For An Interview
Madison Square Garden
1952: The Election of a Military Hero
The 1952 election was one that the Republicans
felt strongly about winning, and with Eisenhower
as their candidate it would be possible. President Truman had announced
that he would not run and hoped that the Democrats would allow Adlai
E. Stevenson to be their nominee. The Republicans went after the
Democratic Party and their candidate Adlai Stevenson. In the 1952
election, Eisenhower said he would get the U.S. out of Korea, and would clean up
the government especially on the tails of the bribery issues uncovered among the
Truman appointees. The New York Times and many other newspapers endorsed
The campaign was a strange one. Both candidates used radio and television very effectively and campaigned hard. Eisenhower was a hero, so Stevenson was reluctant to attack him directly, and Stevenson had not been part of the Truman administration so the Republicans could not blast him for mistakes made by the administration. The Republicans sent out “hatchet men” such as Dewey, McCarthy, and Nixon to campaign against the Democrats with their antiwar, anti-bribery, and anti-Communist message. Eisenhower was sent out to meet the people who found him friendly and accessible, he traveled over 33,000 miles during this campaign. The Republicans played up the fact that both their presidential and vice-presidential candidates were strong family men with the quintessentially supportive wives. During the campaign, both families were highly active and visible creating a strong and solid foundation for the Republicans, where the Democrats had a candidate who was divorced and the issue surrounding family was a major theme of the era.
The Eisenhower campaign took advantage of what women power could do for their campaign by staging political get-togethers, phone calling parties, and television sessions. The Republicans used pictures of the typical American family to present issues that appealed to women. The election of 1952 was the first time that the campaign truly used the women behind the candidates with buttons of the two spouses and appearances by both for election support with each relatively unknown at the start but national celebrities by election time. The American public was still looking for stability after WWII and these two families was just that. The Eisenhower campaign still held to the traditional ideas of home and family.
The three major themes put forth were the Korean War, corruption, and a balanced budget. Ike promised to end the war because he knew first hand about war. Ike promised to balance the budget. He implied that if housewives could balance the household budget, then so could the government. Ike felt Washington could be cleaned out again as a woman cleans house. Women in America had lost faith in the Democratic Party to help them financially. The Republicans hired Rosser Reeves to aid with the presentation of Eisenhower for the campaign, which saw the potential of spot television, and used the commercial format to enhance their candidate. The campaign for Ike used telecast of events that looked spontaneous to dramatize his grass-roots appeal. The Eisenhower campaign learned from its mistakes. The only time that their candidate looked bad was his announcement to seek the presidency when a misplaced microphone and shots of empty seats made Ike look inadequate. Adlai Stevenson hurt himself because, as a political essayist, he found it hard to stay within the time restriction of television.
The American Heritage Foundation had a major push in this election with its “Vote As You Please, But VOTE!” Their campaign ran on radio both day and night, as well as on dog food containers, cornflake boxes, and toothpaste. The other big success for the Eisenhower campaign was the election eve hour long telecasts spectacular entitled "Report to Eisenhower" which integrated fast paced film clips with live television feeds, switching from city to city and coast-to-coast. The actual campaign issues were of less importance than that of candidacy of Dwight D. Eisenhower. In the actual 1952 election, Americans were eager to vote. Many lined up outside their polling place before dawn with more women voting for Ike than men, but he won by a landslide. When the electoral college votes were cast, Ike had 442 to 89 for Stevenson, which was very interesting in light of the economic times at hand which were unprecedented in prosperity, but the voters repudiated the party in power seemingly voting for a long term good of the country.