A Hoosier’s Place In Presidential History

Wendell Willkie, namesake of Willkie Residence Center at IU Bloomington and an IU graduate, ran for the U.S. presidency in 1940. His opponent was popular incumbent Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was seeking an unprecedented third term. Roosevelt ultimately defeated Willkie, winning 55 percent of the popular vote and 85 percent of the electoral vote.

The Roosevelt/Willkie contest was waged in the shadow of World War II. The United States had not yet entered the war, but questions of the country’s responsibility in helping resolve international conflict were center stage. The U.S. was also dealing with the lingering effects of the Great Depression and a subsequent recovery-squelching recession that lasted from the fall of 1937 through most of 1938. In addition, opposition to some of Roosevelt’s New Deal programs had sparked debate about the role and size of the federal government and its relationship to private enterprise.

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