On January 27, 1964, Senator Margaret Chase Smith stood before the Women's National Press Club in Washington, D.C., and announced her candidacy for the President of the United States. Senator Smith competed in three primaries (New Hampshire, Illinois and Oregon) and became the first woman to be placed in nomination by a major political party. Senator Barry Goldwater won the Republican nomination, but Smith came in second to Goldwater by receiving 27 delegate votes at the Republican National Convention in San Francisco, California.
Madam Chairman, distinguished guests, and friends: I'm sorry to have disappointed you but this was the freshest one I had on Monday morning.
I always enjoy being with the members of the National Women's Press Club. Even when you give members of Congress an unmerciful going-over. I think that I enjoy being with you not only because of the many good friends that I have among you, but also because I was a newspaper women myself before at becoming a member of the House and the Senate.
Many years ago, I worked for the weekly newspaper in my hometown. [break in video] …fall off. And it did for a few days. But then it started up again and now has returned to a level above that prior to the moratorium period.
In fairness to everyone, I concluded that I should make my decision before the end of January, and I've done so. It's not been an easy decision. Either "yes" or "no" would be difficult. The arguments made to me that I should become a candidate have been gratifying.
First, it has been contended that I should run because I have more national experience of it experience, office experience, than any of the other announced candidates—or the unannounced candidates—with that experience going back to 1940 and pre-dating any of the others.
Second, to destroy any political bigotry against women on this score, just as the late John F. Kennedy has broken the political barrier on religion and destroyed once and for all such political bigotry. This argument contents that I would be pioneering the way for a woman in the future, to make her more acceptable, to make the way easier for her to be elected president of the United States. Perhaps the point that has impressed me the most on this argument is that women before more pioneered and smoothed the way for me to be the first woman to be elected that both the House and the Senate, and that I should give back in return that which has been given to me.
Third, it has been contended that I should run because I do not have unlimited financial resources or a tremendous political machine or backing from the party bosses, but instead have political independence and not having such resources.
There are other reasons that have been advanced, but I will not take your time to discuss them. Instead, let me turn to the reasons announced as to why I should not run.
First, there are those who make the contention that no woman should ever dare to aspire to the White House, that this is a man's world and that it should be kept that way, and that a woman on the national ticket of a political party would be more of a handicap than a strength.
Second, it is contended that odds are too heavily against me for even the most remote chance of victory, and that I should not run in the face of what most observers see as a certain and crushing defeat.
Third, it is contended that as a woman, I would not have the physical stamina and strength to run, and that I should not take that much out of me, even for what might conceivably be a good cause, even if a losing cause.
Fourth, it is contended that I should not run because, obviously, I do not have the financial resources to wage the campaign that other have.
Fifth, it is contended that I should not run because I do not have the professional political organization that others have.
Sixth, it is contended that I should not run because to do so would result in necessary absence from Washington while the Senate had roll-call votes, and thus I would bring to an end my consecutive roll-call record—which, as Elsie Copper has already told you, is now at 1590.
You know of other reasons advanced as to why I should not run, so I will not take your time to discuss them.
[pause, and audience laughter] They're trying to push Senator Aiken off his seat down here. [more laughter]
[inaudible] which I met before in 1948, when I first ran for the United States Senator from Maine, when I did not have the money that my opposition did, when I did not have the professional party organization that my opposition had, when it said that the Senate is no place for a woman, when my physical strength was sapped during the campaign with a broken arm, when my conservative opponent my liberal opponent in Maine were not restricted in campaigning by official duties in Washington such as I had, and when practically no-one gave me a chance to win.
My candidacy in the New Hampshire primary will be a test in several ways.
One, it will be a test of how much support will be given to a candidate without campaign funds and whose expense will be limited to personal and travel expense paid by the candidate.
Two, it will be a test of how much support will be given to the candidate without a professional party organization of paid campaign workers, but instead composed of unpaid, amateur volunteers.
Three, it'll be a test of how much support will be given a candidate who refuses to absent herself from the official duties to which she has been elected, and whose campaign time in New Hampshire…[break in video]
MODERATOR: Ballot, uh, on May 5.
