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Campaign Stunts

- September 25, 2008
From PolySigh

John McCain “suspending” his campaign is clearly a stunt–an effort at some bold, symbolic move to shake up the race. Whether it works or not remains to be seen. But here’s a list of other major campaign stunts in recent history and how they played out:

1932: FDR flies to Chicago to become the first major party candidate to accept his party’s nomination in person.

At at time when commercial air travel was rare and risky, this trip made FDR look daring and vigorous. Plus, appearing at the convention showed he was willing to upset tradition, something people wanted in the face of the Great Depression. Probably the most effective campaign stunt in history.

1940: FDR gets the Democratic convention to “spontaneously” draft him for a third term with the “Voice from the Sewer.”

Roosevelt kept coy about his reelection plans and the convention met in Chicago with no clear indication that he would run again. After a letter was read to the delegates from FDR saying the convention was free to vote for any candidate, a voice cried out on the stadium loudspeaker, “We want Roosevelt!” The galleries went wild and the convention eventually picked Roosevelt. It turned out that the voice was that of Thomas Garry, the Chicago Superintendent of Sewers. Mayor Ed Kelley had placed him in a basement room with a microphone and instructions to start the chant at just the right moment. No one really believed that the delegates acted on their own or that FDR was all that reluctant to run. Still, it doesn’t seem to have done much damage to his campaign.

1952: Ike promises, “I will go to Korea.”

The Korean War had been stalemated for nearly two years. By promising to go to Korea, the former Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe reminded voters of his military experience and put the election away.

1960: Richard Nixon promises to campaign in all 50 states.

Bad move. While Nixon was wasting time in Alaska, Kennedy was concentrating on the important states. Whether it made the difference in this close election is unclear, but it certainly didn’t help.

1976: Ronald Reagan picks Richard Schweiker as his running mate before the Republican convention.

Reagan hoped that the pick would strengthen his appeal with moderates and swing enough delegates to allow him to capture the GOP nomination from Gerald Ford. Unfortunately for him, it didn’t move any moderates and it only upset conservatives who didn’t like Schweicker.

1996: Bob Dole resigns from the Senate.

Dole hoped this would indicate how seriously he took the race and how much he was willing to sacrifice for it. Most people hardly noticed and the polls barely moved in response.