The massive success of Eisenhower during the 1952 election was short lived, as the Korean War and other foreign policy concerns were coming to a head. Eisenhower’s major campaign promise was to end the war in Korea and to visit the troops, which he did shortly after taking office. The resolution of the Korean War was more relieving than satisfying for the American public and they saw Eisenhower’s ability to lead.
With the Korean War out of the way, domestic concerns over segregation became paramount. Following the Brown versus Board of Education decision in 1953, several incidents in the South tested the resolve of Eisenhower to enforce the Supreme Court decision. While he was not an activist for desegregation, Eisenhower was not about to allow the states to defy the federal government and he called upon federal troops to enforce integration policies.
Later in his first term, Eisenhower faced two overseas developments that proved to be popular among the American people. The Suez Canal crisis in the fall of 1956, involved Egyptian President Nasser and the nationalization of the economically vital Suez Canal. The failure by the French, British, and Israelis to reopen the canal was a victory of public opinion for Eisenhower, who admonished his allies for being too brazen in dealing with Nasser.
Eisenhower and the United Nations negotiated for a cease fire and access to the canal, though Egypt maintained control. The second episode, involving a Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956, showed Eisenhower’s ability to calculate the positives and negatives of American intervention in Europe. America stayed out of the Hungarian revolt and the quick capture of the country by the Soviet troops in order to maintain the “cold” status of the Cold War.
Eisenhower and Richard Nixon campaigned on these successes, as well as the relative prosperity of 1950s America. The Republicans continued to use creative marketing efforts in order to sell their programs, though Eisenhower’s popularity hovered around 75 percent in most polls. The Democrats nominated Adlai Stevenson once again and allowed the delegates to the nominating convention to choose his running mate. Future president John Kennedy, then a senator from Massachusetts, lost to Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver.
The Eisenhower campaign had to do little in the way of enumerating their program and the margin of victory widened on election day. Eisenhower won 58 percent of the popular vote and 457 electoral votes, while Stevenson won only 73 electoral votes and 42 percent of the vote. The reason why the margin increased in four years was that many traditionally Democratic groups, such as labor, liberals, and African Americans began to flock to Eisenhower.