lunes, 26 de noviembre de 2007

1952 GOP Presidential Nomination

Tras veinte años fuera de la Casa Blanca, a los republicanos se les presentaba en 1952 una oportunidad única con el Presidente demócrata Harry Truman en horas bajas y en retirada. Los barones de la Costa Este, que entonces controlaban el aparato del partido, trataban de encontrar una figura lo suficientemente potente como para capitalizar la impopularidad de la Administración demócrata saliente, y ganar las elecciones. El Gobernador Thomas Dewey, de Nueva York, candidato oficial del partido en las elecciones de 1948, y líder del ala moderada, renunciaba a presentarse de nuevo en 1952, y jugaría un papel central en la promoción del General Dwight Eisenhower, héroe de la Segunda Guerra Mundial.

El gran rival de los republicanos de Dewey, el Senador Robert Taft, de Ohio, alias "Mr. Republican", apoyado por los sectores más cosnervadores del Congreso y por las delegaciones del Medio Oeste, sí que decidía buscar la nominación presidencial una vez más. Tras una sesión de primarias que no aclararía mucho las cosas, el poder de la figura paternal de Eisenhower terminaría imponiéndose en la Convención de Chicago -la primera televisada en directo- por ser la mejor opción para derrotar a los demócratas. El viejo General no había demostrado intenciones de entrar en la carrera, pero importantes figuras moderadas del partido habían organizado una campaña "aparentemente espontanea" que le obligó a entrar en la competición por aclamación popular.

Cinco nombres fueron considerados en un momento u otro como serias opciones a la nominación republicana de aquel año: el General Dwight Eisenhower; el General Douglas MacArthur; el ex Gobernador Harold Stassen, de Minnesota; el Senador Robert Taft, de Ohio; y el Gobernador Earl Warren, de California.

Fuentes: Wikipedia y Union leader

(...) 1952 campaign was the climatic moment in the fierce rivalry between Dewey and Taft for control of the Republican Party. The fight for the Republican nomination was largely between General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who became the candidate of the party's moderate eastern establishment, and Senator Robert A. Taft of Ohio, the longtime leader of the GOP's conservative wing. The moderate Eastern Republicans were led by New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey, the party's nominee in 1944 and 1948.

The moderates tended to be interventionists who felt that America needed to fight the Cold War overseas and resist Soviet aggression in Europe and Asia; they were also willing to accept most aspects of the social welfare state created by the New Deal in the 1930's. The moderates were also concerned with ending the GOP's losing streak in presidential elections; they felt that the personally popular Eisenhower had the best chance of beating the Democrats.

The conservative Republicans led by Senator Taft were based in the Midwest and parts of the South. The conservatives wanted to abolish many of the New Deal welfare programs; in foreign policy they were often isolationists who believed that America should avoid alliances with foreign powers. Senator Taft had been a candidate for the GOP nomination in 1940 and 1948, but had been defeated both times by moderate Republicans from New York. Taft, who was 62 when the campaign began, freely admitted that 1952 was his last chance to win the nomination, and this led his supporters to work hard for him. Taft's weakness, which he was never able to overcome, was the fear of many party bosses that he was too conservative and controversial to win a presidential election.

Eisenhower 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. While serving as the supreme commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Ike was willing to be drafted for the GOP presidential nomination, yet he wanted no involvement in the 1952 primaries. New Hampshire's election law allowed him to enter the race without any overt decision, and thus he was never in violation of Army regulations prohibiting political activity.

The initial national chairman for the Draft-Eisenhower drive was Massachusetts Senator Henry Cabot Lodge. On January 6, 1952, he announced at a Washington press conference that the general would allow his name to remain on the ballot in the first primary state — after another Ike backer, Governor Sherman Adams, filed the petitions.

Under the leadership of Adams, the Eisenhower effort would find New Hampshire a highly suitable place to help convince the general he had broad appeal and should return from his military post in France and seek the Oval Office.

A for more difficult circumstance confronted his main opponent: "Mr. Republican," Ohio Senator Robert Taft. This would be his third and final attempt to win his party's nomination. Taft deliberated for weeks whether to enter the Granite State test. On the day before the deadline, he decided to take the plunge, risking a significant test of his popularity in an Eastern state, not his strongest region.

During January and February, a campaign by surrogates for Eisenhower and Taft was conducted throughout the 10 counties of New Hampshire. In March, during the lost week of the campaign, the Ohio senator took a bold gamble — a three-day, 28-community tour of 500 miles designed to deliver a damaging blow to the Eisenhower drive.

