The photos are of the Republican candidates since 1916 who ran against an incumbent Democrat president running for reelection. The only Republican to successfully defeat an incumbent Democrat during this time was Ronald Reagan in 1980 against Jimmy Carter. In 2012, the conditions are worse than in 1980, and it may be more difficult to defeat Obama than we currently realize. Those bloggers and online political junkies who think this is just going to be a piece of cake to defeat Obama should stop bloviating and get to work improving republican voter turnout. It will be a relief when the GOP presidential primaries are over – then we can focus on unifying behind one Republican.
One online political voice that has great skills with discussions about campaigns is Rush Limbaugh. He has spoken well of the Republicans when they strongly attack Obama, and he has mildly chided them when they attack each other. He knows that one of them will get the nomination, and unifying behind this person is the first and most important step toward defeating Obama. It will be more difficult to do if that person has been brutally savaged in the primary process.
Let me remind everyone of what occurred when the Republican candidates failed to win.
1996 Senator Bob Dole
Bob Dole was the early front runner for the GOP nomination in the 1996 presidential race. He was expected to win the nomination against underdog candidates such as the more conservative Senator Phil Gramm of Texas and more moderate Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania. However populist Pat Buchanan upset Dole in the early New Hampshire primary, with Dole finishing second and former Tennessee governor Lamar Alexander finishing third. Publisher Steve Forbes also ran and broadcast a stream of negative ads. At least eight candidates ran for the nomination.
On CNN’s Inside Politics the day before he left the Senate, Bob Dole reopened the issue of the pro-life plank in the Republican Platform and said that his proposed statement of “tolerance” is “going to be in the abortion plank, not in the preamble.” Dole went on to say that he wants to “make it clear to the people that we are tolerant … it ought to be right up there, where people can see it” and, he added, “I make that decision. It’s not negotiable.” Dole was defeated, as pundits had long expected, by Bill Clinton in the 1996 election. Clinton won in a 379-159 Electoral College landslide, capturing 49.2% of the vote against Dole’s 40.7% and Ross Perot’s 8.4% who drew equally from both candidates.
Dole is the only person in the history of the two major U.S. political parties to have been his party’s nominee for both President and Vice President, but who was never elected to either office.
1964 Senator Barry Goldwater
Barry Goldwater joined the Republican Party and in 1952 was elected to the Senate. He immediately became a loyal supporter of Joe McCarthy and was one of only 22 senators who voted against his censure in December, 1954. He later recalled: “The anti-anticommunists were outraged at his claims that some of the principals in the Truman and Roosevelt administrations actively served the communist causes.
Goldwater was highly critical of the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson. He favored a more aggressive approach to the Vietnam War. Nominated by the Republican Party as its presidential candidate in 1964, he upset many of his potential supporters by voting against Johnson’s Anti-Poverty Act (1964).
In 1964, Goldwater ran a conservative campaign that emphasized “states’ rights.” Goldwater’s 1964 campaign was a magnet for conservatives since he opposed interference by the federal government in state affairs. Although he had supported all previous federal civil rights legislation and had supported the original senate version of the bill, Goldwater made the decision to oppose the Civil Rights Act of 1964. His stance was based on his view that the act was an intrusion of the federal government into the affairs of states and, second, that the Act interfered with the rights of private persons to do business, or not, with whomever they chose.
Although his views on civil rights made him popular in the Deep South, he was easily defeated by Johnson by 42,328,350 votes to 26,640,178. Goldwater received 38.8 per cent of the vote and won only six states.
1944 and 1948 New York Governor Thomas Dewey
Thomas Dewey was elected governor in 1942. He ran a tight ship, providing a professional and businesslike administration. He insisted on the first state law anywhere against racial or religious discrimination regarding employment, improved employment, and disability benefits. An effective labor mediation board and a large-scale highway building program were added to Dewey’s list of accomplishments.
As the Republican candidate for president in 1944, Dewey could not match the wartime incumbent’s reputation, and the nation reelected Franklin D. Roosevelt. Tenacious and unwavering, however, Dewey was nominated again in 1948, this time running against Vice President Harry S. Truman.
