The Journal Gazette
Thursday, October 29, 2020 1:00 am

History Journal: Eisenhower among presidential hopefuls to campaign in area

COREY MCMAKEN | The Journal Gazette

The area has seen more than a few presidential hopefuls swing through during primary and general election seasons of the past.

Primary candidates that have campaigned in Fort Wayne include Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton ahead of the 2008 primary. Republicans Ben Carson, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump and Democrat Bernie Sanders campaigned in the city ahead of the 2016 primary.

Running mates have also campaigned in the area such as Vice President Mike Pence's visits in September 2016 and last week, and family members sometimes pass through the area ahead of general elections, such as Michelle Obama's stop in October 2008.

Campaign visits by presidential nominees ahead of general elections include stops in Defiance, Ohio, by John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012. Here are three others among the hopefuls that have campaigned in the area ahead of general elections.

History Journal appears monthly in print with additional items weekly on The Journal Gazette's website. To comment on items or suggest dates and topics, contact Corey McMaken at 461-8475 or

Dwight Eisenhower

Fort Wayne was the first stop for Dwight Eisenhower's “whistle stop” tour of a dozen Midwestern states in an 18-car special train that carried more than 100 journalists along with staff and his wife, Mamie.

On the morning of Sept. 14, 1952, the train stopped at Pennsylvania Railroad Station (also known as Baker Street Station) for 15 minutes.

Eisenhower stepped down from the train to a bunting-decorated platform from which about 5,000 people heard him speak, according to a story in The Journal Gazette the next day.

During his speech criticizing President Harry Truman's Democratic administration, Eisenhower called the conflict in Korea “a war into which we were fumbled without any plan for winning that war.”

He also spoke about the encroachment of communism and the size of the national debt.

Eisenhower shared that 30 years prior, he spent a night in Fort Wayne as a military detachment he was with camped just outside the city. During dinner with a local family, he was told about Johnny Appleseed.

“From that day on,” he said. “Fort Wayne and Johnny Appleseed have been one and the same in my mind.”

Eisenhower's train tour was to feature eight major speeches and 70 “whistle stop” talks, according to an Associated Press story.

Eisenhower defeated Democrat Adlai Stevenson II in the 1952 election and again in the election of 1956.

George H.W. Bush

George H.W. Bush, then vice president, made his first campaign stop after the Republican convention Aug. 19, 1988, in running mate Sen. Dan Quayle's hometown of Huntington.

A crowd of about 10,000 wasn't deterred by light rain. They listened to Bush and Quayle speak about 20 minutes under a banner that read “The Road To Victory Begins In Huntington, Indiana,” according to one of several stories about the visit that appeared in The Journal Gazette the next day.

“We're beginning our campaign here,” Bush said. “No more fitting place could be found than this – Huntington, the heart of the United States of America.”

Though Bush was given a warm reception by the audience, Quayle got the biggest cheers from his hometown audience.

“I've gone from (local restaurant) Nick's Kitchen to the Huntington County Courthouse – and now, on to the White House with George Bush,” he said.

Bush and Quayle defeated Democratic challengers Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis and Texas Sen. Lloyd Bentsen. Bush was the first sitting vice president to win the presidency since Martin Van Buren in 1836.

Barack Obama

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and running mate Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware stopped in Hamilton on Sept. 1, 2008, and spent about 45 minutes talking to diners at the Pier 32 restaurant.

Hundreds of people arrived at the restaurant ahead of Obama's visit as word of the potential stop spread through the lakes region, according to a story in The Journal Gazette the next day.

The stop included handshakes with people squeezed into the restaurant and pictures with kids. People, including some in swimsuits, gathered in the parking lot, on the docks and along the road outside the restaurant to get a glimpse of the candidates.

After handing out some food and paying their bill, Obama and Biden climbed on their bus and got back on the road.

Obama and Biden defeated Republican challengers Arizona Sen. John McCain and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

“5,000 Hear Ike Condemn Handling of Korean War” (Sept. 16, 1952)

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, pausing in Fort Wayne yesterday morning for a 15-minute whistle stop, the first in his 12-state campaign tour, lashed out at the Democratic administration in its conduct of the Korean war.

