1956 Eisenhower VS. Stevenson
"Taxi Driver and Dog"
The Living Room Candidate
"Taxi Driver and Dog," Eisenhower, 1956
TAXI DRIVER: Come on, Prince. Oh yeah boy, you little mutt. Come on.
(Background music starts)
TAXI DRIVER (voiceover): I've been driving a taxi here in Washington for quite a few years. Every day I pass this corner a dozen times and never even notice it. But every night when Prince takes me out for my evening walk, I always stop when I reach this particular spot and look over there at that house, where you see the lighted windows.
A neighbor of mine lives there. Yep, Dwight D. Eisenhower, a man with the most important job in the world today. What do you suppose he's thinking about over there? Right now, at this very minute? Maybe things thousands of miles away from here, anywhere in the world, wherever some crisis is starting to threaten everybody's future. Egypt, Formosa, East Berlin - there's a dozen places where real trouble can break out. And that's why we all depend on Ike so much. He can stand up to Khrushchev and those fellows. He's a big man who is used to handling big problems.
Or maybe he's thinking about the folks who work every day at factories and offices, or drive taxis. Of course, mine isn't one of the big jobs in the world, but it's important to me. And I get a feeling it's important to him. I think he knows all about people like me who work for a living. After all, he was born in a small town. His family was no richer than mine. He never had any money given to him and every thing he's got he had to work for. He's a family man, too. He knows the problems of raising a family and trying to give them the things they need.
Yeah. He might be thinking about a lot of things. Children maybe, and how we can help them all have their own desk in a good school with a good teacher, to help them grow up strong and healthy with all the advantages and opportunities our kids ought to have. Or the people on the farms, how to save their land and help them grow crops and have some cash in their pockets at the end of every year. Real hard questions that need his impartial thinking if they're going to be solved fairly. So the farmer is sure of getting a steady, increasing income himself.
Or how we can stay strong. The way I see it, there's a problem that absolutely calls for a man with Ike's background as a military leader and statesman. He knows what it takes to give us the strength we must have to stay free.
Yes, behind those lighted windows is the kind of man history only favors a nation with once in a long, long time, a man dedicated as few men ever are, to high principles and human good, a man whose whole life has been given to his country's service. That's why tonight, while I'm thinking of him, I got a feeling he's thinking of me, and my future, and my family's future.
TAXI DRIVER (to camera): In times like these, so full of perils and problems, I'll be honest with you, I need him. Don't you? Come on, Prince. Come on, boy. Time we were getting home.
MALE NARRATOR: The national Citizens for Eisenhower-Nixon have presented this dramatization for all thinking voters regardless of party affiliation.
"Taxi Driver and Dog," Citizens for Eisenhower, 1956
Maker: Young and RubicamVideo courtesy of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library.
From Museum of the Moving Image, The Living Room Candidate: Presidential Campaign Commercials 1952-2012.
www.livingroomcandidate.org/commercials/1956/taxi-driver-and-dog (accessed April 2, 2023).
For President Eisenhower, the only true emergency of his first term was the heart attack he suffered in September 1955. After his doctor pronounced him fully recovered in February 1956, Eisenhower announced his decision to run for re-election. The Democrats set up a replay of the 1952 contest by nominating Adlai Stevenson. The result was an even greater Republican landslide. Eisenhower was a popular incumbent president who had ended the Korean War. Two world crises helped cement his lead in the final days of the campaign: the Soviet Union invaded Hungary, and Britain, France, and Israel attacked Egypt in an effort to take over the Suez Canal. Eisenhower kept the United States out of both conflicts. As is traditional during a military crisis, American voters rallied behind their president. The events also undermined two of Stevenson’s key positions: the suspension of hydrogen-bomb testing and the elimination of the military draft.
Richard Nixon for vice president
"Peace, Prosperity, and Progress"
Although Eisenhower was the incumbent president, his 1956 ads continued to portray him as an ordinary American. Capitalizing on his enormous popularity, they emphasized Ike’s personality even more than his accomplishments.
To counter Stevenson’s claim that the Democratic party was the party of the average American and the Republican "the party of the few," Eisenhower’s ads offered the testimony of ordinary citizens, whether in the dramatized ad "
The Eisenhower ads closed with an appeal to "all thinking voters" because a Republican victory was only possible with the support of Democrats and independents, who outnumbered Republicans in the general population. Conversely, Stevenson’s ads urged voters to uphold party loyalty, a common plea by Democratic candidates trailing in the polls.
Estes Kefauver for vice president
"Vote Democratic, the Party for You, and Not Just a Few"
In 1956, Adlai Stevenson was still publicly railing against the expanding role of television in politics. Yet Stevenson knew that he couldn’t compete without television, and the Democratic National Committee tried to hire one of the leading Madison Avenue agencies to handle the campaign. The account was turned down by all of the large firms, who feared offending their big-business Republican clients, and was finally accepted by Norman, Craig and Kummel, an agency with little political experience that ranked 25th in billings.
The main innovation in the commercials of the 1956 campaign was the five-minute spot. Stevenson appeared in a series of such spots, titled "
The five-minute spot (actually four minutes and twenty seconds) resulted from cooperation between the networks and the candidates. Hoping to avoid the pre-emption of programs by half-hour speeches, the networks agreed to trim their shows to accommodate five-minute ads. To the candidates’ advantage, the spots were less expensive than half-hour broadcasts, and, as they could be sandwiched between popular programs, were likely to reach more viewers.