1952 Eisenhower VS. Stevenson
"I Love the Gov"
The Living Room Candidate - Transcript
"I Love the Gov," Stevenson, 1952
[TEXT: "I LOVE THE GOV."
WOMAN (singing): I'd rather have a man with a hole in his shoe
Than a hole in everything he says.
I'd rather have a man who knows what to do
When he gets to be the Prez.
I love the Gov', the Governor of Illinois.
He is the guy that brings the dove of peace and joy.
When Illinois the GOP double-crossed,
He is the one who told all the crooks, "Get lost."
Adlai, love you madly,
And what you did for your own great state,
You're gonna do for the rest of the 48.
Didn't know much about him before he came,
But now my heart's a ballot that bears his name.
'Cause listen to what he has to say,
I know that on election day,
We're gonna choose the Gov' that we love.
He is the Gov' nobody can shove.
We'll make the Gov' president of the you, the me and the U.S.A.
"I Love the Gov," Stevenson, 1952Video courtesy of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.
From Museum of the Moving Image, The Living Room Candidate: Presidential Campaign Commercials 1952-2012.
www.livingroomcandidate.org/commercials/1952/i-love-the-gov (accessed December 10, 2023).
Stevenson proved to be no match for the Republican nominee, war hero Dwight D. Eisenhower, who played a key role in planning the Allied victory in World War II. A poll in March 1952 found Eisenhower the most admired living American, and in November he won a landslide victory on the basis of his pledge to clean up "the mess in Washington" and end the Korean War.
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In 1952, there was no precedent in presidential elections for the use of television "spot" advertising—short commercials that generally run between twenty seconds and a minute. Governor Thomas Dewey, declaring spots "undignified," rejected their use in his 1948 presidential campaign. In 1952, most campaign strategists preferred thirty-minute blocks of television time for the broadcast of campaign speeches. What distinguished Eisenhower’s campaign from Stevenson’s was that it relied more on spot ads than on speeches. The campaign pioneered their use with a series of ads titled "Eisenhower Answers America."
The idea for the spots came from Madison Avenue advertising executive Rosser Reeves, who had created the M&M "melts in your mouth, not in your hands" campaign. Reeves convinced Eisenhower that spot ads placed immediately before or after such popular TV programs as I Love Lucy would reach more viewers, and at a much lower cost, than half-hour speeches.
In each of the simple, twenty-second spots, Eisenhower responded to a question from an "ordinary citizen." The questioners—tourists enlisted near Radio City Music Hall—were photographed looking up, as though gazing at a hero. Eisenhower’s folksy responses, which he read from large cue cards, were used to create forty commercials, all filmed in one day in a Manhattan studio. The spots were designed to establish Eisenhower as a plainspeaking man in touch with the people. They repeatedly focused on three issues cited by polls as the voters’ main concerns: the Korean War, corruption in government, and the high cost of living.
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Speaking about the role of television advertising in election campaigns, Adlai Stevenson said, "I think the American people will be shocked by such contempt for their intelligence. This isn’t Ivory Soap versus Palmolive." Stevenson aide George Ball bitterly predicted that "presidential campaigns will eventually have professional actors as candidates."
Stevenson based his television strategy on a series of eighteen half-hour speeches that aired on Tuesday and Thursday nights at 10:30. The goal was to take advantage of Stevenson’s oratorical skills and build his national recognition by developing a regular audience for the broadcasts. But the lateness of the time slot cut down on the number of potential viewers, and the actual audience consisted largely of people already predisposed to vote for Stevenson.
Stevenson’s spot ads were little more than illustrated radio spots. The crude visuals generally consisted of a single shot, such as the simple cartoon drawing that illustrates the Ike and Bob ad, which implied that an Eisenhower presidency would be under the control of conservative Republican Robert Taft. Rather than defend the Truman administration, the ads attempted to distance Stevenson from it. Several of them reminded voters of how bad things were during the Depression, presided over by the last Republican president, Herbert Hoover.
Stevenson never warmed up to the medium during the campaign. He refused to appear in his own spots, and his speeches, which were aired live, frequently ran too long; the broadcast would fade out while he was still talking. In his election-eve special, when his son tells him, "I like watching television better than being on it," Stevenson replies, "I guess that goes for all of us, doesn’t it?"