Owing to Dewey’s eventual lack of interest in, and avoidance of, crime cases, a federal investigative committee decided to question him. They had in mind the Luciano pardon, and also gambling issues in Dewey’s state. His lack of response to the committee left more people to wonder about his dealings with the Mob. It appeared that the New York governor knew very little about crime in his own state. His third term as governor ended in 1955.
1940 lawyer/businessman Wendell Wilkie
Wendell Lewis Willkie was born in 1892 into a prominent, but not prosperous, family in the central Indiana town of Elwood. Both his parents were attorneys; his mother was one of the first women to practice law in Indiana. After graduating from Indiana University, Willkie briefly practiced law in his parents’ law firm until 1917, when he joined the U.S. Army to fight in World War I. Following the war, Willkie moved to Akron, Ohio, where he briefly worked for the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company before joining a private law practice.
Willkie moved to New York City in 1929, where he was legal counsel to the Commonwealth & Southern Corporation, the nation’s largest electric utility holding company. Holding companies such as the C & S were essentially parent companies of several smaller subsidiaries. This arrangement, new at the time, allowed a small number of shareholders to control a large number of companies, and in the utility business, this meant unprecedented control over energy sources. FDR thought the government should control the energy business, and so he established the Tennessee Valley Authority, his most ambitious New Deal project. Certainly, the TVA was a flood-control program, but equally important to FDR, it was also a way to reduce the control that private companies had over the electrification of the Tennessee River Valley.
When delegates and party leaders gathered in June for their convention in Philadelphia they found themselves deadlocked: None of the leading candidates could win enough delegates to win the nomination. Although Willkie arrived at the convention with the fewest number of delegates (he hadn’t entered any primaries), his supporters slowly and steadily won the nomination for him by convincing enough delegates that he was the best compromise candidate. Willkie’s victory on the sixth ballot was dubbed “The Miracle at Philadelphia.” Soon after the convention, however, it became clear that Republican leaders and rank and file party workers were not going to work very hard for Willkie. Although Willkie waged a vigorous campaign against FDR, he was distracted on numerous occasions by skirmishes with GOP leaders. This, combined with the reluctance of many voters to change leaders while America was on the verge of entering the war in Europe, were two major reasons for Willkie’s defeat in November. Although Willkie received more votes than any previous GOP candidate had ever managed to get, he carried only ten states, including his home state of Indiana.
1936 Kansas Governor Alf Landon
Alf Landon used his degree in law to begin a political career and joined the Republican Party in 1912. With his knowledge of the law, he helped to campaign for Theodore Roosevelt and also the Progressive Party. Landon helped to propose programs that dealt with women’s suffrage, direct election of senators, antitrust legislation, and the prohibition of child labor.
Landon was chosen in 1936 by the Republican Party to be the presidential candidate to stand against Franklin D. Roosevelt. Roosevelt easily won with 27,751,612 votes to Landon’s 16,681,913 votes. Many politicians believed that it was Roosevelt’s manner of dealing with the faltering economy through the New Deal that made him the favorite. Even after the election, Landon expressed much respect for Roosevelt, and he agreed with much of the New Deal.
1916 New York Governor/Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes
In 1906, Charles Evans Hughes defeated the famed publisher, William Randolph Hearst, for governor of New York with backing from fellow Republican Theodore Roosevelt. Hughes established a progressive record in his two terms in office by securing labor legislation, insurance reform and the creation of a Public Service Commission. He resigned in 1910 to accept an appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court from William Howard Taft.
Hughes stepped down from the Court in 1916 to a run for president on the Republican ticket. He also was nominated by the Bull Moose Party.
I put in bold text where it is an important point that was not unifying for the Republican party. It is not doing a flip-flop. It’s more like a lack of supreme confidence, and a wink to the other side. Bob Dole gave a wink to those who support a woman’s right to choose an abortion. Goldwater gave a wink to the southern segregationists. Thomas Dewey gave a wink to big labor unions. Wendell Wilkie did not give a wink, and the Republican party leadership and precinct workers resented him for not being a politician. Alf Landon gave a wink to FDR. Charles Evans Hughes gave a wink to the progressives.
Ronald Reagan succeeded where the other six candidates failed because he unified voters to support him, and he never gave a wink to the opposition. 2012 is a very important year to remember what separates victory from defeat.