The Care & Feeding of the Baby
(TIME, July 16, 1956) -- "I know that a Democrat is just like a Baby. If it's hollering and making a lot of noise, there is nothing serious the matter with it. But if it's quiet and still and don't pay much attention to anything, why that's when it's really dangerous."-- Will Rogers
With little more than a month to go before the national convention, the Democratic Baby last week was uncommonly quiet and still. Party leaders nibbled cucumber sandwiches in Illinois, collected chigger bites in Iowa, stood at attention for the Uruguayan national anthem in Montevideo (Minn.), smiled at each other across a table in Manhattan's "21." At national committee headquarters, staff members were calmly looking beyond the convention, planning to conduct the fall campaign with the help of Madison Avenue's Norman, Craig & Kummel, Inc., the advertising agency that made the Maidenform bra a symbol of the American Dream. Even in South Carolina, where the civil-rights issue is seething, Democratic delegates caucused, tut-tutted talk of a third party, voted to seek their objectives "within the framework" of the Democratic Party.
Beneath this calm surface, the Democratic situation of 1956 has the ingredients for as much hollering and noise as the party has ever heard before. There is the basic split between moderates and radicals on economic and social policy. The fuse burns short on the civil-rights issue. And personal bitterness grows between the two leading candidates for the nomination: Adlai Ewing Stevenson of Illinois and William Averell Harriman of New York. The key question as the convention approaches: Will the quiet be broken?
Coddling & Joggling. In the preconvention campaign Adlai Stevenson has taken a big lead with his moderate, brothers-in-arms appeal to party unity. It is his clear strategy to coddle the Democratic Baby. He wants no wounded feelings or angry yowling. He hopes to lie low in the last weeks before the convention while his managers clinch his nomination with a starkly simple piece of advice to uncommitted delegates: "Jump onto the bandwagon while there are still choice seats."
As the man who must arouse more interest in his candidacy, Harriman follows an equally clear strategic plan: joggle the Baby. His crucial moment will come when the Democratic resolutions committee meets in Chicago Aug. 6 to hammer out a party platform. His main effort is aimed at using civil rights as an explosive issue to blow the roof off the convention hall -- and the nomination out of Stevenson's hands.
Last week Candidate Stevenson was playing to the hilt his role of leading candidate, party peacemaker and (with all outward confidence) the certain nominee. He traveled to Bloomington, Ill. (his old home town) for a cucumber-sandwich garden party and a Fourth of July picnic. Acting as though he had not a Democratic foe in the world, he threw all his darts at Republicans, declared that the Eisenhower Administration is "stalled in the middle of the road," that "our prosperity is as spotted as a coach dog," and that "evidence is mounting that we are losing the cold war while neutralism is on the rise through much of the world."
After the picnic Stevenson entrained for Iowa with the air of a man who really had nothing much to do. Accompanied by 25-year-old Adlai Stevenson Jr., he informed no Iowa politicians of his coming. (Said one baffled county chairman: "I just happened to hear it on the radio.") His mission was to collect farm facts for the fall presidential campaign, observe the effects of drought on Iowa's farmers (he was thwarted by a rain that fell steadily for three days). His method was to seek out farmers and ask questions, prefacing them with the explanation: "Folks, my objective in coming here is not to talk but to listen."
Goodbye & Hello. As the confident candidate for the Democratic nomination in 1956, Adlai Stevenson bears little resemblance to the beaten candidate of 1952, who, when asked if he would run again, replied wanly: "Examine that man's head!" Mused Stevenson last week: "It seemed wholly improbable to me that one could be nominated twice for the presidency. It seems rather strange that I am about to . . ." He caught himself, hesitated, and finished: ". . . that I'm a possible nominee even this time."
For two years after 1952, Stevenson traveled (including a five-month world tour), made scores of speeches to pay off the Democrats' $560,000 deficit. In December 1954 he said goodbye ("Now I must devote more time to my own concerns") to nearly all political activity, returned to Chicago to open his law office.
But the presidential virus is not that easy to shake off: within six months Stevenson was again making speeches, and in July 1955 he confided to Harry Truman that he had ideas about running again. Truman had reasons for coolness toward Stevenson: e.g., he had heard how, in the heat of the 1952 campaign, Stevenson had said that someone ought to enact a "gag rule" to stop Harry's give-'em-hell campaigning. But Truman choked down his personal feelings, urged Stevenson to make the sort of fight that would return the Democrats to the White House in 1956. Truman's specific advice: come out swinging with a 1955 Labor Day announcement of candidacy. Stevenson insisted that he wanted to consult first with his sons, then seek out the opinions of Democratic leaders across the U.S. The process required months -- and Harry Truman was not pleased that his advice was spurned.
