The Elections of 1940 and 1944


Franklin Roosevelt (449 Electoral Votes)
Wendell Willkie (82 Electoral Votes)

Franklin Roosevelt (432 Electoral Votes)
Thomas Dewey (99 Electoral Votes)

“Washington wouldn’t, Grant couldn’t, and Roosevelt shouldn’t.”  Franklin Roosevelt’s decision to break George Washington’s old precedent by seeking a third term in office was one major issue of the 1940 election.  The other was the crisis posed by outbreak of World War II in Europe and Japanese expansion in the Pacific.  Roosevelt responded to the international crisis by leading America slowly away from isolation toward inevitable intervention against Germany and Japan.  The electorate clearly sympathized with Great Britain and France, but just as clearly wanted to stay out of war.  Wendell Willkie, the surprise Republican nominee, focused on the first issue in his campaign.  Although Roosevelt’s margin in the popular vote declined significantly, the electorate preferred to break the Washington precedent rather than to turn the country over to inexperienced hands in a dangerous time.  Roosevelt responded to their trust by steering a fractious Allied coalition to the brink of victory over Germany and Japan.  He died just two months into his fourth term.  New York Republican governor Thomas Dewey made a respectable showing against Roosevelt in 1944, paving the way for what was expected to be a successful run in 1948 against Roosevelt’s Vice President and successor, Harry Truman.

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