The Republican Dilemma: Conservatism or Progressivism

By Conrad Joyner | Go to book overview

TAFT, DEWEY, AND VANDENBERG

As soon as Roosevelt was elected in 1936 the Republicans began the search for a presidential candidate. Numerous men were mentioned. But there were three who were continuously thought of as presidential timber and who survived the preliminary weeding out. The three men who emerged in the latter half of 1939 were Senator Robert Taft, District Attorney Thomas Dewey, and Senator Arthur Vandenberg. All had qualifications which were brought to the attention of the people.

Alice Roosevelt Longworth, Teddy Roosevelt's daughter, in an article, "What's the Matter With Bob Taft?" in the May 4, 1940 issue of The Saturday Evening Post, seems to have captured much of Taft's appeal when she explained that "I am for Bob Taft because I do not yearn any longer for the man who is always on his toes, waving his hat, raising his voice, raring to go here, there, anywhere." Alice Longworth was certainly right when she said that Bob Taft was not ready to "go here, there, anywhere." If there ever was a man who was consciously aware of every political move he made, it was Bob Taft. He started the "right" political way by working as a precinct committeeman in his home town, Cincinnati, Ohio. After a year's service in this lowly position he was elected to the Ohio State House of Representatives and served as speaker and floor leader. Eight years of hard work and loyal service to the party enabled him to move up to the Ohio Senate. After only one term in the Senate, Taft became a victim of the 1932 Roosevelt land- slide. During his tenure as a state legislator he devoted himself to the task of straightening out Ohio's state and municipal borrowing programs and fast gained the reputation as a hard man with the dollar.

Ohio Republicans were proud of Bob Traft, and in 1939 he was their favorite son candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. In 1938, after winning a hard fight from Judge Arthur Day in the United States senatorial primary he defeated the Democratic nominee, Robert

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