Election 1944: Campaign strategy unfolds (8-12-44)

The Pittsburgh Press (August 12, 1944)


Background of news –
Campaign strategy unfolds

By George Van Slyke

New York –
By his quick shift of emphasis on the war from the German front to the Pacific, President Roosevelt is credited by strategists in both the major political camps with having moved swiftly and adroitly to force the international situation as the basic issue of his fourth-term campaign, thereby stressing his role as Commander-in-Chief rather than partisan nominee, while at the same time seeking to black out tangled domestic problems which the Republicans are pressing to the fore.

The President’s trip to Pearl Harbor following closely to the heels of his fourth-term draft; his studied effort to make the Honolulu conferences “purely an American huddle” with the chiefs of our Allied nations conspicuously absent, presents a comprehensive pattern for the presidential campaign as the party leaders view the setup. They are wondering how their plans may have to be revised.

Though not stressed in the press dispatches describing the President’s activities in detail the sum total is viewed as the most authentic evidence so far presented that the administration regards the struggle with Germany as nearing an end, possibly ending before election – and therefore the situation calls for renewed emphasis on the half-won Japanese war.

Slick choice of spot

Mr. Roosevelt displayed characteristic political skill in picking Pearl Harbor for his opener of the new campaign – the one key spot in the war setup to which he could have gone to evoke the greatest emotional response and risk the least criticism of mixing politics and prosecution of the war.

While maintaining strict silence on the effect of the President’s trip, an intimation has come from high Republican sources that Mr. Roosevelt may have invited and brought into the open a free-for-all discussion of the pre-Pearl Harbor record of the administration, as yet a half-told story of diplomatic intrigue leading to the break with Japan.

True to his promise that he would not be able to campaign for reelection in the ordinary sense, as he told his personally conducted national convention in Chicago, Mr. Roosevelt is upholding his record for smashing precedent in this latest move which even his ardent admirers concede will have a marked bearing upon the political campaign.

Just as in 1940, he campaigned by visiting war plants to prove to the nation that our economic status was sound; that industry was doing a marvelous job and soothing the industrialists who had long been under attack, he now tries to hurdle the domestic troubles by keeping the Japanese war to the fore as the all-out national concern.

Double political purpose

His Pearl Harbor trip served the President a double purpose, politically. It removed him from the political scene during the convention – at least theoretically – thereby making his fourth term draft seem the more real.

Robert E. Hannegan, Democratic National Chairman, lifted a corner of the campaign curtain Wednesday, revealing a day ahead of the President’s announcement of where he had been, when, in opening the new campaign headquarters here, he said:

There is still the war in the Pacific to be won and the winning of the peace is just as important or more important than winning the war.

That was in answer to a query if the cessation of hostilities with Germany would have a direct effect on the campaign in this country and eliminate the indispensable man claim. In his talks to soldiers and sailor in Hawaii, Mr. Roosevelt maintained his role as Commander-in-Chief – the role in which he is running for his fourth term:

Your Commander-in-Chief brings you greetings from your own families, your own homes, to you here at this spot which, thank God, is still a part of the United States.