He characterized that conflict “as a war into which we were fumbled without any plan for winning that war. A war in which we have already lost 117,000 casualties, either killed or wounded ... Now there are many in this great crowd this morning that have shared with me the horrors of war and this one thought I venture that I think many will agree. They want no more of it. The greatest problem we have today is how to prevent World War III by winning this war and stopping the fighting now going on.”

A crowd estimated at 5,000 by Police Chief Alfred Figel was on hand. A large segment of those who heard the general's “off the cuff” speech was composed of civic and government students from the city's high schools.

Eisenhower also discussed briefly two other issues – Communism and the size of the national debt.

As to Communism, the general said, “I have met it head on. The last year and a half of my life were spent in close connection with them in an attempt to stop the encroachment of Communism. Those great avenues of Europe, those great segments that sympathize with Communism, most of them completely misguided because of the low standards of living they have.

“In those countries I was always painted as a war monger. Everything vile has been said about me by the Communists, and I am proud of every vile name they called me. With you our problem is how to stop the increasing encroachment of Communism abroad and in this country, and we're going to do it.”

The general said of the national debt that it “demands today more than six and one half billion dollars of our money just to service that debt ... An American family today with $3,500 income is paying 25 percent in taxes.”

The general spoke from a bunting decorated platform at the Pennsylvania station. He was dressed in a gray double breasted suit. His wife, Mamie, who was accompanying him on the tour, did not descend to the speaker's platform but remained on the rear platform of the train where she was visible only to a comparatively few who were permitted alongside the special train.

Mrs. Eisenhower wore a charcoal gray, polka dot dress with a purple orchid pinned to her shoulder.

The Central Catholic High School band presented a half-hour concert before the speaking program began. Eisenhower was introduced by Cong. E. Ross Adair and was greeted by Allen County Republican leaders.

Boarding the train in Fort Wayne for its tour through Northern Indiana were Cale Hoylder, Republican state chairman; Robert A. Grand, South Bend assistant state chairman; William E. Jenner, Republican candidate for U.S. senator; George Craig, candidate for governor; and other state candidates.

Eisenhower recalled that 30 years ago he spent a night in Fort Wayne and that the military detachment he was with camped just outside the city limits. He said he was invited to dinner by a hospitable family and there learned about Johnny Appleseed. “From that day on,” he said. “Fort Wayne and Johnny Appleseed have been one and the same in my mind.”

“Quayle finds support in Huntington crowd,” by Kevin Corcoran (Aug. 20, 1988)

Sen. Dan Quayle, R-Ind., came home Friday for his first campaign stop as GOP vice-presidential nominee, saying he and Vice President George Bush hope to ignite voters in other small towns this fall.

Under a banner proclaiming “The Road To Victory Begins In Huntington, Indiana,” Bush and Quayle spoke for about 20 minutes in the early afternoon from a platform in front of the Courthouse.

“We have the values, the character, the work ethic of all small towns,” Quayle said. “We want to be a party of inclusion, where people can come and identify with our small-town values.”

The nominees, kicking off a campaign swing through the Midwest, were introduced by Sen. Richard G. Luger, R-Ind.

When Bush, who spoke first, stepped toward the podium, a crowd of about 10,000 that had spread itself across several downtown blocks screamed its approval.

“We're beginning our campaign here,” Bush said. “No more fitting place could be found than this – Huntington, the heart of the United States of America.”

Bush said that he and Quayle will be the “pit bulls” of the 1988 presidential campaign. This approach is needed to keep the Democratic challengers – Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis and Texas Sen. Lloyd Bentsen – from distorting President Reagan's record, he said.

“I don't give 'em hell,” Bush said, paraphrasing Harry Truman. “I just tell them the truth, and they just think it's hell.”

Bush noted that no sitting vice president has won the presidency since Martin Van Buren in 1836. But Bush said he feels his convention can propel him and Quayle to the White House.

