tv Race for the White House CNN April 16, 2016 12:00am-1:01am PDT
lot of concern. how could we get this wrong? >> the popular vote was too close. no one knew for some time which candidate had actually won. >> nixon returns to california to be with his family and staff at the ambassador hotel. >> i remember he came in in his pajamas and he said, hey, guys, this thing is not going to get decided tonight. get some sleep. and with that, he turned around and left the room. >> john kennedy went to bed. you know, that night. and said i'm not going to stay up biting my teeth, wondering what's going to happen. i'm going to get some sleep. >> while the two rest, the race tightens. just after midnight, nixon is woken to be told that he has lost the key state of illinois. the writing is on the wall. >> if the present trend
continues, mr. kennedy, senator kennedy will be the next president of the united states. >> nixon, we forget that he was capable of being gracious. when he had to go concede, his wife is on the verge of tears standing next to him, but nixon himself was quite gracious about it. >> but as the sun rises on washington, accusations start circulating of electoral fraud in illinois. republican officials set off to investigate. >> they said in chicago, the cemetery wards were coming in strong for kennedy. >> as time goes on, it leaks out that in one black district, there were more votes cast than there were people living in the district. it was corrupt. >> as the dead of illinois cast their votes for kennedy, there
are more allegations of fraud in texas. >> if texas and illinois had gone for nixon, he would have won the election. so it mattered. >> all eyes are on nixon as he prepares to fly to washington. will he contest the result? >> now, i put the plane at the end of the air strip to get him as far away from the press and other people as possible. there was an old mechanic listening to a little hand radio. >> the votes are in but illinois is still not clear. was it jack or was it dick? >> at that moment, he said, get ike on the phone. i think the succession of the presidency of the united states should never be in doubt. and they discussed that he would not contest the election. and that was it.
♪ just give me a chance >> it was a very honorable and patriotic thing to do on nixon's part. it was the right thing to do. it would have thrown a cloud over the election of john f. kennedy. i think it would have been dreadful for the united states. >> it's the closest election of the century with the highest turnout on record. kennedy wins with a slim majority of just 120,000 votes, to become the youngest president elected in american history. without the votes of millions of african-americans, kennedy would have lost the presidency. ♪ >> and so, my fellow americans, ask not what your country can do for you.
ask what you can do for your country. >> it must have been a bitter moment for nixon. he'd had eight years as vice president. he had really thought that he would be sworn in that day. >> but kennedy was better at dirty tricks than nixon and nixon knew it. and it planted a seed with nixon that he never forgot. >> and that was the origin of watergate. -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com
you've done good for a hick woodsman from the frontier. but you know something lies rotten at the heart of your country. and you're the one to save it. but how does a clean-shaven prairie lawyer stay as honest abe when you know you'll have to play dirty and devious to become president? and what if you reach the white house and there's no nation left to save? ♪
little town. it's the campaign for the u.s. senate, and they've come to hear abraham lincoln confront senator stephen a. douglas on the issue that threatens to tear america apart -- slavery. >> the debates between lincoln and douglas drew enormous crowds. >> people are drinking. people are cheering. people are fighting. it was almost pugilistic, as if people were coming to a boxing match to watch these two heavyweights slug it out. >> lincoln is a rookie politician, a member of the brand-new republican party. just four years old, it was formed to end slavery. >> he's an unknown, abraham lincoln's career as a politician has been almost nonexistent. >> the only thing lincoln has is his brain, is his ability to
orate. that's it. >> his opponent in this election is the current senator of illinois, democrat stephen a. douglas. >> stephen a. douglas was among the most ruthless politicians of the day. >> more importantly, probably the most powerful democratic politician in the united states. >> i would call it david and goliath. but it's worse than that. it's david and goliath if david didn't even have a slingshot. >> he doesn't open on the issue of slavery. instead he plays to the crowd. >> ladies and gentlemen, i do not question mr. lincoln's conscientious belief that the negro is his equal, but i do not regard the negro as my equal.
