(TIME, May 18, 1936) -- The straight, quiet streets which run north & south in Topeka, Kans, are named for U.S. Presidents. In the ornate, yellow-bricked house at No. 801 Buchanan St., with a dried-up goldfish pool in the front yard, Alf M. Landon crawled out of bed at 7 o'clock one morning last week. Swiftly the Governor of Kansas pulled on an old blue suit, soft white shirt, red and blue tie, black shoes. At 7:20 he was down for a breakfast of orange juice, fruit, scrambled eggs and kidneys, toast and coffee with his two small children -- John Cobb, 2, and Nancy Josephine, 3. Mrs. Landon, whose digestion has suffered lately from all the excitement around her home, did not join them. At 8 the governor set out with his new political secretary and speechwriter, Earl Howard Taylor, onetime associate editor of The Country Gentleman, to walk the eight blocks to Topeka's radio station WIBW, where he and a staff man rehearsed an interview he was going to give to Columbia Broadcasting's Commentator Hans V. Kaltenborn over a nationwide network two days later.
It was well after II before husky, broadshouldered Governor Landon, his collarends flapping and his short, iron-grey hair rumpled, showed up at his office in the State House for his 11 o'clock press conference. Seven newshawks were waiting for him. "Well, well, look who's here," twanged the Governor, a wide smile crinkling his plain, friendly face. "Top o' the mornin' to you all." Slouched back in his chair, brown eyes half-closed behind his octagonal rimless spectacles, the Governor talked about the weather, a fishing trip he planned to take, the lack of news. "You know, boys," drawled he, "I didn't sleep well last night, worryin' about you-all and how there's not much news."
At 12:30 p. m. Governor Landon climbed into the new Packard 120 coupe which he lately bought to replace an old Ford, had his Negro chauffeur drive him home for lunch. At 48 Alf Landon has begun to joke with friends about his growing pauch, but he blames that on his lack of time for as much exercise as he used to get. He always eats light at midday, gives the stream of political writers and politically-minded citizens who have lately been pouring in on him a standard two-course luncheon. When a political correspondent arrived in midafternoon. Nancy Jo and Jack Landon were squabbling over a tricycle. Out on the big, semi-circular front porch, with its comfortable swing, blue wicker chairs and table on which were lying a copy of Western Story and a coverless May issue of Cosmopolitan, the correspondent played with the children under the eye of their plump nurse, Mrs. McCue.
As the correspondent was leaving an hour and a half later, Governor Landon called to the family's Negro maid: "Call up and tell'em to saddle Cy, Myrtle." Motoring out to Topeka's democratic Hunt Club, the Governor went for a brisk seven-mile canter. At 6:30 p. m. the four Landons sat down to their usual big dinner. Missing was 18-year-old Peggy Anne, the Governor's daughter by his first wife, who is a junior at Kansas University. As usual, Nurse McCue ate with the family. After dinner the Governor retired to his study, spent several hours working over the answers he was going to give Radio Interviewer Kaltenborn. No visitors, no long-distance telephone calls, no radio news flashes had come in when he went to bed at 11:15. In California they had only begun to count the primary votes cast that day which might, more than a month in advance of the Cleveland Convention, make it virtually certain that Alf M. Landon would be the next Republican nominee for President of the U.S.
Boom's Beginning. It had been a curious-process which in a few months had raised Alfred Mossman Landon from Kansas obscurity to national prominence as far & away the likeliest GOPossibility. Still explains: "We didn't do anything at first. We just sat back and it all happened."
The first serious suggestion in print of Landon-for- President was in an election follow-up story in the Kansas City Journal-Post on Nov. 7, 1934, day after Afl Landon had become the only Republican Governor in the land to be re-elected in that year's Roosevelt landslide. Throughout the winter and spring of 1935 the Landon candidacy was kept publicly alive only by professional chitchat and an occasional Sunday feature in the newspapers. Meantime a group of Landon neighbors had begun to take the subject seriously in hand.