“I imagined (Van Buren) reaching down and giving me the high-five as we ended that convention,” he said. “I mean to run hard, to stand hard on the issues – I mean to win.”

Bush told the Hoosier audience he tapped Quayle as his running mate for two reasons: Quayle's expertise on national security and his work in 1981 on the Job Training Partnerhsip Act, a program that uses private businesses to train workers formerly trained in the federal CETA program.

“Dan Quayle represents the two great issues of this campaign – jobs and peace,” Bush said.

He also pledged that, if elected, he and Quayle would help create 30 million jobs in the next eight years.

“30 in eight in '88,” Bush declared.

That promise got a big cheer, but the Huntington crowd reserved its highest praise for Quayle, a hometown boy who began his congressional career in 1976.

Quayle said he is still surprised by the events of the past week but feels he can contribute to the national ticket.

“I've gone from Nick's Kitchen (a local restaurant) to the Huntington County Courthouse – and now, on to the White House with George Bush,” he said.

Quayle concluded, “This election is so important America can't afford to lose. We will lose if we elect Michael Dukakis.”

'It's crazy he's in Hamilton: Obama, Biden surprise the crowd at Pier 32 restaurant,” by Dan Stockman (Sept. 1, 2008)

Sen. Barack Obama's campaign electrified a small restaurant on Hamilton Lake on Sunday as he and running mate Sen. Joe Biden stopped in for munchies.

The Democratic candidates for president and vice president spent about 45 minutes shaking hands, kissing babies, posing for pictures and sharing bar food with a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd inside the Pier 32 restaurant on Indiana 1.

The restaurant and parking lot filled before 5:30 p.m. as word of the impending visit spread around the lakes region of northeast Indiana and northwest Ohio. Patrons entering the restaurant pointed out members of the media and the Secret Service agents quietly surveying the parking lot and called friends on their cell phones to tell them the rumors appeared true.

The junior senator from Illinois bounded off his campaign bus at 5:45 p.m., shouting to Biden, D-Del., “Biden! Let's get something to eat!” His call was met with applause from boaters in bikinis and sunglasses gathered in the parking lot, on the docks, in the landscaping and along the road.

Hundreds packed into the restaurant, where they applauded him for holding babies, shook his hand and took pictures.

Four girls had their picture taken with him, beach towels covering their swimsuits.

“Hey, how's the water?” Obama asked them. “How cold is it?”

Julia Balzer, 11, of Toledo, was among the four.

“I'm so excited. He's fantastic,” she said afterward.

Soon, Obama worked his way over to the table of a group from Edon, Ohio, where he tried one of their chicken wings, then moved through the crowd to the bar where he ordered a plate of six sliders and a two-pound bucket of cocktail shrimp, then returned to the table where he and Biden discussed the economy with George Gerhardt and Gerhardt's wife and mother-in-law over pitas, spinach dip and soft pretzels. Both men drank ice waters with lemon and talked easily between handshakes and pictures.

“How many kids do you have?” Biden asked.

A few minutes later, Obama gave up his chair so Kelli Burkhardt could sit down.

“Take my chair,” Obama said over the roar inside the bar. “I'll find another one.”

What he found was 8-month-old Stormlin Osborn, in the arms of her mother, Josie.

“She's beautiful,” he said as the bewildered baby played with the buttons on his white shirt. He talked to Josie Osborn, also from Edon, about how hard it is to make a living on the farm.

“What do you guys do about health care?” Obama asked her.

Osborn's husband farms full time and works full time at a farm-implement manufacturer so she can be a stay-at-home mom. It's only because of his outside job that they have health insurance, and even then it's tough to make ends meet, she said.

“We're cutting it close,” Osborn said. “There's not a lot of family time. My husband leaves at 7 in the morning and I don't see him sometimes until 10 o'clock at night.”

She hopes an Obama presidency can help change the situation.

“I think we need to see a different face in there,” Osborn said later. “It's crazy he's in Hamilton.”

