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Alfred Landon

Alfred Landon


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Alfred Landon was born in West Middlesex on 9th September, 1887. After graduating from the University of Kansas in 1908 he joined the oil business.

In 1912 Landon campaigned for Theodore Roosevelt and the Progressive Party. Landon wrote: "I do not think there is anything new or revolutionary about the distribution of wealth theory. Every wise statesman in every period of history has been concerned with the equitable distribution of property in his country." Roosevelt's proposed program included women's suffrage, direct election of senators, anti-trust legislation and the prohibition of child labour. Roosevelt won 4,126,020 votes, but as he split the traditional Republican Party vote, he enabled Woodrow Wilson, the Democratic candidate, to be elected.

Landon served in the United States Army during the First World War. After the war he joined the Republican Party and in 1932 was elected governor of Kansas. The journalist Raymond Gram Swing interviewed him during this period: "I found Governor Landon as attractive as anyone I had personally encountered in American public life and said so. His views appeared to me nearly as attractive as his personality.... I found that the Governor believed in social insurance and collective bargaining, which to me were the two essentials of a new era."

Landon was re-elected in 1934. At his inaugural address in 1935 he said: "America bids fair to join in the procession of nations of the world in their march toward a new social and economic philosophy... Some say this will lead to socialism, some communism, others fascism. For myself I am convinced that the ultimate goal will be a modified form of individual rights and ownership of property out of which will come a wider spread of prosperity and opportunity."

Landon was chosen as the party's presidential candidate to stand against Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936. Roosevelt was at the height of his popularity and easily won by 27,751,612 votes to 16,681,913.

After losing the election Landon returned to Kansas where he remained active in politics. Alfred Landon died in Topeka, Kansas on 12th October, 1987.

My next - and final - articles in the Nation were on possible Republican candidates, and I wrote about Alf Landon, of Kansas, and Colonel Frank Knox, then publisher of the Chicago Daily News. The Landon articles, written after extended conversations with the Kansas Governor in Topeka, were frankly commendatory. I found Governor Landon as attractive as anyone I had personally encountered in American public life and said so. His views appeared to me nearly as attractive as his personality. He was being praised by Hearst as a Kansas Coolidge who had balanced his budget, and it was with these words ringing in my ears that I first met the Governor. He was so different that I went far, in my articles, in emphasizing the difference. The Landon I met was a Theodore Roosevelt Progressive, an intimate associate of William Allen White, a believer in civil liberties - he had chaired a Norman Thomas meeting in Topeka - and he was at odds with almost all the conservative Republican dogmas excepting reduction in the cost of government.... In a time when the "hate-Roosevelt" campaign inspired most Republicans, such moderate and liberal ideas were outstanding. I found that the Governor believed in social insurance and collective bargaining, which to me were the two essentials of a new era.


Alf Landon

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Alf Landon, in full Alfred Mossman Landon, (born Sept. 9, 1887, West Middlesex, Pa., U.S.—died Oct. 12, 1987, Topeka, Kan.), governor of Kansas (1933–37) and unsuccessful U.S. Republican presidential candidate in 1936.

Landon went with his parents to Independence, Kan., in 1904. He received a law degree from the University of Kansas in 1908 and entered the oil business in 1912. He attended the Bull Moose Convention of the Progressive Party in that same year and campaigned in Kansas for the Progressive Party presidential candidate, Theodore Roosevelt. Thereafter, Landon’s political affiliation remained with Kansas progressivism. During World War I he served in the U.S. Army chemical warfare service.

After the war Landon returned to his oil business and Kansas politics. He was elected governor in 1932 and was reelected in 1934, the only Republican gubernatorial incumbent to win that year. This victory led to the “Landon Boom” and to his presidential candidacy of 1936. Although nearly 17,000,000 Americans voted the Republican ticket, Landon won the electoral votes of only Maine and Vermont. After losing the election he continued to participate in Kansas politics but did not again play an important role in national affairs. His daughter Nancy Landon Kassebaum was also a Republican senator from Kansas.

This article was most recently revised and updated by Amy Tikkanen, Corrections Manager.


