The Last Time It Took More than One Ballot to Nominate a Candidate

Discussion in 'Politics' started by JohnHamilton, Feb 7, 2020.

  1. JohnHamilton

    JohnHamilton Well-Known Member

    Although it’s really too early to make predictions, some people are saying that the 2020 Democratic National Convention might mark the first time in many years that it could take more than one ballot to nominate a candidate. It happens when no one candidate is able to get more than 50% of the delegate votes. To most everyone alive, that would be a totally new phenomenon, but many years ago, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, it was common occurrence.

    The last time it took more than one ballot to nominate a major party candidate was at the 1956 Democratic Convention. After the Democrats nominated Adlai Stevenson for president, Stevenson announced that he would let the delegates select his running mate. That was highly unusual. Almost every presidential nominee selects his running mate, and, almost without exception, the convention delegates go along with that choice. This time, Stevenson asked the party to make the choice.

    Stevenson’s announcement caused a flurry of activity among some men whose names are quite familiar to those who followed politics in the 1950s, ‘60s and early ‘70s. Chief among them were Estes Kefauver, Albert Gore, Sr. (The father of the modern Al Gore), Robert Wagner, Jr., Hubert Humphrey and John F. Kennedy. Others, who played "favorite son" roles, included Lyndon Johnson and Pat Brown, who was the father of former California governor, Jerry Brown.

    At a time in which political buttons still played a prominent roll, two candidates had buttons made up and distributed to the delegates. The more interesting Kennedy button mentioned his book, Profiles in Courage. That work helped to put Kennedy on the political map. It won the Pulitzer Prize and helped to establish him as not just an attractive but also intellectual candidate. This piece is somewhat scarce, and given that it is an early JFK item, sells for several hundred dollars.

    1956 Profiles in Courage.jpg

    A second candidate, Humbert Humphrey, also had a button issued on his behalf. From what I have read, this piece was more of a spontaneous reaction from the owner of the button company, who admired Humphrey greatly, than a request from the candidate. This piece is also slightly scarce and sells for $125 to $175.

    1956 Hump VF.jpg

    It took three ballots for the Democrats to select their vice-presidential nominee. Kefauver led on the first ballot, but Kennedy overtook him on the second. Kennedy appeared to posed for a win, but on the third ballot, his support team failed to sway enough delegates. Kefauver, who had trailed Stevenson in the balloting for the presidential nomination, won the second spot on the ticket. Some observers chalked that up to the Kenndy team's inexperience. A review of the vote count is interesting:

    1956 Vice Pres Ballot.jpg

    Looking back upon this result, John F. Kennedy was fortunate to have lost this race. Stevenson had almost no chance of defeating Eisenhower for re-election in 1956. Historically vice-presidential candidates on the losing ticket have often disappeared into the dustbin of history. The only man who beat the odds was Franklin D. Roosevelt, but I’ll save that story for another day. If Kennedy had been nominated for vice-president in 1956, that is a good chance that he would not have won the Democratic nomination in 1960.
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2020
    Mopar Dude and SmalltownMN like this.
  2. Mopar Dude

    Mopar Dude Well-Known Member

    I much enjoy your grasp on historical items and the history attached to them.
    SmalltownMN likes this.

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