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1948 United States 1956
United States presidential election, 1952
November 4, 1952
General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower 1947.jpg AdlaiEStevenson1900-1965.png
Nominee Dwight D. Eisenhower Adlai Stevenson
Party Republican Democratic
Home state New York Illinois
Running mate Richard Nixon John Sparkman
Electoral vote 442 89
States carried 39 9
Popular vote 34,075,529 27,375,090
Percentage 55.2% 44.3%
1952 Electoral Map.png
Presidential election results map. Red denotes states won by Eisenhower/Nixon, Blue denotes those won by Stevenson/Sparkman. Numbers indicate the number of electoral votes allotted to each state.

Previous President
Harry S. Truman

The United States presidential election of 1952 took place in an era when Cold War tension between the United States and the Soviet Union was escalating rapidly. In the United States Senate, Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin had become a national figure after chairing congressional investigations into the issue of Communist spies within the U.S. government. McCarthy's so-called "witch hunt", combined with national tension and weariness after two years of bloody stalemate in the Korean War, set the stage for a hotly-fought presidential contest.

Incumbent President Harry S. Truman decided not to run, so the Democratic Party instead nominated Governor Adlai Stevenson II of Illinois; Stevenson had gained a reputation in Illinois as an intellectual and eloquent orator. The Republican Party countered with popular war hero General Dwight D. Eisenhower and won in a landslide, ending 20 consecutive years of Democratic control of the White House.[1]

Eisenhower, at 62, was the oldest man to become President since James Buchanan in 1856.[2] Harry S Truman was 60 when he became President in April 1945, upon the death of Franklin D Roosevelt, and 64 when elected President in 1948.




Democratic Party

Democratic candidates:

Candidates gallery (D)

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 bloody and indecisive Korean War was dragging into its third year, Senator Joseph McCarthy's anti-Communist crusade was stirring public fears of an encroaching “Red Menace,” and 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, a record only surpassed decades later by Richard Nixon.

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 reelection (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 of Georgia won the Florida primary and U.S. diplomat 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 lead, they began to search for other, more acceptable, candidates. However, most of the other candidates had a major weakness. Senator Richard Russell, Jr. of Georgia had much Southern support, but his support of racial segregation and opposition to civil rights for Southern blacks led Northern delegates to reject him as a racist.[citation needed] Truman favored U.S. diplomat 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 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 Kerr, Governor Paul A. Dever of Massachusetts, Senator Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota, and Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas.

One candidate soon emerged who seemingly had few political weaknesses: Governor Adlai Stevenson II of Illinois. The grandson of former Vice-President Adlai E. Stevenson, Stevenson 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 reelection 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

The 1952 Democratic National Convention was held in Chicago; the convention met 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 president. The main candidates for this position were Kefauver, Russell, Barkley, Senator John Sparkman, and Senator Mike Monroney. After narrowing it down to Senator Sparkman and Senator Monroney, President Truman and a small group of political insiders chose Sparkman, a conservative and segregationist from Alabama, for the nomination. The convention complied and nominated Sparkman as Stevenson's running mate. Stevenson then delivered an eloquent acceptance speech in which he famously pledged to "talk sense to the American people."

The following table documents the balloting.[3] Candidates are organized according to their highest total on any single ballot, and they are listed only if they received over 20 votes on a single ballot. The 1952 Democratic convention was the last one for either party that needed more than one ballot to select a Presidential nominee.

Presidential Balloting
Ballot 1 2 3
Adlai Stevenson 273 324.5 617.5
Estes Kefauver 340 362.5 275.5
Richard B. Russell 268 294 261
W. Averell Harriman 123.5 121 0
Alben W. Barkley 48.5 78.5 67.5
Robert S. Kerr 65 5.5 0
Paul A. Dever 37.5 30.5 0.5
Hubert Humphrey 26 0 0
J. William Fulbright 22 0 0
Scattering 26.5 13.5 8

Republican Party

Candidates gallery (R)

The fight for the Republican nomination was between General Dwight D. Eisenhower, who became the candidate of the party's moderate eastern establishment; Senator Robert A. Taft of Ohio, the longtime leader of the GOP's conservative wing; and Governor Earl Warren of California, who appealed to Western delegates and independent voters.

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 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 1930s. 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 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 non-interventionists, who believed that America should avoid alliances with foreign powers. 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.

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 Eisenhower-Taft deadlock, Warren might emerge as a compromise candidate.

After being persuaded to run, 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. However, from there until the Republican Convention the primaries were divided fairly evenly between the two men, 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 Eisenhower won the New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Oregon primaries. Harold Stassen won his home state of Minnesota, and Warren won his home state of California.

