Holding the Center
H AVING NIXON woo the hard-shell Republicans and ardent anti-Communists and pleasing Taft and McCarthy, however useful for expunging "me-tooism" from the campaign, constantly threatened to jeopardize the greatest potential source of Eisenhower's political strength: that fickle, uncommitted, apolitical, independent vote. "The vital center" would, in this case, make the vital difference. And, feared the liberals around Ike, spicing the campaign with militant partisanship was obviously the best way to repel both independents and Democrats. Advisers Herbert Brownell, Tom Dewey, Lucius Clay and others helped keep the General alert to that reality. A possible key to the success of the campaign, then, was his emergence with renewed strength among middle-of-the-roaders in the aftermath of one of the two boldest strokes made that fall.
The entire effort had seemingly reached its lowest point on the night of September 23. Eisenhower, present for a speech in the Cleveland Public Auditorium, had gone upstairs to the manager's office instead of following the original schedule. In that small room some thirty members of the entourage had gathered. Several stood along the back wall to see the corner television set. In front of the small screen sat General and Mrs. Eisenhower. New YorkHerald Tribune publisher William Robinson was near them. Three floors below, in the auditorium, as uncertain of what to expect as those in the room, were fifteen thousand Republicans who had gathered to hear Eisenhower deliver a speech on inflation. But first they awaited the piping-in of a radio broadcast of what many others were about to see on television.
Throughout the nation, the greatest TV audience assembled for a