By lining up party approval before he made his announcement, Stevenson hoped to win the nomination virtually uncontested. He made plans to work with Democratic congressional leaders toward a legislative program he could point to in the campaign against the Republicans. He had bright dreams of leading a completely unified party into the national campaign. Then along came Estes Kefauver -- and Stevenson's plans went into the scrap heap. To meet Kefauver's challenge, Stevenson unhappily entered his name in a few carefully selected primaries.
"Now He's a Politician." His first primary was almost his last: the stunning Minnesota loss to Kefauver nearly finished Stevenson as a serious contender. But he inched back to the top of the Democratic heap by way of primary victories in Alaska, the District of Columbia, Oregon, Florida, and -- finally -- a crowning triumph (by 450,000 votes) in crucial California.
Adlai Stevenson learned a lot about politics during those hard weeks. Always uneasy when speaking without a highly polished, typewritten text in front of him, he learned to talk with roughhewn notes -- and in so doing, he freshened his delivery. With considerable effort (often demonstrated by an embarrassed or embarrassing quip) he perfected a folksy, handshaking, stunt-performing style of campaigning.
In many other ways, Stevenson became far more willing to face the facts of political life. Explains his original political sponsor, former Chicago Boss Jack Arvey: "In 1952 he went to the American Legion convention and pointed out their faults. He did the same with labor. He thought he had to do this as a part of his integrity. He'd never do it again. Now he's a politician."
Most important of all, Adlai Stevenson came to trust in professional political managers instead of in the amateurs who surrounded him in 1952. And his new-found faith in professionals has become the key to Stevenson's drive for the 1956 Democratic nomination.
A Job for Professionals. With the prestige he won in California, Stevenson again became the Democrat to beat. His campaign entered an entirely new phase. No longer was it necessary for Stevenson himself to get out and persuade California clam diggers and Florida grapefruit growers that he deserved the nomination. The job was to convince delegates that their political futures rested on backing a winner, i.e., Stevenson. That job was turned over to Stevenson's smoothly professional campaign manager, James Finnegan, 55, a leader of Philadelphia's potent Democratic organization.
At Stevenson headquarters in the heart of Chicago's Loop, Jim Finnegan directs a staff that includes high-level volunteers and 18 paid employees. At his right hand is white-maned Hyman Raskin, 47, law partner of former Democratic National Chairman Steve Mitchell. Finnegan is generally responsible for gathering delegates east of Chicago, while Raskin works on those to the west. They employ no crunching tactics, rely heavily on their knowledge of the best approach to individual delegates. That knowledge comes from the 4-by-6-in. index cards on which John Sharon, a young Washington lawyer, has recorded vital statistics: what each delegate has done at past Democratic conventions, what he has said or pledged for this year, the policies he is for and the policies he is against, who has talked to him about his attitude and vote -- whether Adlai Stevenson himself has written, called or seen him.
P.A.Q. Without H.S.T. The ascendancy of Finnegan and Raskin in the current phase of campaign operations leaves little for Stevenson to do except stay out of politically compromising situations. Stevenson's occasional excursions outside Illinois are kept deliberately innocuous, as in last week's Iowa tour and in his trip late last month to New York, where he discussed campaign finances with Real-Estate Broker Roger Stevens, checked with his friend, CBSman Edward R. Murrow, about television ideas for use this fall. Most of Stevenson's time since the California primary has been spent on his 72-acre farm at Libertyville, on Chicago's northwest suburban edge, pitching hay, receiving visitors, and reading.
His reading is devoted almost exclusively to papers prepared by his research staff on the issues he hopes to argue with Republicans after he has won the Democratic nomination. To prepare Stevenson for the fall campaign, staff researchers in Chicago have compiled material filling 16 triple-drawer filing cases. One of the fattest section is labeled "Ike -- P.A.Q." -- for Policies, Actions, Quotations. At the researchers' fingertips are the speeches of Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Adlai Ewing Stevenson. Conspicuously missing: the speeches of Harry Truman.
Angry With Ave. As the candidate whose strategy aims at avoiding personal name-calling, party-splitting feuds with other Democrats, Stevenson has one particularly trying problem: to hide from the public his feeling toward Averell Harriman. That feeling goes deep.
Since Harriman said, after his election as New York's governor in 1954, that he would support Stevenson for President, Adlai feels that Ave has no right to be in the race at all. Specifically, Stevenson thinks that both Harriman and Kefauver entered the contest only because they thought that Dwight Eisenhower's heart attack enhanced Democratic chances for November. "I had almost universal encouragement," frets Stevenson, recalling how he touched bases with Democratic leaders before announcing his own candidacy. "That is, until after Eisenhower's heart attack. Harriman rushed out almost within the week and said he was no longer supporting Stevenson. Kefauver was not far behind."
Stevenson is pained by the Harriman forces' argument that 1952 was a sad Democratic showing, and that Adlai would do no better this time. There are two sides to the argument about Stevenson's 1952 showing. Next only to Franklin Roosevelt in 1936 and Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, he received more votes than any presidential candidate in history -- winner or loser. This statistic, however, is tempered by the fact that the burgeoning U.S. population almost inevitably results in larger popular votes in each succeeding election. The key statistic on the other side of the argument: with the single exception of Al Smith in 1928, Stevenson got a smaller percentage (17%) of the electoral vote that any other Democratic candidate in this century.
