Monday, October 31, 2016

Campaign collectibles from a calmer time: Going Rogue with Gov. Palin

Today's look at campaign collectibles from a calmer time takes us back to 2008 and GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin -- and a bookstore adventure.
A year after the campaign, Gov. Palin published her first book, "Going Rogue," and started her national book tour in Grand Rapids.
Now, the Governor had a rocky relationship with the media and wasn't doing interviews during the book tour. 
But my assignment with the newspaper was to find out why, of all the places in the nation, would she start in GR?
So I figured that if I bought a book and got on line, I'd have one shot at asking her a question. 
There was a good chance it would not work, but at least I'd get a signed book out of it.
So I stood on line for several hours, making friends with some college students and families just in front and behind me as we snaked through the mall and book store.
Finally, it was my turn.
"Welcome to Grand Rapids, Governor Palin. But I have to ask, why did you start here?"
The Governor looked up, paused, and said, "Well, it's a microcosm of America."
And that's the answer I needed.

I was pretty happy about that, as the photo shows. I have no poker face.
 But I do have a signed book, and some cool campaign pins from an historic race.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Campaign collectibles from a calmer time: Wendell Willkie -- Democrat?

Today's campaign collectibles from a calmer time takes us the rather strange 1940 contest -- between two Democrats?
Wendell Willkie was an attorney and business leader in Ohio and most definitely a Democrat -- until 1939, when he realized that Franklin Roosevelt would seek an unprecedented third term.
Willkie changed party affiliations. Ronald Reagan often gets credit for the line "I did not leave my party. My party left me," but Willkie used it first.
The Democratic convention found FDR challenged by his vice president, John Nance Garner, who finished third and found himself bounced from the ticket. He was replaced by Agriculture Secretary Henry Wallace -- hence the corn on the pin -- despite Wallace being deemed too liberal and too eccentric.
Willkee was a colorful dark house candidate in a crowded GOP field that included Thomas Dewey, former President Herbert Hoover and Michigan Sen. Arthur Vandenberg. His convention-selected running mate, Senate Minority Charles McNary, was actually the leader of a "Stop Willkie" movement.
With war on the horizon, Roosevelt won handily. But FDR did tap his vanquished rival as an international emissary, and Willkie gave the president his full support -- much to the chagrin of the party he was, in theory, leading.
There was also talk of Willkie accepting Wallace's spot as FDR's vice president in the 1944 election, which eventually went to Harry S. Truman.
Willkie never did make it to that election, dying of a series of heart attacks in October, 1944, at just 52 years old.

The 1940 election spawned all kinds of cool pins given the unprecedented nature of FDR's bid for the third term and the awesome alliteration of Willkie's name.

Campaign collectibles from a calmer time: Theodore Roosevelt's charisma carried the day in 1904

With the national dumpster fire burning even more brightly, let's head to Theodore Roosevelt for our campaign collectibles from a calmer time feature.

TR, having reached the presidency upon the death of William McKinley, was seeking a term of his own in 1904.

The Democrats nominated another New Yorker, Alton B. Parker, the respected chief judge of the New York Court of Appeals.

Parker's running mate was West Virginia Sen. Henry Davis. He was 80 -- yup -- and remains the most senior major-party candidate nominated for national office.

Parker and Roosevelt actually held very similar views. The biggest difference was that TR was highly charismatic and Parker, well, was not. 

Roosevelt won in an historic landslide. Bully!

I'm thrilled to have three Roosevelt pins from the campaign, including two with Charles Fairbanks, TR's running mate. And the Parker-Davis pin was a sweet find, too!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Campaign collectibles from a calmer time: Thomas E. Dewey -- Michigander, New Yorker

Today's campaign collectible from a calmer time leads us to the tale of a Michigander turned New Yorker who came pretty close to winning the presidency.
Thomas E. Dewey was born in Owosso -- about midway between Lansing and Flint -- and attended the University of Michigan.
He earned a reputation as a tough prosecutor in New York, earning the nickname "Gangbuster" for chasing the mob.
That lead to Dewey being elected New York governor, where he doubled state aid to education, increased salaries for state employees, created the State University of New York system and reduced the state's debt by more than $100 million.
Dewey was the GOP nominee for president in 1944, but was defeated by Franklin Roosevelt and Harry S Truman.
He ran again in 1948, and was overwhelmingly favored to beat Truman. Dewey tried to run a cautious campaign, speaking in vague platitudes. He convinced, at least, the Chicago Daily Tribune.
Dewey remained influential and respected, especially with Dwight Eisenhower. Later, President Johnson offered him a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, which he declined.
Dewey remains the only Republican to win the nomination twice and fall short both times.
I've got a couple of of pins from both of Dewey's campaign, but my favorite is the plastic elephant. It doesn't indicate what year it is from, or even if it is from one of his gubernatorial runs. But it's pretty cool!