SMITH: I really haven't thought about the primaries except New Hampshire and Illinois; Illinois having advised me this morning that they have petitions ready to file in case my answer was yes. Of course I would not object to my name going into the D.C. primary.
MODERATOR: Where will your Washington headquarters be, or where shall you begin to receive campaign contributions?
SMITH: [to laughter] The chairman of the Republican National Committee says his office will headquarters for the campaign contributions. To be perfectly honest with you, I have been working so hard on this decision and I assure you that it's not been easy, that I have not formulated any plan or thought beyond today. I shall this week sit down sometime when we'll find the time, make our plans—but I shall not be having headquarters and I would not expect that the contributions would bother me very much.
MODERATOR: Will you be willing to debate Rocky and Barry and Harold in New Hampshire?
SMITH: [to laughter] Now we have to start all over again on the debate because I hear two more have been added. Yes, I shall be very happy to go into a debate with the other candidates, but with the provision that it be carried out as it was in Maine in my 1948, when all four contestants went on the same platform and debated among themselves. I shall be glad to enter any such an arrangement or agreement, so long as all other candidates or would-be candidates go on the same platform.
MODERATOR: It was said that Democratic women helped to elect you in 1948. Would you expect strong Democratic women support this year?
SMITH: In the state of Maine, I'm very proud to say that I have always been nominated on the Republican ticket and I have always been grateful for the Margaret Smith supporters supporting me in the election. I take the position that women, Democrats and Republicans, are not supporting a woman because she is a woman. I think the women of this country are looking for qualified candidates, and I shall wait until that time comes to discuss the question.
MODERATOR: If your showing is good in the primaries but first place on the ticket is unlikely, would you then accept second place?
SMITH: I have just said that I would be a candidate for president in the New Hampshire and Illinois primaries, and I have no further comment.
MODERATOR: Does your statement not automatically put you in the Oregon primary?
SMITH: Yes, I think that's correct. I can't think of… [break in video]
MODERATOR: What would you do as a candidate to break down discrimination against women?
SMITH: Well, if the people of this country don't know what I would do from what I have done, I don't think that I could add any information to that.
MODERATOR: What is your position on the civil rights bill now before Congress?
SMITH: Again, I would have to refer you to my record, and my record on civil rights and all major issues and in the past 23 years is quite clear. I have not read or studied this particular bill, and shall not until after it comes over to the Senate and is ready for us to act on it.
MODERATOR: Have you been approached by any of the other GOP hopefuls about staying out of the primary?
SMITH: I look at Bill because I’m not just sure what all this means. I don't think anyone's thought of me as that important. And one candidate has been welcoming me into the New Hampshire primary by words but certainly not by acts, so I can't say.
MODERATOR: Senator Smith, we also have a question about entering the California primary
SMITH: Well, I would say to all these primaries, I don't know what will happen. Again, only time will tell. California seems like a long ways off, both in distance and time, and while I would be very glad to enter all the primaries if I was going to go that far, I don't think I'd better specify any further.
MODERATOR: Who will be your running mate?
SMITH: None of the announced candidates have indicated any desire. [laughter] I would say, however, that I wish we could get away from the presidential nominee choosing the vice presidential candidate. I think it would be so much more of a contest, so much better, if half a dozen or more names could go to the presidential nominee and then the convention has several to vote on. But I haven't gotten this far as choosing my vice presidential nominee.
MODERATOR: How many letters have you received urging your candidacy for president?
SMITH: I don't know. I haven't counted them. They're coming at the rate now of about 50, I should say 50, 60, 70 a day, which doesn't sound like too much to you, perhaps, but it really is because it's a very solid, substantial and steady mail. Through the months, there have been thousands of letters and I had hoped before this time to go through them and count them and analyze them, because it would be a very interesting analysis.
MODERATOR: Senator, if you can't make it yourself, which candidate would you support for president? Goldwater, Rockefeller, Nixon, Scranton, or who else?
SMITH: Well again, I must answer that I'm a candidate for president and I'm not supporting anybody else.
MODERATOR: Senator, to get back to the rose you're wearing today, we have a question: Is the yellow rose a Texas influence?
SMITH: It could be. The president's an awfully good friend of mine, but I assure you I did not wear it in his honor today.