Alfred M. Landon

Alfred Mossman Landon was born September 9, 1887, in West Middlesex, Pennsylvania to John Manuel and Anne (Mossman) Landon. The elder Landon was an oilman and moved the family to Marietta, Ohio, where Alfred Landon attended preparatory school. When he was 17 Landon moved with the family to Independence, Kansas. He graduated from the University of Kansas in 1908 with a law degree. Landon married Margaret Fleming on January 9, 1915. They had one child, Margaret. After her death in 1918, Landon devoted himself to managing his oil interests and raising his young daughter.

A supporter of Theodore Roosevelt, Landon&rsquos help with the Bull Moose campaign earned him the respect of the progressive arm of the Republican Party. After a short stint as Governor Henry Allen's secretary in 1922, Landon became a leader in the state's progressive faction and in 1928 won election to the state Republican chairmanship.

Landon married Theo Cobb on January 15, 1930. They had two children, Nancy and John. He ran a successful campaign for the governorship in 1932. During the time of the Great Depression, Landon was one of two Republican governors west of the Mississippi to win a gubernatorial contest. He introduced programs to bring economic relief that included tax reductions, a moratorium on mortgage foreclosures, state supported local relief, and a series of emergency banking laws all without increasing the state debt.

The national Republicans looked to Landon to challenge President Franklin D. Roosevelt. He was selected as the party&rsquos nominee for the 1936 presidential election. Roosevelt proved invincible in 1936, and Landon was defeated. Landon continued to be an adviser for the Republican Party. He was the Native Sons and Daughters of Kansas' Distinguished Kansan of the Year in 1969. He was inducted into the Kansas Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 1974.

He marked his 100th birthday with a visit from President Ronald Reagan. Landon died October 12, 1987. His daughter Nancy was elected to the U. S. Senate in 1978 and served until 1996. The Landon State Office Building is named in his honor.

Entry: Landon, Alfred M.

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Alfred Landon - History

The presidential election of 1936 pitted Alfred Landon, the Republican governor of Kansas, against the incumbent President, Franklin D. Roosevelt. The year 1936 marked the end of the Great Depression, and economic issues such as unemployment and government spending were the dominant themes of the campaign. The Literary Digest was one of the most respected magazines of the time and had a history of accurately predicting the winners of presidential elections that dated back to 1916. For the 1936 election, the Literary Digest prediction was that Landon would get 57% of the vote against Roosevelt's 43% (these are the statistics that the poll measured). The actual results of the election were 62% for Roosevelt against 38% for Landon (these were the parameters the poll was trying to measure). The sampling error in the Literary Digest poll was a whopping 19%, the largest ever in a major public opinion poll. Practically all of the sampling error was the result of sample bias.

The irony of the situation was that the Literary Digest poll was also one of the largest and most expensive polls ever conducted, with a sample size of around 2.4 million people! At the same time the Literary Digest was making its fateful mistake, George Gallup was able to predict a victory for Roosevelt using a much smaller sample of about 50,000 people.

This illustrates the fact that bad sampling methods cannot be cured by increasing the size of the sample, which in fact just compounds the mistakes. The critical issue in sampling is not sample size but how best to reduce sample bias. There are many different ways that bias can creep into the sample selection process. Two of the most common occurred in the case of the Literary Digest poll.

The Literary Digest's method for choosing its sample was as follows: Based on every telephone directory in the United States, lists of magazine subscribers, rosters of clubs and associations, and other sources, a mailing list of about 10 million names was created. Every name on this lest was mailed a mock ballot and asked to return the marked ballot to the magazine.

One cannot help but be impressed by the sheer ambition of such a project. Nor is is surprising that the magazine's optimism and confidence were in direct proportion to the magnitude of its effort. In its August 22, 1936 issue, the Litereary Digest announced:

Once again, [we are] asking more than ten million voters -- one out of four, representing every county in the United States -- to settle November's election in October.

Next week, the first answers from these ten million will begin the incoming tide of marked ballots, to be triple-checked, verified, five-times cross-classified and totaled. When the last figure has been totted and checked, if past experience is a criterion, the country will know to within a fraction of 1 percent the actual popular vote of forty million [voters].

There were two basic causes of the Literary Digest's downfall: selection bias and nonresponse bias.

The first major problem with the poll was in the selection process for the names on the mailing list, which were taken from telephone directories, club membership lists, lists of magazine subscibers, etc. Such a list is guaranteed to be slanted toward middle- and upper-class voters, and by default to exclude lower-income voters. One must remember that in 1936, telephones were much more of a luxury than they are today. Furthermore, at a time when there were still 9 million people unemployed, the names of a significant segment of the population would not show up on lists of club memberships and magazine subscribers. At least with regard to economic status, the Literary Digest mailing list was far from being a representative cross-seciton of the population. This is always a critical problem because voters are generally known to vote their pocketbooks, and it was magnified in the 1936 election when economic issues were preeminent in the minds of the voters. This sort of sample bias is called selection bias.