Republican Convention

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 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 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 to 548, and Taft lost many Southern delegates. Eisenhower also received a boost when several uncommitted state delegations, such as Michigan and Pennsylvania, decided to support him; the removal of many pro-Taft Southern delegates and the support of the uncommitted states decided the nomination in Eisenhower's favor.

However, the mood at the convention was one of the most bitter and emotional in American history. When Senator Everett Dirksen of Illinois, a Taft supporter, pointed at Dewey on the convention floor 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 Eisenhower delegates.

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. Taft issued a brief statement congratulating Eisenhower on his victory, but he was bitter about what he felt was the untrue "stealing delegates" charge, and he withheld his active support for Eisenhower for several weeks after the convention. In September 1952 Taft and Eisenhower met again at Morningside Heights in New York City, there Taft promised to actively support Eisenhower in exchange for Eisenhower agreeing to a number of requests. These included a demand that Eisenhower give Taft's followers a fair share of patronage positions if he won the election, and that Eisenhower agree to balance the federal budget and "fight creeping domestic socialism in every field." Eisenhower agreed to the terms, and Taft campaigned hard for the GOP ticket.[citation needed]

Following Eisenhower's nomination, the convention chose young Senator Richard Nixon of California as Eisenhower's running mate; it was felt that Nixon's credentials as a fierce campaigner and anti-Communist would be valuable. Nixon also had ties to both the Eastern moderates (Dewey was a strong supporter) and the conservative Taft wing of the party, as such it was felt that he could help to reunite the party after the bruising primary and convention battles. 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:[5]

Presidential Balloting, RNC 1952
Ballot 1st Before Shifts 1st After Shifts
Dwight D. Eisenhower 595 845
Robert A. Taft 500 280
Earl Warren 81 77
Harold Stassen 20 0
Douglas MacArthur 10 4
Thomas E. Dewey 1 0

General election

Eisenhower presidential campaign in Baltimore, Maryland, September 1952
Adlai Stevenson warns against a return of the Republican policies of Herbert Hoover

Campaign issues

The Eisenhower campaign was one of the first presidential campaigns to make a major, concerted effort to win the female vote. Many of his radio and television commercials discussed topics such as education, inflation, ending the war in Korea, and other issues that were thought to appeal to women. The Eisenhower campaign made extensive use of female campaign workers; these workers made phone calls to likely Eisenhower voters, distributed "Ike" buttons and leaflets, and gave parties to build support for the GOP ticket in their neighborhoods. On election day Eisenhower won a solid majority of the female vote.[6]

Eisenhower campaigned by attacking "Korea, Communism and Corruption"-- that is, what the Republicans regarded as the failures of the outgoing Truman administration to deal with these issues. Charges that Soviet spies had infiltrated the government plagued the Truman Administration and became a major campaign issue for Eisenhower.[7]

The Republicans blamed the Democrats for the military's failure to be fully prepared to fight in Korea; they accused the Democrats of "harboring" Communist spies within the federal government; and they blasted the Truman Administration for the numbers of officials who had been accused of various crimes.

In return, the Democrats criticized Senator Joseph McCarthy and other GOP conservatives as "fearmongers" who were recklessly trampling on the civil liberties of government employees.

Campaign events

Many Democrats were particularly upset when Eisenhower, on a scheduled campaign swing through Wisconsin, decided not to give a speech he had written criticizing McCarthy's methods, and then allowed himself to be photographed shaking hands with McCarthy as if he supported him. Truman, formerly friends with Eisenhower, never forgot what he saw as a betrayal; he had previously thought Eisenhower would make a good president, but said, "he has betrayed almost everything I thought he stood for."[1]

Despite these mishaps, however, Eisenhower had retained his enormous personal popularity from his leading role in the Second World War, and huge crowds turned out to see him around the nation. His campaign slogan, "I Like Ike", was one of the most popular in American history. Stevenson concentrated on giving a series of thoughtful speeches around the nation; he too drew large crowds. Although his style thrilled intellectuals and academics, some political experts wondered if he were speaking "over the heads" of most of his listeners, and they dubbed him an "egghead", based on his baldness and intellectual demeanor. Eisenhower maintained a comfortable lead in the polls throughout most of the campaign.

