July 21st, 2008, 12:57 PM
Suppose Franklin Roosevelt in declining health decided to retire in 1940 and not go for a third and forth term.
Could the Republicans have staged a comeback and won?
July 21st, 2008, 04:46 PM
This premise has been (over)done a few times before, but what the hell...no Franklin Roosevelt throws the Democrats into some confusion.
There would be multiple contenders that would meet Roosevelt's approval (McNutt; Farley) or acceptance (Wallace) and at least one who would almost be a repudiation (Joe Kennedy). Kennedy would be the darling of such isolationists/America First types as the Democrats had, as well as that of many urban ethnic (especially Irish) Catholics: easily the Boston and Chicago machines would have lined up behind Kennedy. Farley might well have been able to counter with Tammany Hall and Hague machine support. Then it comes down to a few other machines (Crump's Memphis machine; de Maestri in New Orleans) and what southern Democrats might do.
This presumes Farley and Kennedy are essentially equal at this point, with McNutt, Wallace, and a few others holding the balance of power. Neither one of the leaders would be especially popular in the south (a choice between two northern Catholics would not be very palatable), so it would come down to whichever one would make the best offer. I'm guessing that Kennedy might grit his teeth and propose a southerner (possibly Richard Russell) as his running mate, which might put him over the top.
Meanwhile, the internationalists see that they don't have an incumbent to work with; the only alternative is Willkie. The so-called amateurs would probably still be able to carry the day in Philadelphia and get Willkie the GOP nomination, with McNary or Stassen as his running mate. Now you have a total reversal of personalities: the Republicans have the internationalist candidate while the Democrats have the defeatist/isolationist candidate.
This leads to pandemic voter schizophrenia and massive ticket-splitting. I'm going out on a limb here and saying that enough Democrats would cross party lines and vote for Willkie to get him elected, along with just enough internationalist congressmen/senators to form, in effect, a coalition government. To be sure, America First types would scream but they would be in the minority, and the noise wouldn't last beyond 7 December 1941.
The key is what happens in 1944: in OTL, Willkie died in October of that year. Now you have an unprecedented crisis, and in wartime, no less. I'd venture a guess that the RNC would promote Stassen or McNary to the top of the ticket, while putting a more conservative running mate (e.g., Bricker) in the second slot. Due to sheer inertia, Stassen would win a full term, and would probably prove to be a reasonably competent president, backed by a wartime coalition. But I'd also bet Stassen would be shown the door in 1948, largely to efforts to put Dewey or Eisenhower in the White House.
July 21st, 2008, 06:22 PM
The polls I've seen for the 1940 campaign has FDR as really the only candidate who the Democrats had who gave them a reasonable level of confidence of victory. Mind you, that was with the war going on- no war, even with FDR the Democrats were in trouble (According to various Gallup polls)
The question becomes if no FDR who does the GOP nominate. Willike maybe, but don't discount Taft or Dewey. A lot of it depends on the world situation at the time.
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