The second problem with the Literary Digest poll was that out of the 10 million people whose names were on the original mailing list, only about 2.4 million responded to the survey. Thus, the size of the sample was about one-fourth of what was originally intended. People who respond to surveys are different from people who don't, not only in the obvious way (their attitude toward surveys) but also in more subtle and significant ways. When the response rate is low (as it was in this case, 0.24), a survey is said to suffer from nonresponse bias. This is a special type of selection bias where reluctant and nonresponsive people are excluded from the sample.

Dealing with nonresponse bias presents its own set of difficulties. We can't force people to participate in a survey, and paying them is hardly ever asolution since it can introduce other forms of bias. There are ways, however, of minimizing nonresponse bias. For example, the Literary Digest survey was conducted by mail. This approach is the most likely to magnify nonresponse bias because people often consider a mailed questionnaire just another form of junk mail. Of course, considering the size of the mailing list, the Literary Digest really had no other choice. Here again is an illustration of how a big sample size can be more of a liability than an asset.

Nowadays, almost all legitimate public opinion polls are conducted either by telephone or by personal interviews. Telephone polling is subject to slightly more nonresponse bias than personal interviews, but it is considerably cheaper. Even today, however, a significant segment of the population has no telephone in their homes (in fact, a significant segment of the population has no homes), so that selection bias can still be a problem in telephone surveys.

The most extreme form of nonresponse bias occurs when the sample consists only of those individuals who step forward and actually "volunteer" to be in the sample. A blatant example of this is the 900-number telephone polls, in which an individual not only has to step forward, but he or she actually has to pay to do so. It goes without saying that people who are willing to pay to express their opinions are hardly representative of the general public and that information collected from such polls should be considered suspect at best.


Alf Landon (New England Secession)

Alfred "Alf" Mossman Landon (born September 9, 1887-died February 27, 1941) was the 33rd President of the United States, defeating Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the Presidential Election of 1936.

Landon was assassinated in Washington in 1941 by former Vice President John Nance Garner after controversially cancelling the 1940 Presidential Election after a relatively small labor riot in San Francisco.

In undoubtedly the greatest upset in US Presidential election history, Landon improbably won the Presidential Election of 1936, running on a platform that President Roosevelt's Progressive financial policies were actually hurting the United States during the Depression. Mocked throughout the campaign for his seeming absence from the campaign trail, his victory was ascribed to complacency on the part of the Roosevelt campaign. He narowly defeated Roosevelt in the general election to become the 33rd President of the United States. Landon's anti-Progressive and anti-Democrat message helped elect a Republican-held congress, although just.

In office, Landon's inclination was to attempt to seek consensus with Democratic opponents. However, under the influence of senior elements in the Republican Party, Landon and the Republican-held Congress began to undo all of Roosevelt's policies. This approach became associated with a seeming intensification of the Great Depression, with increasing unemployment and social unrest. Landon was especialy unpopular for his infamous 1939 speech given to the Topeka Chamber of Commerce - with its much derided quote "it is well known amongst all medical men that often, to get better, the patient must firstly get worse."

Fearing losing reelection in 1940, Landon exploits a labor riot in San Francisco, California to cancel the elections by signing an executive order to cancel them. Democrats - and most of the populace - are furious at Landon. There are calls for impeachment, but they fall on deaf ears.

After Landon cancelled the elections, former Roosevelt Vice President John Nance Garner - already possessing a maniacal hatred against Landon - was pushed over the top. Garner wrote in his diary "I now know that the only way to save this great, free nation is to destroy the President. I know it is against the Ten Commandments. I know it will send me to prison for a very long time. But the President is just a half dozen steps away from Franco in Spain, Hitler in Germany, Salazar in Portugal or Mussolini in Italy. I fear for this country, and now I must save it."