They were the bosses of the potent Kansas City Star, a traditionally Republican newspaper which had backed Democratic Governor Harry Woodring for re-election in 1932, made a prompt post-election switch to Winner Landon. Managing Editor Roy Roberts, one of Herbert Hoover's best newspaper friends in his days as the best newspaper friends in his days as the Star's able Washington correspondent, had gone to University of Kansas with Alf Landon. The manager of the Star's Kansas bureau, Lacy Haynes, who, as the shrewdest and best-informed political observer in Kansas, is popularly supposed to have dictated to all but one of its Governors since 1920, was an oldtime Landon friend. They, with the Star's President George Longan and Editor Henry Haskell, nursed the Landon candidacy along with quiet talk and sage advice while talk of New Deal waste and extravagance grew louder & louder in the land.
At the end of fiscal 1935, it was reported that Kansas had again balanced its budget. At least ten other states had done likewise, but Governor Landon promptly got to a radio microphone, called the nation's attention to Kansas. Alert for a man who might put Franklin Roosevelt out of the White House, William Randolph Hearst sent a flying squad of investigators into Kansas to comb Alf Landon's private and public record. Reporting satisfactorily, they were followed by a flock of ace Hearst writers and the great Landon Boom was on.
Almost overnight the nation's press blossomed with stories about the "Great Economizer," the "Kansas Coolidge." Enormously curious to know what the fuss was about, the public demanded more & more. After two-and-a-half years of political pyrotechnics in Washington, a quiet, undramatic family man who made nickel bets on baseball games and believed in running a government on a pay- as-you-go basis made spectacularly popular copy. In Kansas City's Muehlebach Hotel three Landon friends, a small-town lawyer and two small-town newspaper publishers, set up a two-room campaign headquarters, began answering Landon correspondence, making reprints of complimentary Press pieces on the Governor, which they sent out only on request. Landon friends began to spread out over neighboring states for quiet, unofficial missionary work. Up to Jan. 1, 1936 all this activity had cost not more than $2,500.
Manager. By last week Landon headquarters in Kansas City had grown to a dozen rooms, while expenditures had passed the $57,000 mark and Candidate Landon had acquired a national campaign manager in the person of his onetime political foe, John D.M. Hamilton. Long on opposite sides of their Party's liberal- conservative fence in Kansas. Republicans Landon and Hamilton patched up their differences, with Alf Landon becoming Governor and John Hamilton becoming Republican National Committeeman. A dynamic, able public speaker, jut-jawed John Hamilton was called to Washington in 1934 as general counsel of the National Committee, later assigned to help Chairman Henry P. Fletcher pep up the Party, make fight talks against the New Deal at $15,000 per year. Last March he moved out of National Committee headquarters to become Alf Landon's Man Farley. If Alf Landon wins the nomination at Cleveland, he is expected to replace Henry Fletcher as National Chairman with John Hamilton.
Under Manager Hamilton's expert ministrations, the Landon campaign has snowballed along this year in orthodox political fashion. Flocking to a likely winner, politicians amateur and professional have climbed the Landon bandwagon.(Some members of a prospective For-Landon-Before-Cleveland club: Massachusetts' onetime Governor Alvan T. Fuller: onetime Ambassador to Mexico J. Reuben Clark Jr.; Penman Walter A. Schaeffer; Saltman Sterling Morton; Princeton Professor William Starr Meyers; Publisher Eugene Meyer; Railroader Ralph Budd; Motorman Charles W. Nash; President Michael Joseph O'Brien of Chicago's Stock Exchange.) The five-month record of the American Institute of Public Opinion poll:
Dec. Feb. Apr. May Landon 33% 43% 56% 56% Borah 26 28 20 19 Hoover 12 17 14 14 Knox 8 75 5 Vandenberg 3 44 5
Hearst. Last week newspaper headlines which have been monotonously announcing that "Missouri Delegates Are Pledged to Landon" or "Landon to Get 90 New York Votes, Leaders Hint" bore news of a different stripe. Cried they; LANDON LOSES IN CALIFORNIA. In Topeka, Governor Landon, whose boom has been so largely created by headline, admitted that this trumpeting of defeat was a solemn setback, his first. But observers who read beneath the headlines found a different story.