Soon, Obama's food arrived, and he gleefully handed out tiny hamburgers and passed around the shrimp bucket, then began saying goodbye. At the bar, he paid his $35.30 food tab and left a $20 tip.

When they were finally able to work their way to the exit, they were met by a crowd of close to 100 people in the parking lot, where Obama and Biden again shook hands and posed for pictures.

Tim Derck, from Antwerp, Ohio, shook Obama's hand and told him, “Good luck, sir.”

“I'm a Republican, but I respect the office and I respect the person running for it,” said Derck, dressed in sandals and sunglasses. “My hat's off to him. I can't believe he's actually here in Hamilton, Indiana.”

By 6:30 p.m., the campaign buses were rolling, as the crowd continued to mill around, then applauded as Biden waved out the bus window.

Inside the restaurant, Gerhardt was still in awe that Obama and Biden had eaten with his family.

“To sit here at our table, we couldn't believe it,” Gerhardt said. “This has been wonderful.”

“McCain fires up Ohio,” by Benjamin Lanka (Oct. 31, 2008)

Thousands of supporters for John McCain, many of them younger than 20, flocked to Claude W. Henkle Middle School on Thursday to hear from the Republican presidential nominee.

But unlike the larger, more formal indoor rally Saturday in Fort Wayne for GOP vice presidential pick Sarah Palin, McCain's event had the feel of a high school pep rally. Instead of older men and women in formal attire, the event was packed with students, many sporting high school letter jackets, and it even included a complement of four marching bands.

The crowd was encouraged to get fired up by cheers of local high school teams competing for the state football championship and fight songs.

Roaring applause was substituted by the waving of rally towels and banging of thunder sticks, although it was partly necessary because of the near-freezing temperatures requiring most attendees to wear gloves. Those temperatures also kept McCain's speech fairly short. The Arizona senator spoke for less than 20 minutes, half the length Palin spoke Saturday at Memorial Coliseum.

McCain picked up where Palin left off, focusing much of his speech on the economic policy of his opponent, Democrat Barack Obama. Whereas Palin called Obama “Barack the wealth spreader,” McCain said Obama was running to be “Redistributionist-in-chief,” highlighting the theme that Obama's policies border on socialism and will raise taxes for many Americans.

“He wants to raise your taxes,” McCain said of Obama. “Raising taxes makes a bad economy much worse.”

McCain said he and Obama both disagree with President Bush's policies but said Obama thinks taxes are too low, while McCain said spending is too high. He attacked pork spending, vowing to veto any spending bill with unnecessary projects. In doing so, he said there would be no more “bridges to nowhere,” referring to the project his running mate initially supported for Alaska before opposing it.

He also touched on his energy policy, saying it was critical to drill for more oil domestically and build more nuclear power plants, and he said he could lower the cost of energy within a month.

In criticizing Obama's economic policy, McCain commended Joe Wurzelbacher, better known as Joe the Plumber, for calling out Obama for wanting to raise taxes on small businesses. He then told the crowd Wurzelbacher was with them in Defiance and called for him, but the plumber was nowhere to be seen. After searching the audience for a few seconds, McCain told the crowd, “Well, you're all Joe the Plumber.”

Although some of the younger members of the audience attended the rally to get out of school or as part of class credit, several said it was exciting to see a presidential candidate in person. Despite Obama being touted as the youth candidate, many in the crowd said they plan to support McCain, who is 72.

Darius Peterson, an 18-year-old senior at Tinora High School, said it was a historic moment to see McCain rally in Defiance. He said he plans to vote Republican next week.

“I'm conservative. I do agree with most of what John McCain stands for,” he said.

Anna Oberlin, an 18-year-old senior at Ayersville High School, said she planned to skip school to attend the rally, but fortunately her class was permitted to attend the political event. She said she liked McCain's experience and his military service. She also said his opposition to abortion was important to her.

McCain told the crowd he may be down in the national polls, but he said his campaign is coming back. He told them he needed their help to carry Ohio, which would propel him to the White House.