>> douglas was not one to talk about legalizing slavery in the territories so much as he wants to paint lincoln as a pro-negro politician. he is, in other words, playing the race card and playing it in the most shameless fashion imaginable. >> but the prairie lawyer is not going to be deflected from his mission to see the end of slavery in america. >> lincoln had always said that if slavery isn't wrong, then nothing is wrong. that slavery was horrendous. >> and i think it was because he hated the way his father had treated him, which is like a slave. because his father would yank him out of school, force him to go work on neighbors' farms performing all kinds of
back-breaking labor. >> there is no reason why the negro is not entitled to all the rights enumerated in the declaration of independence. >> when lincoln invokes the declaration of independence here, there's no quarrelling, there's no quibbling with it. that is the authority. >> he is as much entitled to these rights as the white man. >> bringing the declaration of independence up on his side makes a formidable thing for douglas to scramble over. >> he is my equal and the equal of judge douglas. >> lincoln argues if slavery is allowed to spread into the new territories, it will lead to war. but he doesn't call for abolition. >> lincoln's solution is brick the thing in. make sure that it doesn't spread.
let it asphyxiate within its own casket. >> and place it on the course of ultimate extinction. >> the lincoln/douglas debate became a national sensation because people found out about them literally within hours, which had never been done before. >> for the first time americans will read the exact words lincoln has used to defeat douglas. >> you had people writing things down in shorthand. >> have a runner take to it the nearest train station, and then the notes would be sent up to chicago. >> to a telegraph station to
telegraph would relay exactly what was being said word for word at these debates to newspapers. >> and within 24 hours the newspapers could have those debates all cased up and ready to go into print. >> so lincoln is getting a national reputation, and his words are being printed even internationally. >> as the election for the illinois senate gains speed, lincoln dukes it out with douglas at six more debates. >> lincoln was the winner of the seven debates. but with a guy like stephen douglas, there was just no way that abraham lincoln was going to become the next senator. >> douglas' team get busy. on a cold, wet polling day, they lure supporters in with a perfect antidote. >> one of the things that douglas did was to provide the supporters of his candidacy with liquor. >> they would ship in all of
these irish workers, they would become registered voters, vote for stephen douglas and then they would disappear. >> and as it was said later, they voted early and often. >> douglas plays all the dirty tricks in the book. lincoln is defeated. >> this was a devastating political loss for lincoln. >> lincoln is humiliated. lincoln had wanted to win. believed he was going to win. >> lincoln's brief and inglorious political career looks over before it's even really begun.
lincoln has lost all hope of a seat in the senate. dejected, he returns to his home town of springfield. out of the blue, a telegram arrives for abraham lincoln. >> it's an invitation to come and speak in new york city before the elite republican leadership on the east coast. >> republicans are buzzing about how this rank outsider demolished stephen a. douglas with nothing but oratory. >> people wanted to see him. they wanted to hear him.
and he realized that his star had really not diminished. as a matter of fact, it had risen. >> and i think it stoked the idea, in his mind and the minds of many others, that he was a potential president. >> lincoln knows new york can give him his break, but he's saying nothing about reaching for the top job. >> he played this game and danced this coquettish dance about whether or not he could see himself as president for months and months and months pretending he had no interest in it. >> lincoln understood that the later he emerged as a candidate and the less time his opponents had to attack him, the better off he'd be. >> lincoln arrives in new york. he has spent months preparing for this moment. his address to the elite of the
party at the great hall of cooper union. >> lincoln sees this as an opportunity for what amounts to a political screen test. >> but lincoln's attire leaves something to be desired. >> he's wearing a wrinkled suit. >> he has one pant leg shorter than the other. >> his hair looks like it hasn't been brushed. he's a mess. >> all the sophisticated new yorkers look at each other, who is this country bumpkin? >> people are unsure of who this guy is. >> he knows this is a key moment and so he's understandably nervous. >> and then he speaks, and then he talks. >> mr. president and fellow citizens of new york -- >> it starts off a little shaky. >> the facts with which i shall deal this evening are mainly old
and familiar. >> but then he begins to tell his audience why he's there, and the arguments begin to flow. >> can we allow slavery to spread into the national territories? and to overrun us here in these free states? >> and he starts delivering a beautiful, powerful oration. >> the audience is stunned. >> then let us stand by our duty fearlessly and effectively. >> they forgot about his accent. >> and the speech becomes so moving and people feel incredibly inspired. >> on the question about which all true men do care. >> and he ends by saying, right makes -- >> might. and in that faith, let us to the end dare to do our duty as we understand it. >> by the time he finishes with
that major sentence, he has them in the palm of his hand. >> it is one of the great american speeches. >> one person in the audience said, he's the greatest man since st. paul. >> lincoln's moment has arrived. he throws his stovepipe hat in the ring and announces his intent to run for the republican nomination. nothing can stop him now. except for the hot favorite to win -- william henry seward. >> william henry seward was an upstate new yorker, a man of fabulous gifts as a speaker, a man of principled opposition to slavery, and a man of great political experience.
