Election 1956 – Shuffling The Cards, Reading The Leaves – Past Daily Reference Room
Election 1956. Late in 1955, when speculation was rife over whether or not President Eisenhower would run for a second term, pundits and commentators fell over themselves predicting a possible outcome – everyone agreed, it would be an Eisenhower victory. But the question was, as of September 9, 1955, would President Eisenhower run for a second term? It was a question on everyone’s mind, among Washington watchers. Rumor had it, Eisenhower wasn’t interested in a second term; he wasn’t too crazy about the first term. Being the Commander-in-Chief was considerably different than being a Supreme Allied Commander, and much of the political wrangling didn’t appeal to him.
But the pressure was on to get him to commit to another term. There was much at stake; if not the Presidency, then the Senate and House – and it was shown during the 1954 off-season elections, that without Eisenhower’s blessing, a lot of important races were lost to the Democrats. So, rather than fear the loss of the Presidency without Eisenhower in 1956, it also potentially meant the loss of the Republican party. Fears of a four-way split within the party, come Convention time; knock-down-drag-out-fights in the aisles of the Convention hall. It was predicted not to be pretty, according to observers. While some observers predicted mayhem, others predicted boredom and the possibility of a very dull election process for 1956.
The other issue was one of labor. As of 1955 there was going to be the merger of two powerful unions; the AFofL merging with the CIO. How that would affect the total outcome of an election for either party was anybody’s guess. Still powerful was the Farm bloc to consider. Big Agriculture was a very influential force on Capitol Hill and the candidates were obliged to court it.
But above all, this was what Election 1956 was predicted it may look like – it wasn’t anticipated to be dramatic, once on the campaign trail.
To get an idea of what issues were like in elections from a long time ago (and just how much our political system has changed in recent years) and what concerns we had in 1956, here is a discussion on the then-upcoming election for 1956, along with recent news events in Europe, via the NBC series Keys To The Capitol, recorded on September 9, 1955 between NBC News Correspondents Richard Harkness, Arthur Bario, Bill Sprague and Robert McCormick.