Open Conventions

May 9, 1952

Report Outline
Compettion for Presidential Nominations
Development of National Convention System
Notable Open or Deadlocked Conventions

Compettion for Presidential Nominations

Uncertainties in the 1952 Pre-Convention Picture

Today, two months before the national political conventions, no one can predict with any degree of certainty who will be the presidential nominee of either of the two major parties. No similar situation on the eve of the conventions has occurred since 1920. In the intervening presidential years, the identity of the nominee of one, if not both, of the parties has been a foregone conclusion in advance of the national party gatherings. It is necessary to go back 32 years to find an occasion when choice of both Democratic and Republican standard bearers was in doubt in the same pre-convention period.

President Truman's decision not to run again, combined with the refusal of Gov. Stevenson of Illinois to enter the race despite White House pleas, promises to make the Democratic conclave an open convention in which a number of less prominent candidates will engage in a free-for-all contest for the party's top prize. On the Republican side, there is a possibility that the struggle between the two major contenders—Sen. Taft and Gen. Eisenhower—will produce a deadlock that can be broken only by the nomination of a dark-horse or favorite-son candidate. But a political picture can change rapidly and radically. Before the Republicans gather at Chicago on July 7, and before the Democrats follow them to that city on July 21, events or developments now unforeseen may make for a quick decision in one or both national conventions.

Present uncertainty stems from the close nature of the Taft-Eisenhower competition for the Republican nomination and from the failure to date of any Democratic candidate to display outstanding strength. Approximately one-half of the 1,206 delegates to the Republican convention, and of the 1,230 delegates to the Democratic convention, have been chosen in the state primaries or conventions so far held. By far the larger number of the Republican delegates already selected are known to favor either Taft or Eisenhower. But the largest single group among the Democrats already named consists of uncommitted delegates, and the commitments of the others are scattered among nearly a dozen individuals, Absence from the Republican and Democratic folds of leaders whose claims on the respective nominations would have to be treated as beyond challenge keeps the situation fluid on both sides.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Presidential Candidates and Campaigns
Jan. 15, 2021  The Biden Presidency Updated
Jan. 31, 2020  Presidential Primaries
Nov. 16, 2018  The Presidency
Jan. 06, 2017  Trump Presidency
Mar. 06, 2015  Presidential Power
Feb. 03, 2012  Presidential Election
Jan. 30, 2009  The Obama Presidency
Aug. 08, 2008  Political Conventions
Jul. 18, 2008  Race and Politics
Apr. 20, 2007  Electing the President
Dec. 30, 1988  Promises vs. Problems
Jul. 10, 1987  Presidential Nomination Process
Feb. 03, 1984  Choosing Presidential Nominees
Jun. 06, 1980  Choosing Presidential Candidates
Apr. 09, 1976  Presidential Campaign Coverage
Feb. 23, 1972  Political Conventions
May 27, 1964  Foreign Policy Issues in Election Campaigns
Sep. 21, 1960  Voting in 1960
Jan. 06, 1960  Presidential Primaries, 1960
Jan. 04, 1956  Campaign Smearing
Nov. 30, 1955  Presidential Possibilities, 1956
May 09, 1952  Open Conventions
Jan. 16, 1952  Presidential Primaries, 1952
Oct. 12, 1949  Modernization of the Presidential Election
Jan. 14, 1948  Presidential Primaries
May 01, 1944  Foreign Policy in National Elections
Jan. 01, 1944  Choice of Candidates for the Presidency
Apr. 08, 1940  Republican Candidates for the Presidency, 1940
Apr. 01, 1940  Democratic Candidates for the Presidency, 1940
Jun. 19, 1939  Selection of Nominees for the Presidency
Aug. 19, 1938  Nomination by Primary
Mar. 11, 1936  Voting in Presidential Elections
Feb. 18, 1936  Presidential Candidates, 1936
Mar. 03, 1932  Decline of the Presidential Primary
Aug. 25, 1931  Presidential Candidates, 1932
May 05, 1928  National Nominating Conventions
Sep. 03, 1927  Presidential Candidates—1928
Jun. 14, 1927  Patronage Influence in Nominating Conventions
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Jul. 02, 1924  Proposed Reforms of Presidential Nominating Methods
Jun. 04, 1924  The Machinery of the Political Conventions
Mar. 15, 1924  Presidential Candidates and the Issues
Sep. 05, 1923  The Passing of the Second Term
Campaigns and Elections