Can anyone tell me when the Republicans had their first strong media candidate?
Back in 1952 was the first presidential election year when 40 million Americans owned TV sets. Gov. Thomas E. Dewey of New York, one of the architects of the effort to “draft” Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, clearly suspected that TV was going to change everything.
Dewey had dabbled with the medium while running against Harry Truman in 1948, and he realized that making use of it in 1952 would be expensive. Before then, money had not been so decisive in presidential politics. Votes were largely delivered by already existing local party organizations, and there were only so many campaign signs, bumper stickers and buttons you could buy.
In a private meeting, Dewey told his draft-Eisenhower allies, “Don’t forget, let’s get a hell of a lot of money!” The result was the beginning of the world we know today, where presidential candidates compete to raise billions of dollars that will be spent largely on commercials.