>> he was urbane. he was charming. >> here was a man who looked like he was effortlessly ascending the steps toward the presidency. >> and the man behind seward is the most terrifying operator in american politics, his campaign manager thurlow weed. his cheery nickname? the dictator. >> thurlow weed was known as the dictator in part because of his ability to get things done. >> some people would say he was a bully. some people despised him. other people were afraid of him. >> he was not a spokesman of high principle but of clever backstage maneuvering and bribes and kickbacks. >> everyone knew that he held the power within the republican party. >> lincoln will have a fight on
his hands at the convention. chicago, more of a roman orgy than a convention. >> something of a cross between a poorly organized riot and the world series. >> tradition dictates that neither candidate attends the convention. it will be down to the campaign managers to slug it out. >> thurlow weed and his cohorts arrive and they're pretty certain they're going to win. >> they think this is a done deal. they're so confident many of them are drunk. >> mr. weed. >> welcome. >> champagne? >> he served champagne. he hands out cigars. he's brought raucous new yorkers to pack the convention hall. led by a prize fighter. >> but weed is in for a fight himself. lincoln has assembled a prize team to take on the favorites. >> central among them is the maestro, david davis, the judge
who weighs 300 pounds who is very wealthy. >> davis has a kind of, oh, i guess you might say ruthlessness. >> but weed is the consummate political street fighter. >> he was taking names, and he was taking numbers, and you'd pay a price. part of that was to send a message to everybody else. hey, you might be thinking about dancing with lincoln, and i'll remember. and you'll be dead to me.
lincoln's team face an almost insurmountable challenge. there's just two days to go till the ballot to choose the republican nominee for president. to win, they need 233 delegate votes. so far, they can count on just 22. >> so they went to work like beavers on a dam. they worked their way into every nook, cranny and smoke-filled room they could. >> the team, led by the judge david davis, are a law unto themselves. >> lincoln has a very good team who are quite prepared to suggest that lincoln will remember you.
>> davis meets with the leader of the indiana delegation, caleb blood smith. >> caleb smith is probably one of the most incompetent and lazy people of any prominence at the convention, but they don't care. >> they start offering him a job. i don't mean like the butler at the white house. they offer him a cabinet position if the indiana delegation eventually comes around to lincoln. >> word of these promises comes back to lincoln. lincoln is not happy at hearing this. he has cultivated an image over the years of being honest abraham. >> and lincoln sends a message back saying make no promises in my name. i will not be bound by any. >> which is in a way of saying if you are doing this sort of thing, i don't want to know about it. i don't want to hear about it.
>> make no mistake, abraham lincoln was chief political strategist. he relied on his aides maybe sometimes to do the dirty work, to be ruthless, to cut deals, but he was the lead dog. >> and lincoln did some very difficult and even devious things to gain the white house, and thank god he did. >> but they'll need all their political cunning when they hear that thurlow weed is planning to jam the hall with his supporters. >> these were like sporting events. commanding a convention hall was crucial. >> it is going to be just a mass adoring crowd calling for seward, so they have to do something to stop this. >> on the morning of the balloting weed leads a great parade full of brass and noise through the streets of chicago. and they come up to the doors of
the convention hall only to find that all the seats have been taken. >> why? the night before lincoln's people got their hands on a convention ticket. >> this is so devious. they printed counterfeit passes to get into the convention and stack the hall with people who were not legitimate delegates. >> and they printed 5,000 counterfeit tickets. >> sorry, but even our greatest president, our most honest president was not above a little dirty politics. >> their ploy works. >> the hall is packed with lincoln men shouting from the rafters. >> they had a guy known as having leather lungs belt out his name. >> and it made lincoln seem like
a natural winner. >> order, order in the house! order! who has a nomination. >> on behalf of the delegation of new york i commend to the convention william s. seward. >> on behalf of the delegation from illinois, abraham lincoln. >> and at that point the entire convention hall is almost lifted off its foundations. >> call the roll. >> i call on new hampshire. >> the convention moves to the first round of balloting. >> seven votes for lincoln. >> there are 13 candidates for the republican nomination.
