Governor says he’s not an active candidate but he’s careful to leave door open for draft campaign
By Blair Moody, North American Newspaper Alliance
Albany, New York – (Jan. 8)
Tom Dewey, the Owosso, Michigan, boy who became Governor of New York at 40 and the country’s leading political mystery man at 41, is running for President. Make no mistake about that. The only question is: When?
Ever since Governor Dewey flatly refused to “line up” delegates to the Republican National Convention next June, his real intent has been a prime subject of speculation, especially among those Republicans who are determined to nominate him anyway.
His name continues to lead all the polls. His record as a racker-buster, which built him early a reputation for clean government and effective management, endures. Above all, they think he might carry New York, even against Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Publicly, Mr. Dewey has taken no notice of all this except to declare himself out as an active candidate, while carefully leaving the door ajar not to shut out the draft. He is almost ostentatiously “busy being Governor of New York.”
Goal is White House
If the political weather should appear unpropitious at convention time, or if the party should swing toward Wendell L. Willkie or some other candidate, not by a single word or act of Mr. Dewey will it be possible to demonstrate that he had any other idea than to serve out his four-year term at Albany.
But no political reporter could spend much time with Mr. Dewey, especially not with his close associates, and carry away the slightest doubt that his ultimate goal is the White House.
He is acting on state issues, but thinking in national terms. He is laying a pattern of policy at Albany which can be used to forecast what he would do in Washington.
Watching the winds
And, basically, he is doing just what he thinks President Roosevelt is doing – watching to see how the political wind blows, meanwhile maneuvering quietly to make his path toward nomination smoother.
Dewey knows, of course, that he could not be nominated for President and refuse to accept; not and ever have another chance.
By convention time, he may be eager, though in the light of previous statements he cannot actively campaign. He certainly will want it if by then it is clear Mr. Roosevelt won’t run.
Knows his business
But Mr. Dewey shares none of the blithe hope of some wishful-thinking Republicans that resentment against the New Deal and wartime irritations have made the Presidency a pushover. And he knows that “bad timing” can be disastrous to his career.
Mr. Dewey’s estimate of Mr. Roosevelt as a vote-getter may be measured by keen interest in the current report that FDR may take himself out of the race by “getting himself elected President of the United Nations” before the Democratic convention.
This report has the President planning to get together with Prime Minister Churchill, Marshal Stalin and Generalissimo Chiang to establish the nucleus of a world organization, which would immediately choose Mr. Roosevelt, not by virtue of office but personally, as “President of the world” for a 10-year team.
Change called beneficial
One picks up the impression that Mr. Dewey thinks this would be top-notch idea, because (1) the country would retain the services of Mr. Roosevelt in the field in which he is most competent and (2) it would pave the way to the periodic change in leadership which has kept our democracy healthy.
Mr. Dewey seems to think that Mr. Roosevelt is about as interested in home-front issues now as the Governor of New York is in being a District Attorney. He has covered that field and moved on.
And one gathers the impression that, if nominated against Mr. Roosevelt, Mr. Dewey would counter the President’s foreign experience by contending that what the nation needs above all else in the next four years will be a leader who can avoid an economic crash at home.
Aided by war
Even his political enemies admit that Mr. Dewey has weathered his first year as governor of a state which has more people than Canada with an excellent record. He is first to admit that the “hurricane of war” has been a help.
He has played canny, but clean, politics. He enraged Republican wheelhorses, seeking plums after 20 hungry years, by making major appointments by merit.
But he disarmed a Legislature poised to “show that cocky little so-and-so” by calling in its leaders, reading them his first message paragraph by paragraph, asking them to “tear it apart,” and changing it where he could be convinced.
He raised a “land-army” of 111,000 volunteers last summer and harvested a 2,500,000-ton fruit crop, much of which would otherwise have rotted.
Consults farm leaders
A farm owner, whenever he makes a rural move, he calls in leaders of the big farm organizations.
He named as conservation chief a game and wildlife enthusiast who heads a statewide network of organizations which will be no political handicap.
When the war helps pile up a surplus of $140 million, the largest in state history, Mr. Dewey resisted demands of pressure groups to “tap” it, insisting on laying it away for jobs for returning soldiers.
His tax program is geared to a readjustment of exemptions, the key to a fairer system, which has long been overlooked by the federal government.
Mr. Dewey thinks America’s post-war interests require working closely with Britain and Russia, especially if Stalin gives us a hand with Japan, and China.
Of his message to the Legislature last week, one associate remarked:
At any point, cross out “New York,” write in “the federal government,” add three ciphers, and you have it.
Many politicians, including some in Albany, believe that if the President runs, Mr. Dewey would prefer 1948 to 1944.
Give Mr. Roosevelt a fourth term, they say, especially a second victory over Mr. Willkie, and the Republican Governor of New York could not miss in the inevitable swing back four years hence, while a defeat by “The Champ” this year might ruin him.
Danger in waiting
But there is another angle. If Mr. Dewey should “wait” and Mr. Willkie should win the nomination and be elected, then the GOP would become a Willkie party and Mr. Dewey’s next change would be eight years hence, if ever.
If the party really wants him, Mr. Dewey can’t wait. And at the moment there is certainly not the slightest indication he would welcome the nomination of Mr. Willkie.