Presidential candidates have history of visits here

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Mike DuPre'
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
— Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign stop in Janesville this morning continues a long tradition of politicking in Rock County by folks who want to make 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, D.C., their home for at least four years.

The last presidential candidate to visit Janesville was the president.

George W. Bush rolled up his sleeves when he campaigned at the Holiday Inn Express on Sept. 24, 2004, on his way to re-election.

His opponent, Sen. John Kerry, received a warm welcome on a hot day in Beloit on Aug. 3, 2004.

Obama’s opponent for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, visited Janesville twice, both times as first lady. She came in February 1994 to campaign for her health-care reform plan and in October 1998 to stump for local Democrats.

Before Bush, Harry S. Truman was the last sitting president to visit Janesville.

Though many people think they remember seeing Truman here on a campaign stop in 1948, Truman did not visit Janesville during his sole presidential campaign.

Truman did give a short impromptu speech—“Thank you very much, thank you very much. I didn’t expect this. You are very generous.”—on May 14, 1950, when his train made a seven-minute stop in Janesville.

Five thousand people showed up at a Janesville train depot after learning the president might stop as he and his family traveled from Madison to Chicago.

Other sitting presidents who visited here were Theodore Roosevelt, William Taft and Herbert Hoover.

But several presidents campaigned here before they called the White House home.

John F. Kennedy tested the presidential waters with a stop April 10, 1959. When he was running for real the next year, JFK visited the Janesville General Motors plant and YWCA on March 19, and toured Fort Atkinson, Whitewater, Elkhorn and Lake Geneva on Valentine’s Day.

His brother Bobby, who would campaign for president in 1968, spoke at Janesville High School and to the Lions Club on March 1, 1960.

On Sept. 22, 1966, Richard Nixon stumped for a Republican congressional candidate at the Rock County Airport.

Then the former vice president, Nixon was coy about his political plans: “Let’s worry about this election and let the other party speculate about 1968.”

Nixon won the presidency in 1968.


From 1968-80, when the Wisconsin primary came early in the presidential season and carried a lot of clout, the list of presidential candidates campaigning in Janesville was impressive:

Republican George Romney, Democrat George McGovern, Democrat and segregationist George Wallace, Republican-turned-Democrat John Lindsey, Democrat Henry “Scoop” Jackson, Democrat Ed Muskie, Democrat and former Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, Republican Howard Baker, Democrat and Vice President Walter Mondale, Democrat Jerry Brown, Republican-turned-independent John Anderson and Democrat Teddy Kennedy.

In 1988, three Democrats stumped for votes in Rock County.

Michael Dukakis spoke in Beloit; Al Gore visited Playmore Bowl in Janesville, and Jesse Jackson addressed a crowd at the Rock County 4-H Fairgrounds.


Those who won the White House:

-- Jan. 13, 1976, Ronald Reagan spoke at the Janesville Ramada Inn’s annual Business Appreciation Day.

-- March 30, 1976, Jimmy Carter addressed 1,000 people at the Holiday Inn.

-- Feb. 10, 1978, the first President Bush spoke at Beloit College. George H.W. Bush was then ambassador to the United Nations.

-- Abraham Lincoln slept at the Tallman House in 1859 when he eyed the presidency. And he probably was here as a soldier during the Blackhawk War in the summer of 1832.

-- Ulysses S. Grant visited Janesville with railroad men in 1853. He returned to the city in 1980 after he had been president and hosted a reception at the Myers House.

-- Chester Arthur, who was president from 1881-85, was a prospector when he registered at Hyatt House in 1857.

Last updated: 4:48 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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