Editorial 1944: Truman’s victory helps Lawrence (7-22-44)

The Pittsburgh Press (July 23, 1944)


Truman’s victory helps Lawrence

Pennsylvanian grows in national stature
By Kermit McFarland

Chicago, Illinois – (July 22)
The slim, clipped-spoken gentleman from Missouri, Senator Harry S. Truman, who won the Democratic vice-presidential nomination here last night, brought both triumph and defeat to the Pennsylvania delegation.

Like the Republicans who were here before them, the Democrats from Pennsylvania won a certain amount of national standing by their operations at the convention.

Except that in the Republican Convention, the Pennsylvania job was done by one man, Governor Edward Martin, and there was an energetic unity of action within the delegation.

Badly split

The Democrats were badly, and in some respects bitterly, split. And it was a case of he who laughs last laughs best.

Democratic State Chairman David L. Lawrence, through the strong ties he has developed with DNC Chairman Robert E. Hannegan, tore off the last laugh. He supported Senator Truman for the nomination and was one of the half-dozen in the “inner circle” who mapped the skillful strategy which stampeded the convention for the Missouri Senator on the second ballot, although, ironically, it did not stampede his own delegation.

Deluge of telegrams

Earlier, Mr. Lawrence had been disappointed. At the first caucus, 41 delegates voted to support Vice President Henry A. Wallace for renomination.

But then as the Truman boom began to show its strength, there were indications that the delegation would break away from the CIO and Mr. Guffey and go at least half for Mr. Truman.

The CIO met this threat with a show of pressure. It arranged a deluge of telegrams from CIO locals back home – vigorous and in some cases peremptory telegrams which demanded the delegates support Mr. Wallace. These wires came in by the bunch.

CIO gallery

In addition, the CIO-PAC packed the galleries – attempting the same stunt which played such an important role in the nomination of Wendell Willkie at the Republican Convention of 1940. The telegrams and the howling galleries had the effect of stiffening some of the hesitant Truman backers, who resented the pressure.

But they also made other delegates apprehensive and as a result the hastily taken caucus just before the first ballot developed a slight gain in the delegation for Mr. Wallace.

Caught by surprise

The die was cast; the bandwagon was already rolling. But the Wallace delegates, under the spell of the “labor” threat, banked on a deadlock, at least for one more ballot. The rapidity with which other states cast off their favorite sons and climbed on the Truman bandwagon caught the Pennsylvania Wallace delegates by surprise and before they could get the standard to waving – signal for recognition from the rostrum – Mr. Truman had nearly 300 votes more than he needed to clinch the nomination.

Senator Guffey, grabbing the microphone from the delegation’s chairman, former Judge John H. Wilson of Butler, did finally offer a motion to make the Truman nomination unanimous. But since no result had been announced on the roll call, he was ruled out of order.

Consults backers

He hesitated and consulted with his backers while a few more states switched to the winner before he again asked for recognition so he could record all of Pennsylvania’s 72 votes for Mr. Truman.

Mr. Guffey was unable to conceal the humiliation that the Wallace defeat heaped on him.

When reporters sought a statement from him, he first snapped, “I moved to make the nomination unanimous, didn’t I? No other comment.”

Later he reconsidered and added:

I will be glad to support the ticket. Senator Truman is a good friend of mine. I though Wallace was stronger, but the convention differed with me.

As for Mr. Lawrence, he added considerably to his influence in national Democratic politics, for he was one of the half-dozen who engineered the Truman nomination.