F ROM SEPTEMBER 24 UNTIL November 11, the President of the United States was a patient at the Fitzsimons Army Hospital near Denver, Colorado. Although the critical period was of relatively brief duration, the Republican party and the nation could not be certain until the last day of February that the popular general would succeed himself. The GOP's loss of Congress in 1954, together with the enhanced political power of the President during the post-Geneva glow, made his retention on the ticket a matter of desperation. To most observers, during those dark days while the President lay under an oxygen tent, even his complete recovery would not reverse his own and his family's hopes for his retirement after the 1956 elections.
The greatest irony was the timing of the coronary. Only six days earlier the Gallup Poll had reported that 61 percent of the voters were prepared to favor him in another contest with Stevenson, a margin that could mean the difference between recapturing control of Congress for the GOP or defaulting to the Democrats.1 Nationally, the domestic economy was booming; only farmers among all major groups were failing to participate in the record-breaking prosperity. Internationally, with the Geneva Conference widely depicted as a personal triumph for the President and the meeting of foreign ministers not scheduled until late October, the prospects for peace had not seemed as great since the start of the cold war. Indeed, when the startling news came from the Summer White House that weekend, the deployment of leading members of the team furthered the aura of relaxation. While the President had already spent six weeks in the Rockies, combining some routine