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The Promise of Change:  Choosing FDR

Choosing FDR

The way Americans chose Presidential candidates in 1932 was far different from today. Primaries and caucuses played a minor role. Nominations were settled by party leaders in smoke-filled rooms at national conventions.

At the Democratic Convention in Chicago, FDR faced formidable rivals, including the party's 1928 nominee Al Smith and House Speaker John Nance Garner. Roosevelt led in early balloting, but could not reach the necessary two-thirds majority. Fearing attention might shift to another candidate, FDR's advisers negotiated a deal with Garner. His supporters switched to FDR and Garner received the vice presidential nomination. With Garner's votes, Roosevelt won on the fourth ballot.

In those days, Presidential nominees did not appear at party conventions. FDR defied that tradition, flew to Chicago to accept his nomination, and electrified the delegates with his call for a "New Deal."
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