Home > 1932-1964 Campaigns, 1956 Campaign > By Taylor Eitelberg–Ike Re-elected, 1956

By Taylor Eitelberg–Ike Re-elected, 1956

The 1956 presidential race was a re-match from 1952, as Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower successfully defeated Adlai Stevenson for the second time.

Eisenhower utilized simple tactics and produced a campaign that was very straightforward. In some ways it seemed that Eisenhower already knew or assumed he would be victorious. The Republican’s television ads played on the fact that Stevenson didn’t have extensive experience in the army, which was a fact that Americans were already informed about. One commercial delivers a passive remark to the public stating “are you willing to bet everything you love and hold dear on Stevenson, are you sure of it? four years ago you did something about it, you registered and you voted Eisenhower into office… so make the right choice again.”

Eisenhower decided to promote his success with the Korean War and ensure the Americans understood he was the reason we remained out of conflict. The majority of Eisenhower’s public support was caused by the way he maneuvered the two foreign-policy crises that occurred in the Soviet Union and his forceful removal of western forces from Egypt. Overall, Eisenhower’s first four years within the White House were a major success, so his second win was almost inevitable. Even Stevenson agreed with this sentiment, as demonstrated by his 1964 interview with the New Yorker.

Both times I ran it was obviously hopeless. To run as a Democrat in 1952 was hopeless, let alone run against the No.1 War Hero.

BUT there was a catch. The popular and well-liked President Eisenhower was in another battle, a battle of life and death. Adlai Stevenson campaigned vigorously and utilized his opponent’s sickness to promote his own campaign. Stevenson rarely criticized against substantive issues and tended to be vague and ambiguous. So, his criticism of Eisenhower’s sickness came as a bit of a shock… and definitely did nothing to aid his campaign. Stevenson was attempting to dominate the election by convincing the public to believe that Eisenhower wouldn’t live through his next term as president. Then, if Eisenhower died the person who would take over would be his controversial running mate, Vice-President Richard Nixon.

I must say bluntly that every piece of scientific evidence we have, every lesson of history and experience, indicates that a Republican victory tomorrow would mean that Richard M. Nixon would probably be President of this country within the next four years.

However, Stevenson’s decisive ploys failed, which could also be credited to his public disapproval of the recent changes within segregation. In 1954, during Eisenhower’s first-term, the Supreme Court ruled in the case Brown vs. Board of Education against state-mandated segregation in public education. This was a major turning point in history; while the Eisenhower administration supported the 1954 ruling, Stevenson voiced his inherent disapproval. According to Stevenson, Americans “don’t need reforms or grouping experiments” and believed the U.S. was wrong to “upset the habits and traditions that are older than the Republic” (Klarman.) Stevenson didn’t prepare for his comments to create a public controversy, but his demeanor proved an aid to his political demise.


Epstein, J., Gordon, J. S., Soloveichik, M. Y., Rothman, N., Meisel, E. C., Ferguson, A., . . .Teachout, T. (2017, April 27). Adlai Stevenson in Retrospect. Retrieved May 09, 2017, from https://www.commentarymagazine.com/articles/adlai-stevenson-in-retrospect/

Klarman, Michael J., Brown V. Board Of Education And The Civil Rights Movement. 1st ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Mickey, R. (2015). PROLOGUE TO PART THREE: “No Solution Offers Except  Coercion” Brown, Massive resistance, and Campus Crises, 1950–63. In Paths Out of Dixie: The Democratization of Authoritarian Enclaves in America’s Deep  South, 1944-1972: The Democratization of Authoritarian Enclaves in America’s Deep South, 1944-1972 (pp. 173-189). Princeton University Press. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7t1q8.10.

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