How a Libertarian Republican Almost Beat Ike in the 1952 Presidential Primary

By Ben Chelnitksy | USA

Recently, I heard that Eisenhower, also known as Ike, had a contested convention/primary. I looked it up because I was curious who he struggled against, seeing as that Ike is and was a popular general.

Turns out he almost lost to Ohio Senator Robert A. Taft, a prominent libertarian and the Senate Majority Leader in 1953.

New Senator Robert Taft of Ohio speaks to the Washington Press Club. Picture from the Harris & Ewing Collection at the Library of Congress

Robert Taft was actually more popular during the primary of 1952, with almost 3 quarters of a million more votes than Ike.

Taft got around 36% and Ike got around 26%, with the future Chief Justice Earl Warren getting around 17%. Taft did not get the nomination though because he won 5 contests/states and Ike won 5 as well. Warren only won his home state of California.

At the 1952 RNC, it was very close between Taft and Ike. There was controversy about delegate spots and a proposal called “Fair Play” was passed making Taft lose many delegates.

Ike won on the first ballot and beat the Democratic nominee 442 to 89 in the electoral college.

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Next year Taft became Senate Majority Leader. Ike and Taft became friends and started golfing. While golfing with Ike he felt terrible pain and went to the hospital. Months later he died of cancer at the age of 63.

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Taft continues to go down as one of the greatest senators in the 20th century. He was a libertarian conservative who fought hard for non-intervention. He started out as a member of the Ohio House of Representatives at the age of 32 and nearly became president like his father.

Some pretty cool libertarian history.