Then Nixon stated that it was fine that Stevenson, who inherited a fortune from his father, could run for President. Nixon added that a man from modest means should also be able to run for high office, and that’s where Nixon mentioned Lincoln and used a quote from the 16th President. In the last ten or so minutes, Nixon went on the attack against his tormentors, accusing Truman, Stevenson, and the Democrats of coddling Communists in the federal government and allowing massive corruption to flourish. Nixon also went after the media, arguing that after the Hiss Case, the media had gone after him very hard and unfairly.
Nixon not only refused to resign as VP, but he had in effect taken the power away from Ike and given it to the public and the Republican Party. Nixon fit in a phrase that Ike was a great man, and the picture faded as Nixon was still speaking. Nixon soon learned that he did indeed nail his performance based on the reactions and feedback of those involved in televising his speech. Nixon left the studio through an adoring crowd in order to return to the Ambassador Hotel, where he received congratulatory phone calls and telegrams from people across the nation.
To Ike, Nixon reminded him of Patton, courageous but insubordinate. That being said, Ike sent a telegram congratulating Nixon, who wouldn’t read it right away since it got lost amid the rush of telegrams. Nixon wasn’t happy that he didn’t immediately hear from Ike, and Ike wasn’t happy that Nixon had used the RNC as his clearinghouse for viewer feedback. In an effort to take back at least some control, Ike told the media that keeping or getting rid of Nixon was not his decision alone. Ike let Nixon (and the media) know that the campaign would resume after they had met and Nixon had given his report . . . and then Ike would make the decision whether or not Nixon remained as VP. For Nixon, the agony of not knowing his political fate continued. After using television in a way that would change politics forever, Nixon started to wallow in self-pity (e.g. “what more can he possibly want from me?”).
Later that night, Ike was told that the RNC had voted 107 - 0 to keep Nixon on as VP. At a political rally, Senator Knowland was on the podium, and Nixon, so happy to see a familiar face, even if it was a Republican that was for all practical purposes an enemy, cried on Knowland’s shoulder (a photographer captured that moment). Ike told his brother than Nixon came through with flying colors with what was already being called the “Checkers Speech”. Nixon did more than save his political career, he changed politics by using television to communicate directly to millions of Americans, bypassing the power brokers and apparatus of his political party.
However, amid the post-WW II economic expansion, the New Deal Coalition broke apart, and it was Nixon in 1952 that became the champion for the Little Guy, and the Democrats looked like Elitists in comparion by nominating Adlai Stevenson. While the liberal elites sneered and ridiculed Nixon, his “Checkers Speech” hastened the unraveling of the New Deal Coalition. Nixon came the closest to humanizing the Republican Party than any other national level candidate had done in decades.
Nixon knew that the Republicans could win in 1952 if the GOP portrayed the Democrats as the Party of the Elites, which would then by default lead the Republicans to become the Party of the Little Guy. Ike had the common touch, but in a far gentler and benevolent fashion than Nixon. Ike also knew how to lead competing factions and work towards unity (at least in the military), and Ike also knew how to persuade, and when to turn on his charm. That being said, Ike agreed to turn Nixon loose against the Democrats in the General Campaign to be, in essence, a less aggressive/more respectable version of Senator Joseph McCarthy.
The results of the Election of 1952 were as follows: Popular Vote - Ike 55%, Stevenson 44% / States Won - Ike 39, Stevenson 9 (Stevenson failed to win his home state of Illinois) / Electoral Votes - Ike 442, Stevenson 89. As an added bonus, the Republicans won narrow majorities in both houses. Nixon knew that Ike won the election because he was a national hero, not because of Nixon’s actions on the President-Elect’s behalf. During 1952, Nixon’s hate of the media reached its highest level so far, and his hatred for the communications systems network through which he needed to communicate would have profound consequences in the years to come.
Addendum: Nixon & the Media After the "Checkers Speech" . . .