Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Presidential election results map. Red denotes states won by Roosevelt/Wallace, Blue denotes those won by Willkie/McNary. Numbers indicate the number of electoral votes allotted to each state.
Before Election Franklin D. Roosevelt Democratic
After Election Franklin D. Roosevelt Democratic
The United States presidential election of 1940 was fought in the shadow of World War II as the United States was emerging from the Great Depression. Incumbent President Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR), a Democrat, broke with tradition and ran for a third term, which became a major issue. The surprise Republican candidate was maverick businessman Wendell Willkie, a dark horse who crusaded against Roosevelt's failure to end the Depression and eagerness for war. Roosevelt, aware of strong isolationist sentiment in the U.S., promised there would be no foreign wars if he were reelected. Willkie conducted an energetic campaign and managed to revive Republican strength in areas of the Midwest and Northeast. However, Roosevelt won a comfortable victory by building strong support from labor unions, big-city political machines, ethnic voters, and the traditionally Democratic Solid South.

Democratic Candidates
Throughout the winter, spring, and summer of 1940 there was much speculation as to whether Roosevelt would break with long-standing tradition and run for an unprecedented third term. The "two-term" tradition, although not yet enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, had been established by President George Washington when he refused to run for a third term in 1796, and no President had ever been elected to a third term. Roosevelt, however, refused to give a definitive statement as to his willingness to be a candidate, and he even indicated to some ambitious Democrats, such as James Farley, that he would not be a candidate again and that they could seek the nomination. However, as Nazi Germany swept through western Europe and menaced Britain in the summer of 1940 Roosevelt decided that only he had the necessary experience and skills to see the nation safely through the Nazi threat. He was aided by the party's bosses, who feared that no Democrat except FDR could defeat the charismatic Willkie, who had already been chosen as the Republican candidate. The balloting at the Democratic Convention went thus:
John Nance Garner, Roosevelt's Vice-President, was a Texas conservative who had turned against Roosevelt because of his liberal economic and social policies; as such Roosevelt decided to pick another running mate. He chose Henry A. Wallace, his Secretary of Agriculture, to be the vice-presidential nominee. Wallace, an outspoken liberal, was strenuously opposed by many delegates at the convention, particularly the more conservative Southern Democrats.
Wallace won by a vote of 626 to 325 for House Speaker William Bankhead and a smattering of others.

James A. Farley, U.S. Postmaster General from New York
John Nance Garner, Vice President of the United States from Texas
Cordell Hull, U.S. Secretary of State from Tennessee
Franklin D. Roosevelt, President of the United States from New York
Millard E. Tydings, U.S. senator from Maryland Democratic Party Nomination
Republican Candidates
In the months leading up to the opening of the 1940 Republican National Convention, the three leading candidates for the GOP nomination were considered to be Senators Robert Taft of Ohio and Arthur Vandenberg of Michigan, and District Attorney Thomas E. Dewey of New York. Taft was the leader of the GOP's conservative, isolationist wing, and his main strength was in his native Midwest and parts of the South. Vandenberg, the senior Republican in the Senate, was the "favorite son" candidate of the Michigan delegation and was considered a possible compromise candidate. Dewey, the District Attorney for Manhattan, had risen to national fame as the "Gangbuster" prosecutor who had sent numerous infamous mafia figures to prison, most notably "Lucky" Luciano, the organized-crime boss of New York City. All three men had campaigned vigorously during the primary season, but only 300 of the 1,000 convention delegates had been pledged to a candidate by the time the convention opened. This left an opening for a dark horse candidate to emerge.
A Wall Street-based industrialist named Wendell Willkie, who had never before run for public office, emerged as the unlikely nominee. Willkie, a former Democrat who had been a pro-Roosevelt delegate at the 1932 Democratic National Convention, was considered an improbable choice. Willkie had first come to public attention as an articulate critic of Roosevelt's attempt to break up electrical power monopolies. Willkie was the CEO of the Commonwealth and Southern power company, and he opposed the federal government's attempts to compete with private enterprise, claiming that the government had unfair advantages over private companies. Willkie did not dismiss all of Roosevelt's social welfare programs, and in fact he supported those which he believed could not be done any better by the free enterprise system. Willkie's persuasive arguments impressed many Republicans, who believed that he would be an attractive candidate. He had strong backing from media magnates, such as Ogden Reid of the New York Herald Tribune, Roy Howard of the Scripps-Howard chain and John and Gardner Cowles, publishers of the Minneapolis Star and the Minneapolis Tribune, as well as the Des Moines Register and Look magazine. These men used their media empires to build a powerful grassroots organization for Willkie. Even so, Willkie remained a long-shot candidate; the May 8 Gallup Poll showed Dewey at 67% support among Republicans, followed by Vandenberg and Taft, with Willkie at only 3%.
Willkie was aided by the fact that each of the other major GOP candidates had weaknesses which could be exploited. Taft's fierce isolationism and controversial positions against the popular New Deal social welfare programs led many Republicans to believe that he could not be elected, particularly as France fell to the Nazis in May 1940 and Britain appeared in danger of invasion. Dewey's relative youth - he was only 38 in 1940 - and lack of any foreign-policy experience caused his candidacy to weaken as the Nazi military emerged as a fearsome threat. In 1940 Vandenberg was also an isolationist (he would later change his foreign-policy views during World War II), and his lackadaisical, easygoing campaign never caught the voter's attention. Willkie, in contrast, emerged as a "fresh face"; he was well-spoken, witty, dramatic, and most importantly, he publicly supported the British and French war effort and denounced the Nazis when many leading Republicans were urging the nation to avoid the conflict and leave the British to their fate.
The Nazi Army's rapid blitz into France in April 1940 shook American public opinion, even as Taft was telling a Kansas audience that America must concentrate on domestic issues to prevent Roosevelt from using the international crisis to extend socialism at home. In upstate New York Republican Congressman Hamilton Fish III, an isolationist who was accused of being a Nazi sympathizer, warned that Roosevelt had become Churchill's willing accomplice in leading America into war against Germany to preserve the British Empire and protect Soviet Communism. Nevertheless, sympathy for the embattled British was mounting daily. By mid-June, little over one week before the Republican Convention opened, the Gallup poll reported that Willkie had moved into second place with 17%, and that Dewey was slipping. Fueled by his favorable media attention, Willkie's pro-British statements won over many of the delegates. As the delegates were arriving in Philadelphia, Gallup reported that Willkie had surged to 29%, Dewey had slipped 5 more points to 47%, and Taft, Vandenberg and former President Herbert Hoover trailed at 8%, 8%, and 6% respectively.
Hundreds of thousands, perhaps as many as one million, telegrams urging support for Willkie poured in, many from "Willkie Clubs" that had sprung up across the country. Millions more signed petitions circulating everywhere. At the 1940 Republican National Convention itself, keynote speaker Harold Stassen, the Governor of Minnesota, announced his support for Willkie and became his official floor manager. Hundreds of vocal Willkie supporters packed the upper galleries of the convention hall. Willkie's amateur status, his fresh face, appealed to delegates as well as voters. The delegations were selected not by primaries but by party leaders in each state, and they had a keen sense of the fast-changing pulse of public opinion. Gallup found the same thing in polling data not reported until after the convention: Willkie had moved ahead among Republican voters by 44% to only 29% for the collapsing Dewey. As the pro-Willkie galleries repeatedly yelled "We Want Willkie", the delegates on the convention floor began their vote. Dewey led on the first ballot but steadily lost strength thereafter. Both Taft and Willkie gained in strength on each ballot, and by the fourth ballot it was obvious that either Willkie or Taft would be the nominee. The key moments came when the delegations of large states such as Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New York left Dewey and Vandenberg and switched to Willkie, giving him the victory on the sixth ballot. The voting went like this:
Willkie's nomination is still considered by most historians to have been one of the most dramatic moments in any political convention. Having given little thought to who he would select as his vice-presidential nominee, Willkie left the decision to convention chairman and Massachussetts Congressman Joe Martin, the House Minority Leader, who suggested Senate Minority Leader Charles L. McNary of Oregon. Despite the fact that McNary had spearheaded a "Stop Willkie" campaign late in the balloting, the candidate picked him to be his running mate:

