General Dwight Eisenhower Election 1952
Gaining Popularity, Gaining Votes
In Quintus Tullius Cicero’s letter to his brother, Marcus Tullius Cicero, who was running for consul in 64 B.C. he illustrated many aspects of a campaign that are still present in modern campaigns. Cicero explains that running for office involves making sure friends support you as well as gaining support from the general public. General Dwight “Ike” Eisenhower’s 1952 campaign was definitely successful in gaining and using all types of support, as his enormous popularity was what eventually caused him to win the election by a huge margin.
Even before his nomination, General Eisenhower was hugely popular as commander of the Allied forces in Europe in World War II, president of Columbia University after the war, and the commander of NATO forces in Europe. Ike was so popular that both the Democrats and Republicans wanted him as their candidate, but he ultimately decided to be a Republican and sought the Republican nomination after resigning as commander of NATO.
Although General Eisenhower was Republican, he was moderate, appealing to Americans with many different political opinions. In his famous “Ike for President” commercial, elephants are shown supporting him and donkeys are portrayed as old and out of style. This exemplifies Ike’s middle of the road views; even though he was a Republican he still gained Democratic support with his moderate views. In the caricature of the Republican presidents of the past in this commercial, it shows Ike is a welcome change because he was unlike his predecessors.
Instead of gaining support through his speeches, which were somewhat disappointing to audiences, Ike gained support though political commercials, a main feature of his campaign. The political television commercials at this time marked a change in campaigning. The newness of television meant that it was in this election there was the first attempt to “sell” a candidate in the same way household products were sold. Ike’s campaign spots were played after popular TV shows to reach more viewers and gain more support for the candidate.
In opposition to some of Cicero’s advice, which was to pay special attention to wealthy citizens and businessmen, Ike clearly treated every vote equally and strived for support from Americans across the board. In his “Ike for President” commercial, many cartoon people are shown supporting Ike. The many different types of people pictured, from firemen, to mechanics, to businessmen, to women and many more shows his popularity across the board. This aligns with what he announced in his speech accepting the Republican Nomination. Eisenhower said, “Americans in every walk of life can have confidence that our single minded purpose is to serve their interest.” Ike is emphasized that he fought for the people as a whole, and supported citizens in all positions.
In many of General Eisenhower’s commercials, he was featured answering the questions of American’s and calming their fears of the future. This increased his popularity because the public could see how he would handle problems as president as well see that he was also an American who thought about these problems like they did. In one of his commercials, Ike assured voters that his wife was also worried about the high cost of living. This is a method of campaigning, focusing on candidate image, which showed that he was a family man who was supportive of his wife. It also is more likely to assure the public that he will deal with these concerns since they are similar to his wife’s. In fact, Congresswoman Clare Boothe Luce commented that Eisenhower would be sure to gain the woman’s vote because he, “exemplified what the fair sex looks for—a combination of father, husband, and son.”Ike was supported by all groups of people, but especially appealed to women because they were seen as more likely to look for a family man as a president.
Even though he was popular throughout his campaign, what ultimately won the election for Ike was on October 24, 1952 he made a speech in Detroit, Michigan in which he promised to personally travel to Korea to end the war if he was elected president. This made him substantially more popular to the American people. Polls that had been giving him only a slight lead over his opponent Stevenson now promised certain victory.
The election itself was a landslide win for Eisenhower. He won by 55.4 percent of the popular vote and carried 39 states with 442 electoral votes.
Boller, Paul F., Jr. Presidential Campaigns. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.
“Campaign Spot: Ike for President (1952).” History.com. Video file, 01:03. Accessed October 9, 2012. http://www.history.com/videos/campaign-spot-ike-for-president-1952#campaign-spot-ike-for-president-1952.
Eisenhower, Dwight D. “Address Accepting the Presidential Nomination.” Speech presented at Republican National Convention, Chicago, IL, July 11, 1952. The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=75626&st=&st1=.
———. “’I Shall Go to Korea’ Speech.” Speech presented in Detroit, MI, October 24, 1952. Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum. Accessed October 10, 2012. http://www.eisenhower.archives.gov/research/online_documents/korean_war/I_Shall_Go_To_Korea_1952_10_24.pdf.
Hollitz, John E. “Eisenhower and the Admen: The Television ‘Spot’ Campaign of 1952.” Wisconsin Magazine of History, 25-39. Accessed October 9, 2012. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4635688.