Texas Elects a Senator
JOHNSON'S decision to run for the Senate triggered an explosion of activity. With less than eleven weeks to go before the July 24 election, Lyndon faced a formidable challenge. Winning over a majority of the more than 1.2 million Democrats who would vote in the party primary seemed too much to achieve in so short a time. If he could hold Stevenson under 50 percent, while he ran a close second, he could force a oneon-one run-off that would give him another month to overcome Stevenson's lead.
The campaign was a decisive moment in his career: he would either become a U.S. Senator or lose his House seat and the eleven years of seniority and influence that went with it. Johnson launched the most energetic, all-consuming drive for office he had ever made. After he announced on the afternoon of May 12 his decision to run, he returned to his Dillman Street residence, where, with the help of a secretary, he made calls from 5:00 p.m. to midnight on two telephones in his backyard. The next morning at seven they were at it again, "getting county people; getting district leaders; [and arranging] finances . . . the initial onslaught," Dorothy Palmie, the secretary working with him, called it. 1
A week after Lyndon announced, Pappy O'Daniel declared himself out of the running. Facing the likelihood of a crushing defeat, O'Daniel departed the political wars with advice to the public that if it disliked the Senate candidates, it should write in the name of someone it preferred. One Texas newspaper called his decision to retire "the one most constructive act" of his ten-year political career. It partly testified to the fact that anti-government and pro-isolationist ideas did not enjoy a strong hold on the popular imagination in Texas. The dependence of the state