On February 8 in 1952, close to 25,000 people assembled at New York City’s Madison Square Garden rallying around Dwight Eisenhower’s political aspirations. This event was an extension of the “Draft Ike” movement, which had been appearing on both Democratic and Republican lines across the nation since the 1948 election. Eisenhower deflected any efforts to persuade him into seeking public office, pointing admirers to specific Army regulations which forbade serving officers from any partisan political activity. However, the increasing intensity of the “Draft Ike” movement began to chisel away at Eisenhower’s maintained nonpartisanship, causing him in late 1951 to quietly form a political advisory group. In addition to this group, politicians and other key figures on the national stage called on Ike to get involved. Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. was one of the most vocal proponents, adding Eisenhower to the New Hampshire Republican primary ballot without his permission!
The Madison Square Garden rally was a defining moment for the grassroots political movement. Support for Ike could not be contained to the 16,000 seating capacity offered by the facility and fans spilled out onto the streets, where even police and firefighters had trouble containing the mass of people. Well known national figures, like Tex McCrary and John Hay Whitney, helped organize the event and persuaded famous aviator Jacqueline Cochran to fly to Paris just days later with her film tribute to Eisenhower entitled “Serenade to Ike.” This astounding rally and touching film caused Eisenhower to seriously consider running for president, and his unexpected win in New Hampshire’s Republican primary sealed the deal. On March 12, 1952, Eisenhower officially announced his presidential candidacy.