Few months ago the titular head of the Republican Party, Herbert Hoover, not daring to risk defeat in his home state, but bent on having at least a strong voice in the convention, rallied a few potent cronies of the State's Republican machine and entered a delegation of convention candidates in California's primaries. Nominally pledged to Republican State Chairman Earl Warren, the delegation was well understood to be "uninstructed." In opposition to it, William Randolph Hearst put forward a delegation of convention candidates in California's primaries. Nominally pledged to Republican State Chairman Earl Warren, the delegation was well understood to be "uninstructed." In opposition to it, William Randolph Hearst put forward a delegation pledged to Alf M. Landon. Few days later he was joined by lightweight Governor Frank Meriam, who had been ignored in the Hoover slate. Governor Landon, sticking steadfastly to his pose that the nomination must seek him, refused to approve or repudiate the Hears-Merriam ticket.
It takes two sides to make an issue, and in the California campaign which followed, Alf M. Landon was definitely not an issue. Puffed by Hearstpapers, he got courteous treatment, many a kind word from Hoover supporters. Their cry: Is William Randolph Hearst, a New York Democrat, to become master of California Republicanism? When California Republicans marched to the polls last week and said "no" by 344,000 votes to 256,000, that verdict was almost universally interpreted as a thoroughgoing rebuff to William Randolph Hearst and Frank F. Merriam.
Not a blow but a blessing in most observers' eyes was the California vote to Governor Landon. Ever since Publisher Hearst took up the Landon candidacy, and especially since he and his entourage descended on Topeka last December in two private cars and a chartered Pullman, Hearst support has been a prime Landon problem.
"I believe that Hearst as an ally of any politician is a form of political suicide," declared one of Alf Landon's supporters, wise old William Allen White of Emporia last month. "Hearst is a hitch-hiker on the Landon bandwagon. Sooner or later Landon will have to throw him off or feel Hearst's gun in his ribs. For his own good luck -- the sooner the better."
Last week California voters solved Alf Landon's problem for him. Publisher Hearst could still puff the Landon boom, but the one instrument by which he could have exerted real pressure on the Kansas candidate had irretrievably slipped his grasp. Commented Governor Landon: "I am entirely satisfied with the California results."
Friends & Foes. Untraveled Alf Landon has no such multitude of friends throughout the land as Franklin Roosevelt had cultivated before 1932. By the same token, he has few enemies. Candidate Herbert Hoover is reputed to have privately called Candidate Landon "wishy-washy" and "smeared with oil." Candidate Frank Knox has publicly declared Alf Landon a man after his own mind, whom he would gladly support in a Presidential campaign. Candidate William E. Borah last week announced: "If Mr. Knox or Mr. Landon comes to the Cleveland convention with a fair expression of the public that he is their choice, I'm not going to stand in the way."
Chief Landon whisper has been that he is in the toils of his old friend, Harry ("Teapot Dome") Sinclair, whom he new as a fellow townsman in Independence, Kans., as a Kansas University fraternity brother, as a fellow oilman. Alf Landon says he has not even seen Harry Sinclair in at least six years, perhaps ten.
No one has yet accused Candidate Landon of accumulating a campaign slush fund, a charge usually hurled about this time at any candidate who gets out in front in the race for the Presidential nomination. Last week his Kansas City Campaign Chairman Oscar Stauffer could not "remember offhand" who had supplied the biggest Landon campaign contribution to date: $2,500.
