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1932 Presidential Campaign

Franklin Roosevelt’s nomination for President by the Democratic Convention in Chicago in July 1932 led to one of the momentous campaigns in American political history.

Saddled with responsibility for the Depression, President Hoover would have been vulnerable to almost any opponent in 1932.  FDR’s advisors were unanimous in urging him to play it safe and wage a front porch campaign; his running mate, John Nance Garner of Texas, told him, “All you have got to do is stay alive until election day.”

FDR campaigns in Atlanta, Georgia.
October 24, 1932

But from his first political venture in upstate New York, FDR had personally exulted in active campaigning, and in 1932 he felt the times and the mood of the country required no less.

Accordingly he campaigned the length and breadth of the land, carrying his message into forty-one states and making a score of major addresses as well as hundreds of whistle-stop appearances.  It was the most active presidential campaign to that time.

Some of the positions FDR advocated for during the campaign, such as a commitment to lower taxes, balance the budget, and cut the Federal bureaucracy by 25%, came back to haunt him later.  But his energy and personal charm nevertheless carried him to a sweeping victory on November 8, winning forty-two of the forty-eight states, an electoral vote margin of 472 to 59, and a popular vote of 22.8 million to Hoover’s 15.7 million.

Telegram, Herbert Hoover to FDR, November 7, 1932

Vice Presidential Spotlight: John Nance Garner

FDR with John Nance Garner campaigning in Peekskill, New York.
August 14, 1932.

John Nance Garner was a politician from Uvalde County, Texas.  After serving in the Texas Legislature, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1902.  He ran for president in 1932, competing with Governor of New York Franklin D. Roosevelt for the party nomination.  When it became clear at the Democratic National Convention that FDR had the support of the majority of the delegates, Garner’s campaign cut a deal with Roosevelt’s to exchange the support of the Texas delegation for the Vice-Presidential nomination.  Soon after, Roosevelt was nominated as the Democratic candidate for president and Garner was nominated as his running mate, and the pair easily defeated the Republican ticket that November.

Like many southern Democrats, Garner was philosophically opposed to the New Deal, but did not often publically break ranks with the administration.  In 1940, Henry A. Wallace was nominated for Vice President, and Garner returned to private life in Texas.

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