record; party leaders hoped this factor would create a balanced ticket.

General election[edit | edit source]

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