Styles Bridges, U.S. senator from New Hampshire
Harlan J. Bushfield, Governor of South Dakota
Thomas E. Dewey, Manhattan District Attorney, New York
Frank E. Gannett, newspaper editor from New York
Herbert Hoover, former President of the United States from California
Arthur H. James, Governor of Pennsylvania
Joseph W. Martin, Minority Leader of the U.S. House of Representative from Massachusetts
Hanford MacNider, former Ambassador to Canada from Iowa
Charles L. McNary, U.S. Senate Minority Leader from Oregon
Robert A. Taft, U.S. senator from Ohio
Arthur Vandenberg, U.S. senator from Michigan
Wendell L. Willkie, businessman from New York Republican Party Nomination

General election
Willkie crusaded against Roosevelt's attempt to break the two-term presidential tradition, arguing that "if one man is indispensable, then none of us is free." Willkie also criticized what he claimed was the incompetence and waste in Roosevelt's New Deal welfare programs; he stated that as President he would keep most of FDR's government programs but would make them more efficient. Willkie was a fearless campaigner; he often visited industrial areas where Republicans were still blamed for causing the Great Depression and where FDR was highly popular. In these areas Willkie frequently had rotten fruit and produce thrown at him, and was heckled by crowds, yet he was unfazed. Willkie also accused Roosevelt of leaving the nation unprepared for war, but Roosevelt preempted the military issue by expanding military contracts and establishing the lend-lease program to supply the British with badly-needed weapons and warships. Willkie then reversed his approach and accused Roosevelt of secretly planning to take the nation into World War II. The charge did cut into Roosevelt's support; in response FDR, in a pledge that he would later regret, promised that he would "not send American boys into any foreign wars." On election day - November 5 - Roosevelt received 27 million votes to Willkie's 22 million, and in the Electoral College, Roosevelt defeated Willkie 449 to 82. Willkie did get over six million more votes than the GOP's 1936 nominee, Alfred M. Landon, and he ran strong in rural areas in the American Midwest, taking over 57% of the farm vote. Roosevelt, meanwhile, carried every American city with a population over 400,000 except for Cincinnati, Ohio.

The Fall Campaign
Source (Popular Vote): Leip, David. 1940 Presidential Election Results. Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections (July 31, 2005).
Source (Electoral Vote): Electoral College Box Scores 1789–1996. Official website of the National Archives. (July 31, 2005).

United States presidential election, 1940United States presidential election, 1940 Results

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