President Richard M. Nixon: Early Political Life and First Campaign

About the early politcal career and first political campaign of future President of the United States Richard M. Nixon.

In 1946, with Nixon back in the U.S. working as a navy lawyer, 100 wealthy Republicans placed the following ad in Whittier area newspapers:

WANTED: Congressman candidate with no previous political experience to defeat a man who has represented the district in the House for 10 years. Any young man resident of district, preferably a veteran, fair education, may apply for the job. . . .

The initial response to the ad was poor, and someone suggested Nixon. After he was contacted, the 33-year-old attorney jumped at the chance. After some hesitation, the Republican leaders agreed to sponsor him. As one of them put it: "He was the best of a bad lot." Nixon made his 1st campaign appearances dressed in his navy uniform, and attacked his opponent, incumbent Congressman Jerry Voorhis, as a "friend of the communists." To "prove" his charges, Nixon repeatedly associated the name of his opponent with the CIO's Political Action Committee (PAC). Actually, the communist-dominated California PAC bitterly opposed Voorhis--the congressman was a member of the House Un-American Activities Committee and a dedicated anticommunist. But the modern national PAC had endorsed Voorhis--thereby confusing everyone and making Nixon's charges believable. The turning point in the campaign was the birth of Nixon's daughter Tricia. Voorhis made it a policy to send out a special pamphlet on infant care to all new parents in his district. On the cover of the pamphlet for Nixon the congressman added a friendly personal note: "Congratulations. I look forward to meeting you soon in public." Nixon seized on this message, read it to his audiences at every speech, and claimed that it committed Voorhis to a series of public debates. Finally, Voorhis felt compelled to accept, and in 5 debates, Nixon's aggressive rhetoric made mincemeat of his mild-mannered opponent. Nixon accused Congressman Voorhis of being "a lip service American, who is fronting for un-American elements, wittingly or otherwise." Three days before the election, he charged that Voorhis had "consistently voted the Moscow-PAC-Henry Wallace line in Congress."

On Election Day, Nixon was helped by a nationwide Republican trend, and he swamped his opponent, 65,586 to 49,994. Across the country, dozens of politicians--including Joe McCarthy of Wisconsin--carefully noted Nixon's effective and pioneering use of charges of "communist influence" to destroy a political opponent.

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