whoever gets an outright majority is the winner. >> the state of new york casts 70 votes for william h. seward. >> lincoln himself says he knows he's not the delegates' first love. >> but once their own first love has fallen away, i will be their second. >> so their whole strategy had to be how do we survive until later rounds of balloting? >> at the end of round one, lincoln and seward lead the field. >> seward comes in first, but he's 50 votes short, and lincoln's second place. >> before balloting resumes, davis and his team have just 15 minutes to win over delegates whose nominees are now out of the running. >> key state is pennsylvania. its boss simon cameron, he wants
a big job. >> simon cameron was widely regarded as a flagrantly corrupt politician. >> lincoln's team promises him a cabinet position if he and the delegation back lincoln. >> lincoln's team doesn't care because now it's all about the win. >> call the roll! >> seconds away, round two. >> indiana casts 26 votes for abraham lincoln. >> pennsylvania. >> pennsylvania gives 44 votes to lincoln. >> lofty lincoln, having let his political aides do this dirty work, the pennsylvania delegation goes with abraham lincoln.
tension is at a fever pitch. lincoln is just 1 1/2 votes away from the presidential nomination. >> order, please. ohio. >> the ohio delegation stands up and announces that ohio has decided to change its 4 1/2 votes to abraham lincoln. pandemonium breaks out in the convention hall. >> thurlow weed, who nobody should feel bad for, he breaks down crying. people describe him as crying like a little boy. this is one of the biggest upsets in american political history.
>> abraham lincoln is now the republican nominee for president. >> lincoln wins. at a price. his campaign team has bribed some of the most corrupt men in the land. >> was it justified? well, abraham lincoln is probably our most important president. so i would argue every means that was utilized was justified. we love to think that he was above politics, but he wasn't. >> lincoln now finds himself in a rematch with his arch rival, the man who beat him in the illinois state senate election two years earlier, stephen a. douglas. >> stephen a. douglas is the little giant. he's a man of physically short stature but titanic ambition, and douglas desperately wishes
to be president of the united states. >> but lincoln has the advantage. after an angry convention in charleston, south carolina, douglas' democratic party has split down the middle over slavery. >> the news that the democratic party had split was an enormous boon to the republican party and to lincoln because now they faced a divided opposition, but he still has an uphill battle. >> the republicans know it's futile to put lincoln up for election in the south. no decent upstanding slave owner is going to vote for him, and slaves don't vote. now it's a double race between lincoln and douglas in the north and democrat john c. breckinridge and constitutional unionist john bell in the south. >> abraham lincoln has to win without his name even on the ballot in the south.
and that's not going to be easy because he has to win new york. if he doesn't win new york, he will not be president. >> new york state has the highest number of electoral votes, but it is also the stomping ground of william seward and thurlow weed, who lincoln has so publicly humiliated. >> they hate lincoln. they feel like they got cheated out of the nomination. >> lincoln has to make peace. he invites weed to his home in springfield. >> lincoln's attitude is nobody's his enemy. everybody is his friend. >> lincoln's approach here wasn't to stand over a vanquished opponent and rub it in and not just tell weed, hey, you lost, i won, get on the
program. >> and the two men spend five hours talking. >> he courted weed and he had to offer weed any number of things to secure the right level of support and endorsement. >> what lincoln and weed talked about has been lost to history. we don't know exactly, but it did not escape anyone's notice that william seward ultimately became lincoln's secretary of state. >> weed gives lincoln his full public support. he proclaims there is no more thorough or bolder republican on the continent, not one of more sturdy integrity or of more unflinching purpose. >> weed's endorsement comes just in time as the campaign ratchets up. douglas focuses his attack on
lincoln. >> if you desire negro citizenship, then support mr. lincoln and the black republican party. >> his weapon -- race hate. >> he accuses lincoln of being in favor of race mixing, in favor of black equality. he calls him a black republican. he calls him things far worse. >> lincoln did a lot of things that today seem unethical, but he never appealed to the darker angels of our nature. and douglas did. and stephen douglas should have been ashamed of himself. >> the very union itself is coming apart under the pressure of the election. down south the homes of republican sympathizers are attacked. >> the prospect of a lincoln presidency drives southerners to extremes. they prepare politically. they prepare militarily. their state arsenals are opened
slavery is breaking the union apart. what is lincoln doing? nothing. it appears he doesn't care. >> lincoln's response to all this is puzzling. silence. lincoln refused to believe that southerners would go to the ultimate extreme of attempting to destroy the union. >> while lincoln stays home, his rival stephen douglas resolves to act. he heads south. >> douglas is a plantation owner. he's a slave owner. so he understands how deeply embedded slavery is in the south.