On February 27, 1941, President Landon held a gala with several Washington elites attending, including former President Roosevelt and Garner. Garner smuggled a handgun beneath his coat, and sat near the stage where Landon would be speaking from. When Landon started his speech, Garner stood up took out his handgun, yelled "Sic semper tyrannus!", referencing what John Wilkes Booth yelled after he had killed Abraham Lincoln in 1865, and shot Landon four times, killing him. Garner was escorted away by Secret Service, was arrested, tried and sentenced to death by execution on October 31, 1953. He died of suicide ten years before his scheduled execution, on October 31, 1943.

Landon's Vice President, Frank Knox, took over as President, and Knox chose William Edgar Borah of Indiana to be his Vice President.


AHC and its effects: Alf Landon wins the Presidency in 1936

Al Smith (Or an alternate Democrat) manages to beat Hoover in 1928. Delay the Depression or in some other way get Smith to limp to reelection 1932. Franklin Roosevelt wins the nomination in 1936 and is crushed by Alf Landon running on a progressive platform. This may cause the Republicans to end up on the left and the Democrats on the right of the political spectrum thanks to no New Deal coalition.

Two problems though How does Al Smith win once, never mind twice, and would Landon still be the candidate if the Republicans are largely guaranteed victory in 1936?

Rainbow Sparkle

Al Smith (Or an alternate Democrat) manages to beat Hoover in 1928. Delay the Depression or in some other way get Smith to limp to reelection 1932. Franklin Roosevelt wins the nomination in 1936 and is crushed by Alf Landon running on a progressive platform. This may cause the Republicans to end up on the left and the Democrats on the right of the political spectrum thanks to no New Deal coalition.

Two problems though How does Al Smith win once, never mind twice, and would Landon still be the candidate if the Republicans are largely guaranteed victory in 1936?

Plumber

It's very hard because Landon would only get the nomination after something like the New Deal, but if there's something like the New Deal he can't win.

Landon cannot beat FDR. Period. Period.

Fearless Leader

I think given the right number of factors Landon could conceivably beat FDR.

Let's take for our POD Huey Long surviving his assassination attempt in 1935. He gains a bit of popularity and decides to begin pursuing his presidential ambitions. In 1936 he launches a primary challenge against Roosevelt forcing the President to defend his record to maintain his hold on the nomination. Never one to play clean, Long secretly arranges to have FDR's condition revealed in a very public manner. FDR stumbles and falls during a campaign speech and suffers a nasty gash to his forehead. Though FDR is able to recover and win the Democratic nomination, Long gains a surprising amount of support and breaks with the Democrats to form the Share our Wealth Party.

Long later announces his intentions not to run in the election under the Share our Wealth banner but his acolytes such as Father Coughlin opt to run in his place. Long quickly endorses Coughlin and campaigns as part of the Share our Wealth party. FDR and the Democrats are forced on the defensive and swing a bit further to the left in order to prevent the SoW party from grabbing too many votes.

Meanwhile Alf Landon runs a strong campaign that attacks both the Democrats and the extremism of the Share our Wealth party. Come election Day Landon manages to take advantage of the divide in the popular vote to come up the middle and win the election by a hair.

DanMcCollum

Rainbow Sparkle

Hmm. that'd be interesting. I wonder what butterflies this would cause.

I think given the right number of factors Landon could conceivably beat FDR.

Let's take for our POD Huey Long surviving his assassination attempt in 1935. He gains a bit of popularity and decides to begin pursuing his presidential ambitions. In 1936 he launches a primary challenge against Roosevelt forcing the President to defend his record to maintain his hold on the nomination. Never one to play clean, Long secretly arranges to have FDR's condition revealed in a very public manner. FDR stumbles and falls during a campaign speech and suffers a nasty gash to his forehead. Though FDR is able to recover and win the Democratic nomination, Long gains a surprising amount of support and breaks with the Democrats to form the Share our Wealth Party.

Long later announces his intentions not to run in the election under the Share our Wealth banner but his acolytes such as Father Coughlin opt to run in his place. Long quickly endorses Coughlin and campaigns as part of the Share our Wealth party. FDR and the Democrats are forced on the defensive and swing a bit further to the left in order to prevent the SoW party from grabbing too many votes.

Meanwhile Alf Landon runs a strong campaign that attacks both the Democrats and the extremism of the Share our Wealth party. Come election Day Landon manages to take advantage of the divide in the popular vote to come up the middle and win the election by a hair.

This one also sounds interesting, though I have to wonder how long the Share our wealth party would survive.

of course, the challenge isn't just get Landon Elected, but what butterflies his getting elected causes.


