The Pittsburgh Press (April 4, 1943)
By Bertram Benedict, editorial research reports
The 1944 presidential elections are already casting a sizable shadow over Washington. Many of the maneuvers in Congress are obviously designed to strengthen or weaken one party as against the other on Nov. 7, 1944. The first 1944 presidential primaries are only a year away.
If President Roosevelt were now to announce that he would not accept a fourth term, he might run into less embittered opposition in Congress – not only from Republicans but also from members of his own party. After all, every time he gets something from Congress, he raises his prestige, and members would not be human if they did not bear that fact constantly in mind.
On the other hand, by renouncing a fourth term now, the President might dissipate whatever hold he has left on Congress. The race for the throne would get hectic among the Democrats; most Democratic Senators and Congressmen would line up for one Democratic candidate or another; the trades and the jockeying for position would play hob with the already-wobbly administration machine on Capitol Hill.
Also, not to put too fine a face upon it, some members of the President’s party are now afraid to defy him – either because they think he is still popular with their constituents, or because they want the patronage which an administration supporter gets and an administration opponent is apt not to get.
Immediately after his election in November 1904, Theodore Roosevelt announced that under no circumstances would he accept a third term. Later, he admitted that he had committed a prime political blunder. If he had kept the Republican members of Congress guessing up to the adjournment of Congress in 1908, the first Roosevelt would have been able to wield the Big Stick much more effectively over them.
The present Roosevelt may have learned that lesson from the experience of his fifth cousin. At least when Democratic politicians recently brought up the fourth term at their conference at the White House on troubles within the family, they reported that Prexy merely smiled.
Rep. Sabath (D-IL), Dean of the House in service, chairman of the all-important Rules Committee, and staunch New Dealer, said he had urged his leader to choose to run again in 1944, Mr. Sabath reported ruefully that the President didn’t seem “much interested.” There was no official reaction from the White House when Senator Guffey (D-PA) came out here on March 4 for a fourth term for the President.
At present writing, Vice President Wallace seems to be the heir apparent of the Roosevelt dynasty, if the President takes himself out of the picture. The anti-New Deal Democrats might try to spike a Wallace nomination by having the 1944 Democratic Convention readopt the two-thirds rule. The anti-Wallace cohorts are convinced that they can prevent the Vice President from lining up two-thirds of the delegates, even if he does manage to corral one-half.
On the Republican side, some of the contenders for the 1940 nomination have taken themselves out of the running. Thomas E. Dewey, on accepting the Republican nomination for Governor of New York in August 1942, promised to “devote the next four years exclusively to the people of New York.”
Senator Vandenberg, one-half of whose delegates in 1940 came from his own state, Michigan, has announced that he is not to be considered in 1944. Senator Taft has taken the same stand, saying that he is supporting Governor Bricker of Ohio.
Senator Taft’s statement does not preclude him from going after the nomination himself if Mr. Bricker doesn’t get it. The Taft-Bricker forces are supposed to be especially active now in lining up Southern delegates.
Governor Stassen of Minnesota, 35-year-old keynoter of the 1940 Republican Convention, said on March 8 that he was not a candidate for the 1944 nomination and did not expect to become one. Other Republican possibilities now being quietly discussed are 50-year-old Leverett Saltonstall, Governor of Massachusetts since 1939, and 51-year-old Earl Warren, elected Governor of California last year. Which brings us to Wendell L. Willkie.
Mr. Willkie acts as though he’ll be there when the hats are thrown into the ring. By a multiplicity of activities in recent months he has been keeping the voters from forgetting him. Rumor has it that Mr. Willkie even has been talking with any local Republican leaders who can hear his name mentioned without getting red in the face.
Some Democratic supporters of the President’s foreign policy now are saying they’d support Mr. Willkie for the presidency, on a platform of international cooperation after the war, even against Mr. Wallace or some other Democrat were elected, he could never put such a program through Congress against Republican opposition. On the other hand, so runs the argument, if Mr. Willkie were elected while advocating real international cooperation, most Republican members of Congress would have to support that program, and they would be joined by the large number of Democrats who are already committed to it.