“Stand up and fight,” he implored. “America is worth fighting for.”

“Romney pushes 'big change',” by Brian Francisco (Oct. 26, 2012)

The scoreboard at the Defiance High School football stadium declared Romney 20, Ryan 12. It was not meant as a tally.

Also, on the board: fourth quarter, fourth down and 12 to go, as in 12 days before Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, learn whether they have unseated President Obama and Vice President Biden in the Nov. 6 election.

“We need to take America back,” Romney shouted Thursday to thousands of supporters on the field and in the bleachers. “I need Ohio. Ohio is going to set the course of the nation. We're going to win!”

Romney spoke for more than 20 minutes, often interrupted by chants of “Mitt! Mitt! Mitt!” He spent most of his time vowing to improve the U.S. economy, saying he will create 12 million jobs by increasing domestic energy production, improving trade, reducing federal regulations on business and repealing the federal health care law, known as Obamacare, and replacing it “with reforms that help hold down health care costs.”

“I want to see more businesses, more jobs and more take-home pay,” the former Massachusetts governor said.

“This is a time for big challenges and a time of big opportunities,” Romney said. “We have a big choice, and frankly we're going to elect a president that is willing to make big changes. I will. I'll get the country growing again with your help.”

The audience was estimated at 12,000 people. The population of Defiance, which is 47 miles northeast of Fort Wayne, is about 17,000.

Romney also promised to cut federal spending and give parents more choice in where their children attend school.

“We cannot afford four more years like the last four years,” Romney said. “We cannot afford four more years of President Barack Obama.”

The crowd was treated to fireworks, country music, barbecue and all things red, white and blue. Audience members waved “Northwest Ohio Believes” posters and American flags as cool winds whipped through the stadium.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, appealed to autoworkers and their families to support Romney. A General Motors foundry is the largest industrial employer in Defiance, employing more than 1,300.

Portman, who acknowledged that he voted in favor of Obama's bailout of GM and Chrysler, said Romney's economic and trade policies are “going to be better for” autoworkers.

Romney, the former head of venture capital firm Bain Capital, “is a job creator,” Gov. John Kasich said.

Bob Latta, the area's Republican congressman, railed against Obama, the health care law, federal regulations, high gasoline prices and the $16 trillion federal debt.

“That's not a future. That's not hope,” Latta said, not long before country singer John Rich took the stage.

Other performers included country singer Randy Owen and rock singer Meat Loaf, who said Romney is the first political candidate he has endorsed. “We need Ohio!” Meat Loaf yelled at the crowd.

The Buckeye State is considered among a half-dozen “battleground” states that will decide whether Obama wins a second four-year term. Many political pundits believe it is unlikely Romney will be elected unless he carries Ohio.

Mark Haver, an attorney from Hicksville, Ohio, brought his 13-year-old son, Arman, to the rally. Haver said in an interview that northwest Ohio residents “are much more enthusiastic” for Romney than they were for the 2008 Republican candidate, Arizona Sen. John McCain, who visited Defiance days before that year's election.

“I don't think (Obama) has really focused on jobs as much as he should have,” the attorney said. “I think that's Romney's advantage.”

People were lining up at 3 p.m. for the rally, which began about 6:30. Early birds included Carol Warnecke and Cathy Lawhorn of Putnam County, Ohio. Each woman wore a Romney campaign T-shirt and a baseball cap with the message “Coal = Jobs.”

“Dig, baby, dig,” Warnecke said, a variation of “Drill, baby, drill,” the Republican ticket's energy slogan four years ago.

Asked whether she had backed Romney or Rick Santorum in the Ohio Republican primary election – Santorum clobbered Romney in northwest Ohio counties – Warnecke said, “I was for anybody but Obama.”

She said about Romney: “We can trust this man. He's not going to lie to us.”

A few dozen Obama supporters waved signs at traffic entering the school grounds. One said “Romney Brought to You by Wall Street.”

Earlier Thursday, Romney appeared at campaign rallies in Cincinnati and Worthington, Ohio.

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