Alfred Landon

In 1920, starting with the election of President Warren G. Harding, a weekly magazine called The Literary Digest correctly picked the winner of each subsequent presidential election up to and including Franklin D. Roosevelt’s decisive victory over Herbert Hoover in 1932.

Quite an impressive track record by a magazine founded by two Lutheran ministers in 1890. The Literary Review culled articles from other publications and provided readers with insightful analysis and opinions on the day’s events. Eventually, as the subscriber list grew, the magazine created its own response-based surveys, or polling, as it is known today.

The presidential races were the perfect example of this system.

So in 1936, with a subscriber base of 10 million and a solid track record, the Digest was ready to declare the next president: “Once again, [we are] asking more than ten million voters — one out of four, representing every county in the United States — to settle November’s election in October,” they bragged.

Alfred Landon

When the tallies were in, the Digest polls showed Republican Alfred Landon beating incumbent Roosevelt 57-percent to 43-percent. This was a surprise to many who thought Landon didn’t stand a chance.

Roosevelt was a progressive Democrat whose New Deal policies, like the Social Security Act and Public Pension Act, passed through Congress with mostly bipartisan support. Soon, millions of Americans burdened by the Great Depression would receive federal assistance.

Landon, a moderate, admired Roosevelt but felt he was soft on business and yielded too much presidential power. “I will not promise the moon,” he exclaimed during a campaign speech and warned against raising payroll taxes to pay for benefits. It didn’t work. Roosevelt won all but two states, Maine and Vermont, and sailed to a second term with 60-percent of the popular vote.

Even Landon’s hometown state of Kansas, where he had been Governor since 1933, went with the President. In the end, Landon’s 8 electoral votes to Roosevelt’s 532 – or 98-percent – made it the most lopsided general election in history.

In hindsight, poor sampling was blamed for the Digest’s erroneous choice. Not only were subscribers mostly middle to upper class, but only a little over two of the ten million samples were returned, skewing the result.

George Gallup

The big winner, however, besides Roosevelt, was George Gallup, the son of an Iowa dairy farmer and eventual newspaperman, whose upstart polling company American Institute of Public Opinion correctly chose the President over Landon to within 1 percent of the actual margin of victory.

In 1948, the validity of public opinion polls would be questioned again when Gallup incorrectly picked Thomas Dewey to beat Roosevelt’s successor by death, Harry S.Truman.

Since it was widely considered Truman would lose his reelection bid to a full term, Gallup survived the scrutiny.

Even the Chicago Tribune got it wrong, claiming a Dewey presidency was “inevitable,” and printing an early edition with the now infamous headline of “Dewey Defeats Truman.” A humiliation that Truman mocked the next day.

The Literary Digest, however, had no say in the matter.

In 1938, the magazine merged with another review publication and stopped polling subscribers.


Alf Landon, Republicans’ Beloved Loser, Dies at 100

Death came Monday to Alfred M. (Alf) Landon, the plain-spoken Kansas Republican who lost the 1936 presidential election in an unprecedented landslide but won the enduring respect and affection of his countrymen with his grace and dignity in defeat.

Landon, who was 100 years old, died in the elegant Colonial-style mansion he built on the outskirts of Topeka in 1937. His wife, Theo, said Landon simply stopped breathing at 5:25 p.m.

Physically vigorous until well into his 10th decade--and intellectually and spiritually vigorous almost until the moment of his death--Landon had been in declining health since the spring of 1979.

He was hospitalized for several days in May of that year, after experiencing an irregular heartbeat, and again in January, 1980, after a slight dizzy spell. In March, 1980, he was afflicted with a painful skin condition called “shingles” but remained active around his 14-room home, kept a hand in his oil and radio enterprises and maintained his lifelong and lively interest in politics.

Landon was last hospitalized two weeks ago at Stormont-Vail Regional Medical Center after complaining of internal pain. He was treated for a gallstone and a mild case of bronchitis before returning home Saturday.

President Reagan issued a statement mourning the death of the GOP elder statesman.

“Alf Landon exemplified the very best in public service,” Reagan said Monday. “He deeply loved his country and he was motivated by a genuine desire to help his fellow man. . . . Gov. Landon was a true elder statesman, whose expertise and views were sought and valued by many of us in public life.”

And Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, who is seeking the 1988 Republican presidential nomination, called Landon “a friend and mentor.”

