Franklin D. Roosevelt Reelected During World War II
In 1940, FDR ran for reelection once again. This marked the first time that any president had run for a third consecutive term in office. Historians agree that if the world had been at peace in 1940, FDR would probably have thrown his support to another prominent Democratic leader rather than seeking reelection himself. However, given the likelihood that the United States would soon be at war again, FDR decided to run. He had the overwhelming support of his party. Republican Wendell Willkie, a former Democrat and New Deal supporter who had no political experience, opposed him.
The economy was beginning to recover from the worst of the Great Depression, and the issue that concerned voters the most was whether the United States would take part in the war in Europe. Both Willkie and Roosevelt pledged to keep the United States neutral—Willkie at all costs, FDR if possible. Roosevelt made it clear that the United States would not seek a battle with any nation, but would immediately defend itself if it were attacked directly.
FDR won the election decisively, winning 449 electoral votes of a possible 531 and nearly 55 percent of the popular vote. “What counted,” wrote one historian, “was the feeling that in a dangerous world the United States had better not change horses in midstream.” The same feeling would contribute to Roosevelt’s election for a fourth term in 1944.
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