>> and he knew that they were making preparations. they were getting ready. they were fully prepared to do something dramatic. >> he decides he must plead the case for the union against secession. he's now campaigning for the nation. >> and he does this incredibly bold and brave thing. >> douglas travels a thousand miles from state to state, but his case for the union makes him a traitor in the eyes of southerners. >> stephen douglas really was putting everything on the line, particularly his own personal safety. >> he has to take the chance that some fanatic may decide that the best way to deal with douglas is assassination.
>> and stephen douglas, the most ruthless, partisan, underhanded politician, becomes the patriot. >> with just three days to the election, douglas delivers a forceful defense of the union. >> there's a conspiracy to break up this union. >> he makes it very plain. i'm not here to solicit your votes. i am here for the sake of the union. >> i regard the union as the greatest blessing upon a free people. >> for douglas, the take-home message is clear. >> the south has already launched itself to create something entirely new in the new world, a slave empire. >> the very idea of america is
at risk. 81% of the electorate come out to vote. one of the highest turnouts in united states' election history. >> the stakes were so high because it might have been the last election for a united states of america. >> lincoln is waiting on the telegraph to tell them just what the vote count is. >> look, you have to be nervous because you have a brand-new party. it has never won the presidency. you're only its second candidate. you are up against very powerful forces on the other side. >> and it's not just superstition. you realize that something funky could happen. elections have the capacity to surprise us enormously. >> there's only one result lincoln needs to know.
has he won new york? >> message for mr. lincoln. >> he is not taking anything for granted. >> gentlemen, we've taken new jersey, indiana and illinois. >> until he hears about new york. he knows it all rests on new york. >> there's nothing more nerve-racking professionally, i think, than awaiting the results in a presidential election. >> by midnight there's still no news. >> he took new york.
>> we got new york. >> yes! >> the man from the prairies takes new york and, with it, the presidency. however he's done it with less than 40% of the vote. the south has backed john c. breckinridge and john bell. >> lincoln has a narrow victory. for almost half the country, he's illegitimate. he's not accepted as the president. >> no sooner has he won than several states in the south make clear that they are moving toward leaving the union, and so immediately he's gone from winning the white house into a crisis mode. >> lincoln's victory was probably the first shot in the civil war. it looks like the die has been cast.
>> my friends, here my children have been born and one is buried. >> he asks for their prayers. he wants them to be with him mentally and spiritually as he takes a journey which, in truth, he never will return from alive. >> the 12-day journey will take him right across the western heartland and mid-atlantic states. >> lincoln's train trip is to rally the country to him. >> people during that time were very worried, and he tried to show, above all else, that he could lead the country. >> so he's actually barnstorming in almost a modern form in order to create a personal bond with the people of the north.
>> lincoln arrives at independence hall where the declaration of independence, his his revered document, was signed, and he raises himself the american flag over it. >> lincoln speaks about how the declaration of independence must be the guiding principle to save the union, but his speech ends with an ominous remark. >> if this country cannot be saved without giving up that principle, i was about to say i would rather be assassinated on this spot than to surrender it. >> the crowd is unaware that lincoln has been told of a plot to assassinate him. >> there is a group that has plotted to kill him on his route to washington. >> that evening lincoln and his aides discuss their next move.