Because Kansas is traditionally Dry, many an Eastern toper loudly vows that he will vote for no Kansan who, as President, might favor a return to Prohibition. Al Landon used to like a drink himself, but now he and his guests get nothing stronger than Coca-Cola. No fanatic on the liquor question, he says he accepts the 21st Amendment as the nation's will.
If Governor Landon is nominated at Cleveland, pious people who dislike the Roosevelt religious record will have a chance to vote for a Methodist who goes to church about as irregularly as the present President.
"Fox." Son of a well-to-do independent oil producer, Alf Landon belonged to Phi Gamma Delta at University of Kansas in 1904-08. Fraternity records show that he got the ice cream course eliminated from the house menu, tried and failed to have only one orchestra instead of two hired for the spring lawn party, oulawed gambling in the chapter house, opposed motions to install a stein rack and to discontinue "Dr. Wilbur's Bible lessons." No niggard, however, Alf Landon gave the fraternity a cuspidor. No "Christer," he downed his beer with other members of Theta Nu Epsilon, oldtime campust drinking society. In his one year of academic study and three years of law, Alf Landon's prime avocation was the workings of fraternity and campus politics,which he mastered so thoroughly that fellow students nicknamed him "The Fox."
Back home in Independence, Alf Landon spent four years in a bank, then plunged into the oil business as an independent producer like his father. In that arduous and riskly line -- by enterprise, hard work, fair dealing and stiff bargaining -- he made a fortune which is now estimated at from $250,000 to $2,000,000, invested chiefly in some 100 Kansas and Oklahoma wells he still owns. He also, in his comings & goings in search of oil, made friends all over Kansas. Shortly after his first wife died in 1918, Alf Landon volunteered for Army Service, was called in mid-September, commissioned a Lieutenant in the Chemical warfare Division in October, month before the Armistice. Candidate Landon wears his American Legion button, does not talk mush about his War record.
Available on request at Governor Landon's Kansas City headquarters are mimeographed copies of press puffs ballyhooing him as the Great Budget Balancer. Alf Landon is careful to say, however, that the credit for Kansas' fiscal soundness "Does not belong to any one political party or State administration."
Kansas finances rest on three main props: 1) the Tax Limitation Act, restricting local taxing bodies to a maximum levy for any one prupose and to a maximum total; 2) the budget Law, requiring local governments to publish their budgets in advance, hold public hearings; 3) the Cash Basis Law which limits every locality to pay-as-you-go spending. The last is a Landon measure. The first tow were initiated by Democratic Governor Woodring. Governor Landon has stuck to the law's letter. But the enormous myth which GOPartisans have made of hs budget-balancing feat may be finally debunked by reflection on the probable state of Kansas' finances if the Federal budget had been balanced since 1933, thus depriving dust, drought and Depression-stricken Kansas of the $400,000,000 of Federal money whch has poured in from such souces as RFC, HOLC and FCA loans, AAA checks and Relief.
Alf Landon has shrewdly avoided offering specific answers to national problems. His rare speeches to date have been to the effect that it would be nice to attain many New Deal goals without New Deal spending and experiment. "No reasonable citizen should ask us what to do," cried he in his second broadside at the New Deal last winter. "The American people propose to solve their problems under the American system."
In his well-rehearsed radio interview last week, Candidate Landon uttered his boldest words to date, took the following stands on issues of the day:
With these views, spoken in an honest, cracker-barrel voice which showed that Alf Landon's efforts to improve his strident, monotonous radio delivery have brought results hardly a citizen, from President Roosevelt down, could well differ. Nor could they disagree with another remark of Governor Landon's in the course of his interview: "Good intentions are not enough."
Alf M. Landon has been an able Governor of Kansas. Honestly provincial, he is devouring stiff economic and social treatises, trying hard to push his mental horizon beyond Kansas plains. Of his capacity to fill the White House chair, his friend William Allen White devoutly declares: "If a man has any latent subconscious powers they are aroused by the overwhelming responsiblity. . . .I am inclined to believe that Landon would rise to it. I don't know. No man knows. I don't think he knows."
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