In the 1956 presidential election, popular incumbent Republican Dwight Eisenhower successfully ran for re-election, winning against Democrat Adlai Stevenson, whom he had also defeated 4 years earlier.
Evaluate Eisenhower's success in the 1956 election
The U.S. presidential election of 1956 saw the incumbent President, Republican Dwight Eisenhower, successfully gain reelection.
While Eisenhower was popular, some speculated that his health issues would prevent him from running.
At the Democratic Convention, nominee Adlai Stevenson made the surprise announcement that the convention's delegates would choose his running mate. The two leading contenders were Tennessee Senator Carey Estes Kefauver and young Senator John F. Kennedy. While Kefauver won, the events boosted Kennedy's political career.
Television played an important role in the campaign; it allowed the candidates to reach many demographics at once and made it possible for still-recovering Eisenhower to speak to a broad audience without excessive travel.
The election focused on many domestic issues, including government spending on social programs, the draft, and nuclear testing. In foreign affairs, the Suez Canal Crisis and the Hungarian Crisis helped Eisenhower, though actual U.S. involvement in the two events was, at most, limited.
Although Eisenhower had little interest in civil rights, he received a significant percentage of the African American vote because of his support for the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling that
outlawed segregated public
Eisenhower won over 57% of the popular vote and 41 of the 48 states.
The 34th president of the United States (1953–1961. He was previously a five-star general in the United States Army during World War II, serving as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe. He had responsibility for planning and supervising the invasion of North Africa in Operation Torch in 1942–'43 and the successful invasions of France and Germany in 1944–'45, from the Western Front.
A U.S. politician, noted for his intellectual demeanor, eloquent oratory, and promotion of liberal causes in the Democratic Party, who served as the 31st governor of Illinois and was the Democratic nominee for president in 1952 and 1956. Eisenhower defeated him both times. He sought the Democratic presidential nomination for a third time in the 1960 election but was defeated by Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts.
A landmark 1954 case of the United States Supreme Court. The ruling explicitly outlawed segregated public education facilities, ruling so on the grounds that the doctrine of "separate but equal" public education could never truly provide black Americans with facilities of the same standards available to white Americans. A total of 101 members of the House of Representatives and 19 senators signed "The Southern Manifesto" condemning the Supreme Court decision as unconstitutional.
The 35th president of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963.
The U.S. presidential election of 1956 saw the popular incumbent President, Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower, successfully run for reelection. It was a rematch of 1952, as the Democratic opponent was again Adlai Stevenson. Eisenhower was popular, but his health had become an issue. Stevenson remained popular with a core of liberal Democrats but held no office and had no real base. Eisenhower had ended the Korean War, and the nation was prospering, so a landslide win for the charismatic Eisenhower was never in doubt.
Early in 1956, there was some speculation that Eisenhower would not run for a second term, primarily due to concerns about his health. In 1955, he had suffered a serious heart attack, and in early 1956, he underwent surgery for ileitis. However, he quickly recovered and after being cleared by his doctors, he decided to run for a second term. Given the enormous popularity of Ike (as the president was commonly known), he was renominated with no opposition at the 1956 Republican National Convention in San Francisco, California.
The only question among Republicans was whether Vice President Richard Nixon would once again be on the ballot. Many speculated that Eisenhower privately offered Nixon another position in his cabinet, but in the spring of 1956, Eisenhower publicly announced that Nixon would be his running mate.
The highlight of the 1956 Democratic Convention came when Stevenson, in an effort to create excitement for the ticket, made the surprise announcement that the convention's delegates would choose his running mate. This set off a desperate scramble among several candidates to win the nomination. The two leading contenders were Tennessee Senator Carey Estes Kefauver, who retained the support of his primary delegates, and young Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts, who was relatively unknown at that point. Kennedy surprised the experts by surging into the lead on the second ballot; at one point he was only 15 votes shy of winning. However, a number of states then left their "favorite son" candidates and switched to Kefauver, giving him the victory. Kennedy then gave a gracious concession speech. The defeat was in fact a boost for Kennedy's long-term presidential chances. By coming so close to defeating Kefauver, he gained a great deal of favorable national publicity. Yet by losing to Kefauver, he avoided any potential blame for Stevenson's expected loss to Eisenhower in November.
Stevenson campaigned aggressively against Eisenhower, with television ads for the first time being the dominant medium for both sides. Because Eisenhower's 1952 election victory greatly owed to his winning over women voters, there were many "housewife-focused" ads. Some commentators at the time also argued that television's new prominence was a major factor in Eisenhower's decision to run for a second term at age 66, considering his weakened health. Television allowed Eisenhower to reach people across the country without enduring the strain of repeated travel, making a national campaign more feasible.
Stevenson proposed significant increases in government spending for social programs as well as treaties with the Soviet Union to lower military spending and end nuclear testing on both sides. He also proposed ending the military draft and switching to an all-volunteer military. Eisenhower publicly opposed these ideas, even though in private he was working on a proposal to ban atmospheric nuclear testing.
Handling two developing foreign policy crises that occurred in the weeks before the election also helped Eisenhower. In Soviet-occupied Hungary, many citizens had risen in revolt against Soviet domination, but this quieted with the formation of a new government. Then in Egypt, a combined force of Israeli, British, and French troops invaded to topple Gamal Abdel Nasser and seize the recently nationalized Suez Canal. Eisenhower condemned both actions but was able only to pressure the Western forces to withdraw from Egypt. The Eisenhower administration had also supported the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling in 1954, which ended legal segregation in public schools.
On election day, Eisenhower won over 57% of the popular vote and 41 of the 48 states. Stevenson won only six southern states and the border state of Missouri, becoming the first losing candidate since 1900 (William Jennings Bryan vs. William McKinley) to carry the Show Me State (Missouri would not vote for the losing candidate in a presidential election again until 2008). Eisenhower won Louisiana, making him the first Republican presidential candidate to carry the state since Reconstruction in 1876. As a result of Eisenhower's support for the Brown v. Board of Education decision, he won the support of nearly 40% of black voters. He was the last Republican presidential candidate to receive that level of support from black voters.