A notable event of the 1952 campaign concerned a scandal that emerged when Richard Nixon, Eisenhower's running mate, was accused by several newspapers of receiving $18,000 in undeclared "gifts" from wealthy donors. Nixon, who had been accusing the Democrats of hiding crooks, found himself on the defensive. Eisenhower and his aides considered dropping Nixon from the ticket and picking another running mate. However, Nixon saved his political career with a dramatic half-hour speech on live television. In the speech Nixon denied the charges against him, gave a detailed account of his modest financial assets, and offered a glowing assessment of Eisenhower's candidacy. The highlight of the speech came when Nixon stated that a supporter had given his daughters a gift – a dog named "Checkers" – and that he would not return it, because his daughters loved it. The "Checkers" Speech led hundreds of thousands of citizens nationwide to wire the Republican National Committee urging the GOP to keep Nixon on the ticket, and Eisenhower stayed with Nixon.

Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon at a campaign stop

Both campaigns made use of television ads. A notable ad for “Ike” Eisenhower was an issue-free, feel-good animated cartoon with a soundtrack song by Irving Berlin called I Like Ike. For the first time the candidates' personal medical history was released publicly, as were the candidates' financial histories (thanks to Nixon's speech).[8] Near the end of the campaign Eisenhower, in a major speech, announced that if he won the election he would go to Korea to see if he could end the war. His great military prestige, combined with the public's weariness with the conflict, gave Eisenhower the final boost he needed to win.


On election day – November 4, 1952 – Eisenhower won a decisive victory, taking over 55% of the popular vote and winning 39 of the 48 states. He took three Southern states that the Republicans had won only once since Reconstruction: Virginia, Florida, and Texas.

Presidential candidate Party Home state Popular vote Electoral
Running mate Running mate's
home state
Running mate's
electoral vote
Count Pct
Dwight David Eisenhower Republican New York[9] 34,075,529 55.2% 442 Richard Milhous Nixon California 442
Adlai Ewing Stevenson II Democratic Illinois 27,375,090 44.3% 89 John Jackson Sparkman Alabama 89
Vincent Hallinan Progressive California 140,746 0.2% 0 Charlotta Bass New York 0
Stuart Hamblen Prohibition Texas 73,412 0.1% 0 Enoch Holtwick Illinois 0
Douglas MacArthur Constitution Arkansas 17,205 0.0% 0 Harry F. Byrd Virginia 0
Other 87,165 0.1% Other
Total 61,769,147 100% 531 531
Needed to win 266 266

Source (Popular Vote): Leip, David. 1952 Presidential Election Results. Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections (August 1, 2005).Source (Electoral Vote): Electoral College Box Scores 1789–1996. Official website of the National Archives. (August 1, 2005).

Close state races

Election results in these states were within ten percentage points. Colors represent the winning party, using the present-day convention in which red indicates Republican and blue indicates Democrat.

  1. Kentucky, 0.07%
  2. Tennessee, 0.27%
  3. South Carolina, 1.44%
  4. Missouri, 1.56%
  5. Rhode Island, 1.84%
  6. West Virginia, 3.85%
  7. Delaware, 3.88%

See also


  1. ^ a b Gibbs, Nancy (November 10, 2008). "When New President Meets Old, It's Not Always Pretty". TIME.,8599,1857862,00.html. 
  2. ^ Frum, David (2000). How We Got Here: The '70s. New York, New York: Basic Books. p. 7. ISBN 0465041957. 
  3. ^ from Richard C. Bain and Judith H. Parris, Convention Decisions and Voting Records (Washington DC: Brookings Institution, 1973), pp. 286-292
  4. ^ "The Presidents". David Leip. Retrieved 3 January 2009. 
  5. ^ (Richard C. Bain and Judith H. Parris, Convention Decisions and Voting Records, pp. 280-286)
  6. ^ "1952: The Election of a Military Hero". The Press and the Presidency. Kennesaw State University, Department of Political Science & International Affairs. August 31, 2001. Retrieved 2008-11-20. 
  7. ^ "The Corruption Issue: A Pandora's Box, referencing 1952 campaign, article 9/24/56". Time. 1956.,9171,867099-3,00.html. Retrieved 2007-07-26. 
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ Although he was born in Texas and grew up in Kansas before his military career, at the time of his election Eisenhower was president of Columbia University and was, officially, a New York resident. During his first term as president, he moved his private residence to Gettysburg and officially changed his residency to Pennsylvania.


  • Paul T. David; Presidential Nominating Politics in 1952 . Volume: 1954. v1 is summary; vol 2-5 detail every state
  • Gallup, George H. (ed.), ed (1972). The Gallup Poll: Public Opinion, 1935–1971. 3 vols.. Random House. 
  • Divine, Robert A. (1974). Foreign Policy and U.S. Presidential Elections, 1952–1960. 

External links


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