Articles At A Glance
By Roy Nuhn
As seen in The Antique Shoppe Newspaper, March 2008
We are now in the midst of the 2008 presidential primary season, a necessary political prelude to the upcoming nominating conventions and November election. Last time around, in 2004, incumbent George Bush was a shoe-in to be his party's standard bearer. Only the Democrats offered us any entertainment.
This year, though, many candidates of both parties are slugging it out. The contenders - close to a dozen in each party at the start - have thrown their hats - and bonnet - into the ring. Television and the newspapers constantly report to us the activities and utterances of Obama, the Clintons, McCain, Romney and the others.
Presidential campaign postcards have long been a major category among collectors. Cards from nearly every election since 1896 are known and eagerly sought. But before the intense late-summer and early-fall campaigning for the White House begins, primaries or caucuses are held in most states by each party to select delegates to the national conventions which nominate the standard bearers.
Many postcards have been used during these state-by-state battles, and while some are a bit difficult to find, they help round out our presidential campaign collections.
For nearly a century after the founding of the United States and the election of George Washington as the first Chief Executive, nominees for the presidency were decided most of the time by party "bosses," usually important congressmen and senators in Washington, D.C.
As the 19th century drew to an end, much agitation and many reform movements began taking place to correct this. The idea was to somehow have the party membership select the candidate.
And thus was born the idea of direct primaries.
The first state to legislate a statewide primary was Wisconsin, in 1903. By 1917, all but four states had done the same.
There are two kinds of primaries. The open primary allows any registered voter, whether a party member or not, to participate; the closed primary permits only party members to vote. The former is currently the more favored. Often the expense of such primaries and low voter turnouts have contributed to the continuation of influence by party machines.
The caucus is a gathering of the party faithful at hundreds, if not thousands, of small meetings throughout the state to choose delegates favoring their candidate. The first caucus was held in Iowa in 1846.
Postcards of presidential primaries mostly date from the 1950s, a time when candidate selection power had swung heavily away from party bosses. They became the standard in election since. Whenever and wherever two or more politicians battled for delegate votes, they employed every means available to make themselves and their causes known to voters. Candidates, both
popular and unknown, have also used illustrated postcards for this purpose.
Many postcards of presidential primaries are difficult to locate because they were used in only one or two states, or in a particular region of the country, i.e. New England, the Midwest, etc. Sometimes, the same postcard can be found from several primaries, with only a change in the caption to reflect the different state and election dates.
Jimmy Carter's successful road to his Democratic nomination by the Democrats at the party's 1976 New York City convention, for instance, used the same green-tone postcard throughout the South, with only the name of the state changed in the caption. Later, with Carter heading the Democratic ticket, and Walter Mondale as his running mate, this same card, with another slight caption change, became part of the national campaign ephemera.
Another interesting episode occurred in Barry Goldwater's 1964 election battle against incumbent Lyndon Johnson. A chrome card, with advertising on the backside, was converted to postcard format for his failed presidential run.
Sometimes, contenders in a state primary would bulk mail their promotional postcards to all registered voters, or to all households. At other times they are available at the hopeful's
campaign headquarters. Some printing runs have been very large, such as those by Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan: other times, quite small.
Usually they are chromes, but low-budget campaigns often relied upon monotones, as well as very thin, inexpensive cardboard stock. A few times, political advertising postcards in a particular state's primary battle were oversized, ranging from 5x6-inches to 8xlO. These giant-size cards rarely went through the mail.
Many types of postcards fit into the presidential elections category. These include the actual national campaign items themselves, and postcards about the nominating conventions, third
parties, inaugurations and, most importantly, the state-by-state primaries.
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