President Franklin D. Roosevelt: Reelection and Third Term

About the reelection and third term of President Franklin D. Roosevelt n the United States, the New Deal in action, moving towards war.


Third Term: November 5, 1940....

For months, Roosevelt refused to say whether or not he would break tradition and run for a 3rd term, but his hesitation prevented any other Democrat from emerging as a strong contender. When the President finally announced that he would accept a "draft," many Democrats were unhappy, but they had little choice but to nominate him. The vice-presidential nomination was another matter: Roosevelt wanted to replace the retiring Vice-President Garner with the Secretary of Agriculture, the radical Henry Wallace. The convention seemed to favor a more conservative choice, and it was only the surprise appearance of Eleanor Roosevelt, making a forceful speech in behalf of her husband's choice, that secured the nomination for Wallace.

The Republicans entered the campaign with a new issue: the claim that Roosevelt's aid to Great Britain in the struggle with Hitler would lead the U.S. into an unnecessary war. Their candidate, however, agreed with Roosevelt on most key policy questions. Wendell Willkie was a political amateur who had used a strong grassroots organization to "steal" the Republican nomination from party professionals. Adding insult to injury was the fact that Willkie had been a Democrat all his life--and had actually contributed $150 to Roosevelt's campaign in 1932. Willkie was a corporation lawyer and his business interests were soon threatened by the New Deal and he began criticizing the Administration. In the campaign of 1940, he stumped the country with extraordinary vigor, pushing himself until his speaking voice grew hoarse and raspy. Wherever possible, the Republicans emphasized the 3rd term issue. "No Man Is Good 3 Times," proclaimed one of their slogans, while the Democrats answered: "Better a 3rd Termer Than a 3rd Rater."

The election returns showed that Roosevelt's popularity had slipped significantly (Willkie won 45% of the vote), but "the Champ" still won by a comfortable margin. Roosevelt outpolled Willkie, 27,241,939 to 22,327,276. Willkie carried 10 States (most of them in the Midwest) for 82 electoral votes to Roosevelt's 449.

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