Central Michigan University has an exhibit in its library right now focusing on the candidates who did not win, and it has one of the original Daily Tribune papers on display. The exhibit is well worth the trip to Mt. Pleasant. Fire up, Chips!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Campaign collectible from a calmer time: Dancing Obama

Today's cool campaign collectible from a calmer time takes us back to 2008. That's a dancing Obama.
Hit the button and he says "I put the rock in Barack" and then dances while singing something to the tune of "Oh, Susanna" with lyrics that still make me cringe eight years later.
I snagged this at Walgreen's, and the company must have been covering its bases because there was a Hillary version in addition to a John McCain version. 
At $15, they were a bit steep to get all three.
The photo is from an Obama rally on Calder Plaza in Grand Rapids.

I've only seen President Obama up close twice --this rally and once at the airport. 
The media was assembled on the flatbed truck, as is the custom, but there was a small area to the right of the trailed that was filled with local dignitaries.
After descending the steps from the jet, Obama shook hands with his official greeters then walked over to the local folks in the area near the trailer.
"How's your summer going?" he asked, as he reached into the group to shake hands.
He was going to an event in Holland and stepped from Air Force One to Marine One, and it was really cool to see the helicopter up close!
There were actually several of the familiar, dark green choppers and another large helicopter that departed for Holland.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Campaign collectibles from a calmer time: 'Battling Bush' and a friendly wave

Today's campaign collectibles from a calmer time brings us to a fun story about President George W. Bush.
Air Force One arrives at the Grand Rapids airport at a freight hanger away from the passenger terminals, and reporters are allowed to gather there to watch the plane arrive and the president come to the door and wave before walking down the steps to the apron and awaiting motorcade.
Reporters are positioned a safe distance away on the trailer of a flatbed truck. There are usually a bunch of reporters there for the arrival, and there are few things more impressive than seeing that magnificent plane up close.
But very few reporters are there for the departure. I remained for one of President Bush's visits. He stepped out of the limo, saw me standing all alone on the back of the truck and waved. That was cool!

Almost as cool as today's collectible from the 2004 campaign, when the incumbent President was challenged by then-Sen. John Kerry from Massachusetts.
These are sweet inflatable punching bags, and the boxing gloves squeak when you hit them. They are very heavy, as there is sand in the base to keep them standing upright. And they are very difficult to get back in the box!

I don't remember in what store I found these, but I do remember being smart enough to grab one of each!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Campaign collectibles from a calmer time: Watching Al Gore up close

Today's edition of campaign collectibles for a calmer time is based on the idea that kids should never pass up the opportunity to meet a sitting president or vice president.
We had just recently moved to the Grand Rapids area when I read that Vice President Al Gore was going to be appearing at Riverside Park for a morning event. 
My son was 8 and my daughter was 3, so we all headed off to the park.
I spied an orange snow fence and knew that was to be a rope line for Gore to walk down, shaking hands.
I didn't want Caroline to wander off and lose our place along the fence, so I tossed her on my shoulders.
Gore came over, shook Andrew's hand, shook my hand, looked at Caroline and said "High five!" Then we head all the cameras clicking.

My colleagues at the Press made me a copy of the photo. 
Alas, I was not wearing my cool 1996 Clinton-Gore campaign watch at the time. It's one of those odd collectibles that's too good to pass up.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Campaign collectibles from a calmer time: Adali's shoe, a Pulitzer Prize and turning a negative into a positive

Today's campaign collectibles from a calmer time offers a a lesson in turning a negative into a positive -- with a local connection!

In the Eisenhower-Stevenson campaign of 1952, Stevenson was at an event in Flint and photographer Bill Gallagher spotted the hole in his shoe, snapping what became an iconic photo and earning a Pulitzer Prize for my former employers, The Flint Journal.

Eisenhower's team was quick to pounce, calling attention to the hole and creating these buttons.

Stevenson, however, embraced the photo as example of his every-man frugality and produced shoe pins and other items.

Ike, however, was a shoe-in, winning in a lopsided election, 442 electoral votes to 89.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Campaign collectibles from a calmer time: 'Just one life between that madman and the presidency'

I collect campaign memorabilia and have some fun pieces. To help distract from the dumpster fire we're dealing with this year, I thought I'd share a different item each day through the election and talk about nicer times.

One of my favorite pieces is this 1900 pin with President William McKinley and his running mate, Theodore Roosevelt.

TR had been governor of New York and already a national hero -- and the state's political machine had no use for his reforming and energetic, independent ways. The only solution was to bury him in an office where they believed he'd be unable to do anything -- the vice presidency of the United States.

The president reluctantly accepted him on the ticket, prompting McKinley mentor Mark Hanna to famously exclaim, "Don't you realize there's just one life between that madman and the presidency?"

Six months after his inauguration, McKinley was assassinated and Roosevelt, at 42, because the nation's youngest chief executive. 

The presidency has never been the same.

It's also worth noting that even 116 years ago, we were dismissing candidates as madmen, so I guess we haven't really changed all that much