Taft's tour created a minor sensation as he dashed about, accompanied by two busloads of reporters from around the country. On March 6, he traveled up the Merrimack Valley, through the Lakes Region, and finally to the mill city of Berlin.

The next day the Republican hopeful blitzed down the Connecticut River Valley and then to Manchester, while increasing the stridency of his attacks on the unpopular Truman administration and vowing to "shun a me-too campaign which won't even convert a handful of New Dealers." The final day of the tour Taft campaigned in the Seacoast.

En la imagen: el Senador Robert Taft.

The Manchester Union Leader reported in its lead story after Taft's address in the Queen City: "Winding up the second day of his 'fighting' campaign for support in New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation presidential primary next Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Robert A. Taft told a cheering throng of close to 1,500 persons in Manchester lost night that General Eisenhower's supporters were doing him a 'dis-service' by forcing him into a contest in which 'it is impossible for him to take a position on any controversial issue, or let the people know where he stands.'

Governor Adams, attempting to regain the momentum lost by Eisenhower while Taft stumped, took to the radio airwaves and newspapers in the final days of the campaign and attacked the conservative senator. Adams charged, "The senator has made it clear that he has no real basic understanding of our obligations and responsibilities in the world today."

The Taft camp hoped to claim a moral victory if it could capture just four out of the 14 delegates. His state campaign manager predicted that Taft Would win six delegates and the March 11 preference poll by 5,000 votes.

En la imagen: Dwight Eisenhower.

It was not to be. As Adams later expressed it, "it wasn't a tight victory, either." Eisenhower won 46,661 to 35,838 and swept all 14 delegates. The forces for the general won all 10 counties with their 59 percent showing in Merrimack County the strongest and a 116-vote victory in Carroll County the weakest. Eisenhower won all 12 cities except Manchester; his strongest showing was in the capital city of Concord with 69 percent. Taft won Manchester by 818 votes but lost the combined city vote 17,775 to 12,573.

Taft was defeated in the towns as well, for Ike carried 138 of the 223 towns, winning by a total of 5,600 votes in territory that had been considered "Taft country." Of the results, Senator Taft commented, "I am somewhat disappointed."

The results were a major national news story. The New York Times printed an entire page of editorial reaction from more than 40 newspapers. The Denver Post editorialized: "The big noise in the New Hampshire vote was the proof that Eisenhower doesn't necessarily have to be here to get votes. Taft was not merely beaten; but was demolished. Out of this first test, the Eisenhower forces have emerged with the evidence of their candidate's appeal to the people."

The mandate from New Hampshire alone was not enough to convince the general to submit his request for resignation from the military. That would take an election a week later, the "Minnesota miracle" when, with no meaningful organized effort, 108,000 Republicans in the general's name, That outpouring convinced him within two weeks to ask President Truman for permission to resign. The request was granted on April 12, effective the first day of June.

Upon his return, Ike would still have to battle a determined and tenacious Taft to the end of the first ballot at the Chicago convention in early July. The primaries were divided fairly evenly between the two men, and by the time the Republican National Convention opened the race for the nomination was still too close to call.

When the 1952 Republican National Convention opened in Chicago, most political experts rated Taft and Eisenhower as neck-and-neck in the delegate vote totals. Eisenhower's managers, led by Governor Dewey and Massachussetts 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 illegally refused to give delegate spots to Eisenhower 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-Eisenhower delegates; they called this proposal "Fair Play". Although Taft and his supporters angrily denied this charge, the convention voted to support Fair Play 658-548, and Taft lost many Southern delegates; this decided the nomination in Eisenhower's favor. However, the mood at the convention was one of the most bitter and emotional in American history; in one speech Senator Everett Dirksen of Illinois, a Taft supporter, pointed at Governor Dewey on the convention floor and accused him of leading the Republicans "down the road to defeat", and mixed boos and cheers rang out from the delegates.

En la imagen: Eisenhower acepta la nominación.

In the end Eisenhower took the nomination on the first ballot; to heal the wounds caused by the battle he went to Taft's hotel suite and met with him. The Convention then chose young Senator Richard Nixon of California as Eisenhower's running mate; it was felt that Nixon's credentials as a slashing campaigner and anti-Communist would be valuable. Most historians now believe that Eisenhower'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. The balloting at the Republican Convention went: Dwight Eisenhower 595 delegates; Robert Taft 500 delegates; Earl Warren 81 delegates; Harold Stassen 20 delegates; Douglas MacArthur 10 delegates. After shifts: Eisenhower 845 delegates; Taft 280 delegates; Warren 77 delegates; MacArhtur 4 delegates. (...)

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