While they quietly advance the negative side of the 1952 argument, Harriman's supporters are also advancing experience as an issue: "After all, Harriman was a high official of the U.S. Government when Stevenson was a minor bureaucrat."
The Harriman Strategy. To win in Chicago, Harriman must exploit the splits in the Democratic Party: between himself and Stevenson, between conservatives and liberals, between the North and the South. In particular, he sees the civil-rights issue as the key to his nomination.
Harriman's theory involves these premises: the North and South are so far apart on civil rights that no candidate can straddle the issue. Stevenson has tried, and won grudging support from the South (which considers him as one observer puts it, the "least worst"). Therefore, Stevenson is the candidate of the South -- and that candidate cannot be acceptable to the Northern conscience, if properly aroused. Therefore, the North must find another candidate. Who's the man? Averell Harriman.
When the resolutions committee goes to work on the Democratic platform in Chicago a week before the convention, the New York members aim to touch off a roaring fight on civil rights. Stevenson backers will seek a civil-rights plank that offends nobody; the Harriman forces will try for a plank that will blast all hopes of North-South agreement on anything -- including a candidate. They expect help from such enthusiastic civil-righters as Michigan's Governor "Soapy" Williams and the A.F.L.-C.I.O.'s Walter Reuther. It makes little difference to the Harriman people whether they prevail on the committee. If they lose, they will send to the convention floor a blazing minority report. That, they hope, will rip the convention apart, leave Stevenson stuck with the South and give Harriman the North -- which has more delegate votes.
Although the real Harriman thunderbolts will not come until convention time, Harriman meanwhile is missing no chances to collect delegates through organizational strength. Top men in the Harriman camp are Tammany Hall Boss Carmine De Sapio, who digs in the delegate-rich fields of the East; Sam Rosenman, onetime Roosevelt and Truman speechwriter, who serves as idea man and adviser without portfolio; and onetime (1939-1942) New York Post Publisher George Backer, who runs Averell Harriman's Manhattan campaign headquarters.
Unlike Adlai, Averell has not turned himself over to his managers. He is emphatically his own boss, makes his own decisions, and often goes against the wishes of his top advisers. Example: the managers wanted him to announce his active candidacy on the June 10 Meet the Press television show. He agreed, then changed his mind. Telling only a few members of his personal staff, and then only two hours ahead of time, he tossed his grey fedora into the ring on June 9 at the convention of the United Hatters, Cap and Millinery Workers.
"Hold on to Your Hat." Last week, especially in search of restive Kefauver delegates, Harriman was in Iowa, North Dakota and Minnesota (where he attended a Montevideo fiesta honoring Uruguay's Montevideo). From Minneapolis he flew back to Manhattan to keep a breakfast date with the man he considers most important to his future: returned from European Traveler Harry Truman.
Senior Democrat Truman has not -- and may never -- come out in public support of Harriman against Stevenson. But he leaves little doubt where he stands, and he is a tough behind-the-scenes operator. Walking with Truman along Madison Avenue, Harriman took off his hat, displayed it as the one he had thrown into the ring. Advised Truman: "Keep it. It's going to be valuable."
Throughout Truman's stay, Harriman supporters marched in and out of his Carlyle Hotel suite. No working Stevenson backer came to call. Sam Rosenman had breakfast with Harriman and Truman, escorted Truman to a meeting of the Council on Foreign Relations, closed out the day with Harry and Bess Truman at "21." When New York Post Publisher Dorothy Schiff (George Backer's ex-wife) asked Truman about Stevenson's chances, she got a meaningful reply. Reported Publisher Schiff: "Mr. Truman pointed out that a once-defeated presidential candidate has never won in American history except in the strange case of Grover Cleveland." And above all else, Harry Truman wants a Democrat to win the White House in 1956.
The Cold Mathematics. Averell Harriman can gain much from Truman's attitude. He can keep on throwing missiles at Stevenson, from beans to harpoons. He can perfect his plans for blowing up the civil-rights issue. But all this may well be too little and too late, for Harriman is still confronted by the cold mathematics of the delegate count as the convention draws close. That count, including first-ballot votes pledged and indicated, shows:
Stevenson 432 1/2 Kefauver 195 1/2 Harriman 140 1/2 Lyndon Johnson89 Stuart Symington 60 1/2 Favorite Sons266 On the Fence 188 Needed to Nominate 686 1/2
Confronted by Stevenson's big lead, Averell Harriman and his forces know that, to win, they must shake the party awake and set it to hollering. Adlai Stevenson and his supporters think they can keep it still and quiet until the decisive ballot. The care and feeding of the Baby, between now and the first roll call, may well be the decisive factor in Chicago.
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