“He was a legendary Republican who taught generations of politicians what integrity and leadership were all about. Always way ahead of his times, his life was a solid century of achievement.”

At least part of Landon’s interest in politics was very personal and familial--his youngest daughter, Nancy Landon Kassebaum, was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1978. Kassebaum had been scheduled to speak Monday night in Hartford, Conn., but headed back to Topeka after learning of her father’s death.

Landon maintained that he played no role in his daughter’s election--in fact discouraged her because of the physical strains of campaigning--and that he had little political influence with her, never offering her political counsel.

But he was obviously proud of his Republican daughter, the only woman currently in the Senate.

“Nancy,” he said shortly after her election, “was a whole lot better campaigner than I was.”

It was precisely this kind of common-sensical human and humorous style that endeared Landon to the public and politicians alike.

And although he had not been a political force for years, he was sought out by politicians and reporters for advice and analysis right up to the last months of his life. Reading as many as a dozen newspapers daily, listening to radio and watching television, he was always up on the latest political developments and liked nothing better than discussing the details with reporters or politicos by the hour.

One of his last public observations on international political affairs--made in an interview with The Times in February, 1980--was that in invading Afghanistan, the Soviet Union had engaged itself in “a religious war.”

“No nation has ever won a war against religion,” he added.

In the same interview, Landon declined to predict who would win the 1980 presidential nominations. But he made it clear that he considered Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan the front-runners.

This role of studying, observing and commenting on the political scene had been Landon’s for more than four decades. He always insisted, however, that politics was not his vocation but his avocation.

Indeed, although trained at the University of Kansas as a lawyer, he never practiced as an attorney and worked full time as a politician for only four years. Like his father before him, he earned his comfortable living primarily as an independent oilman. Late in his career, he also owned and operated four radio stations in Kansas and Colorado.

Landon’s last formal political outing was at the 1976 Republican National Convention in Kansas City, 60 miles east of his hometown. It was strictly a ceremonial ritual, but he was given a rousing ovation.

Characteristically, his response to the convention was hearty and humorous:

“You warm the cockles of my heart, whatever that means.”

Although Landon won in two of his three runs at political office, it was as the landslide loser to incumbent President Franklin Delano Roosevelt that he earned his place in history.

That was in 1936 in the midst of the worst economic depression in American history. But the electorate perceived it as a crisis that was being beaten by the free-spending New Deal measures of the Democrat they had elected four years before.

Landon was elected governor of Kansas in 1932, the same year Roosevelt had been swept into the presidency. He was the only Republican west of the Mississippi to be elected to a state house in that bleak season for the Grand Old Party.

As governor, Landon’s approach to state government was one of strict economy. In his first days in office, he tried to slash his own $5,000-a-year salary by 25%. When the state Legislature refused to vote the cut, he simply returned 25% of each paycheck to the state treasury.

Between 1932 and 1935, he reduced state spending from $29 million annually to $25 million.

In 1934, Landon was reelected, this time the only Republican governor to win anywhere in the country. Almost immediately he became the center of speculation that he would be the national GOP candidate two years later.

His uncle, Pennsylvania public relations man William Mossman, was one of those who urged him to work for the nomination.

“I don’t have any political bees in my bonnet,” Landon wrote to Mossman at the time. But he didn’t quash the idea either. “You might drop a friendly word to your friends,” the Kansan added.

By December, 1934, Landon-for-President clubs were being organized--and the governor was being referred to by friends as “The Kansas Lincoln.” By 1935, Roosevelt was predicting that Landon would be his opponent in the next election.

And by late that year, Chicago publisher Frank Knox and former President Herbert Hoover, among others who hoped for the 1936 GOP nomination, were forming a “stop Landon” movement.

In part because of his personal amiability and integrity--which always came through on a person-to-person level--and in part because he simply worked harder and with more political shrewdness than his rivals, Landon went into the 1936 convention with the nomination locked up.

By a vote of 984 to 16 (for Sen. William Borah of Idaho), Landon won on the first ballot. Frank Knox became his vice presidential running mate.

Pundit-humorist Irvin S. Cobb called Landon’s nomination “a quiet interment for the Republican Old Guard.”

And in many ways it was, for Landon was, by the party’s standards of the time, a Republican liberal. To this day a number of political observers consider him the first “modern” Republican, forerunner of those who finally worked for and won the presidency for Dwight David Eisenhower in 1952.

But, although his folksy charm, sincerity and down-to-earth intelligence came through strongly in one-to-one and small-group settings, Landon seldom sparked enthusiasm among the masses at Depression-era grass-roots rallies.

One reason was that he was a hesitant, often awkward orator compared to the witty and frequently eloquent Roosevelt. Landon’s speech writers didn’t help him much, providing him more often with phrases turned of solid lead than of sparkling gold. For example, in one of his first campaign speeches, he was given this ludicrous line to deliver:

“Wherever I have gone in this country, I have found Americans.”

He did utter one phrase, according to his biographer, Donald McCoy, that became immortal--but not until nearly 25 years later, when it was spoken by John F. Kennedy: “A New Frontier.”

Landon’s publicist-poets did not serve him well either. They gave him a campaign song, sung to the tune of “Oh, Susanna,” that went:

“Oh, Alf Landon!/He’s the man for me!/'Cause he comes from prairie Kansas/His country for to free!”

By contrast, Roosevelt’s campaign song was the rousing “Happy Days Are Here Again,” catchy and bright and just what Depression-weary folks wanted to hear.

Despite Landon’s hard-working campaign, despite expenditure of $9 million in his behalf by his party (the Democrats spent about half that) and despite predictions by such distinguished figures as columnist Walter Krock of the New York Times and by the respected Literary Digest that he would beat Roosevelt, the personable Kansan suffered the greatest loss, up to that time, in American political history.

The popular vote was Roosevelt 27,478,945, Landon 16,674,665. The electoral vote was 523 to 8. Landon failed to carry even his home state. He did win in Maine and Vermont, giving rise to this revision of an old political axiom: “As Maine goes, so goes Vermont.”

When news photographers gathered to take pictures of him the day after the disaster, Landon posed in front of what was supposed to have been his victory cake. Smiling wryly, he turned to his wife, Theo, and urged her to join him for the pictures: “Come on, Mother, and get your picture took--it will be the last chance.”

Political analysts, their vision sharpened by the focus of hindsight, later saw Landon’s defeat as inevitable, particularly in view of the public’s perception of him as a knee-jerk conservative Republican, even as an anti-labor tool of Wall Street. It was a perception intensified by Landon’s endorsement by such old-line Republicans as Hoover, whom voters blamed for the Depression, and such right-wingers as publisher William Randolph Hearst.

Landon complained that during the campaign he was surrounded by “Republican stuffed shirts instead of working men,” although he was, by contrast to most of the GOP at that time, a friend of labor unions.

Whatever Landon’s feeling in his heart of hearts, he never expressed any sourness or personal sense of failure at his stunning defeat. In one of his last interviews, the old campaigner claimed he never felt any personal animosity toward Roosevelt, even though each had denounced the other during the campaign.

“I don’t feel any bitterness at all,” he said, “I don’t believe anyone could have beaten him at that time.”

Paradoxically, Landon’s defeat by Roosevelt was both the zenith and nadir of his political career.

As titular leader of the GOP from 1936 to 1940, he rejected the idea of ever seeking political office again, but spoke out often on the issues. Usually, he was strongly critical of Roosevelt and what he called the “dictatorial” drift of his Administration, although he sometimes supported the President, mostly on national defense issues.

In May, 1940, Landon fended off a not too subtle maneuver by the crafty Democrat to include him in a “coalition Cabinet” that might have stifled his opposition to Roosevelt’s third-term presidency.

“That,” he said in an interview four decades later, “would have destroyed the Republican Party.”

Although he originally backed Thomas Dewey for the 1940 GOP nomination, he supported Wendell Willkie in his losing campaign to oust Roosevelt.

As war approached, Landon’s position was seen by many as isolationist. He opposed the Lend Lease Bill to provide arms to Great Britain. Instead, he advocated a strong defense of the Western Hemisphere.

“Let us arm ourselves so terrifically that we can lick any nation or combinations that are foolish enough to attack here,” he urged.

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, Landon wired Roosevelt: “Please command me in any way I can be of service.”

And he gave his full support to the war effort and to the nation’s allies, but he continued to speak out on his suspicions about Russian motives and Roosevelt’s increasing power.

He opposed Roosevelt’s fourth term, split with Willkie and supported Dewey in the 1944 presidential campaign. Four years later, he was one of the first to promote Eisenhower as a potential Republican candidate for President.

But by then, his political influence was definitely in decline through the 1950s and 1960s he didn’t even attend GOP conventions. Always independent minded--he had with his father bolted from the Republican Party in 1912 to support the “Bull Moose” Progressive Party of Theodore Roosevelt (who remained his political hero the rest of his life)--Landon still spoke out during this period, sometimes taking positions that boggled GOP regulars.

At one point he called for the resignation of John Foster Dulles, Eisenhower’s secretary of state. In 1953, almost unthinkable for a Republican of the time, he called for America to consider admission of Communist China to the United Nations. And occasionally he even expressed a certain admiration for Harry S. Truman and, later, for John F. Kennedy.

Meantime, he devoted himself to his family and his businesses. Landon’s first wife, Margaret, died in 1918 after bearing him a daughter, Peggy Anne. He married Theo Cobb in 1930, and she bore him a son, John, and another daughter, Nancy, the future U.S. senator.

Born in Middlesex, Pa., on Sept. 9, 1887, Landon was raised in Ohio and Kansas, moving west with his father, John Landon, as he looked for new oil fields. As a youngster, Landon was both athlete and scholar, and after his political influence began to fade in the late 1940s, he returned to athletics and scholarship with a passion.

He jogged around Topeka long before jogging became a fad and continued the exercise well into his 80s.

A horseman all his life, he rode his beloved Big Red along the Kaw River near his home almost every day for a quarter of a century. He finally gave up riding, but not caring for, Big Red in the fall of 1979.

When not busy with his family or oil and radio enterprises, he read and studied history and politics. He kept up a constant correspondence with politicians, reporters, businessmen. Often he hosted them in his book-lined study. Invariably the subject was politics.

Silver-haired, rumpled and a bit hard of hearing, Landon was still a delightful--if sometimes challenging and cranky--conversationalist. He loved throwing out such aphorisms as: “The art of governing must be preceded by the art of getting elected.” Sometimes he would demand: “Now argue with me on this if you don’t agree!”

Occasionally, as when he was asked about Richard M. Nixon, his lined old face would cloud with what seemed a mix of anger and sadness. Although he had supported Nixon in 1968 and 1972--in fact had seen something of a revival of his own political standing as a result--he allowed that he was wrong in his assessment of him.

“Sure, I was disillusioned with him,” he told an interviewer late in 1980. “I was asked to review that last book of his, but I wouldn’t do it.”

His point was that he didn’t want to do anything that might promote or apologize for Nixon.

“I thought he should keep out of the limelight,” he said. Then, in what may have been a slip of the tongue: “I thought he should just stay there in San Quentin (did he mean San Clemente?), but now he’s back in New York, worming his way back into public attention.”

He quickly changed the subject.

When his interviewer finally asked a question that infringed upon the old man’s own sense of modesty (“How do you account for the affection in which you are held after all these years?”), he flared up angrily in his embarrassment.

“Goddamn it, sir, why do you ask a question like that? How can I answer a question like that?”

Then, realizing his irritation had taken his guest somewhat aback, his tone softened and his face creased into a smile.

“Whatever it is, it’s up to you to observe it if you see it. It’s your business to tell it--I don’t lie awake nights thinking about it. I don’t try to analyze me the way you do.”


Alfred Landon - History

The 1936 Democratic convention voted overwhelmingly to renominate Roosevelt as their presidential nominee. The convention eliminated the rule requiring 2/3 of the delegates to vote in favor of a candidate to receive the Presidential nomination. This simplified the future selection of presidential candidates. The Republicans met in Cleveland in 1936. They nominated Alfred “Alf” Landon, of Kansas. Landon attacked the Roosevelt administration’s New Deal while supporting some of its goals. The Republicans enjoyed support from businesses and most newspapers. Businesses opposed the more significant role that government undertook, as a result of the policies of the Roosevelt administration.

Roosevelt became an active campaigner. He took to the road and airways in October. Roosevelt proved he had no peer, as a politician. Landon, on the other hand, proved to be a lackluster candidate. The Republicans became desperate and claimed Social Security, which was scheduled to go into effect in 1937, was a fraud. Roosevelt gave a rousing defense of Social Security a few days before the election.

Roosevelt won the election by an overwhelming majority of votes. By doing so, Roosevelt cemented a significant realignment in American politics.