Wendell Willkie
Historical Figure
Nationality: United States
Date of Birth: 1892
Date of Death: 1944
Cause of Death: Heart attack
Religion: Episcopalianism
Occupation: Lawyer, Politician
Spouse: Edith Wilk
Children: Philip
Political Party: Democratic Party (until 1939), Republican Party (1939-1944)
Fictional Appearances:

Wendell Lewis Willkie (February 18, 1892 – October 8, 1944) was an American corporate lawyer who was the Republican Party nominee for the 1940 presidential election, despite having never held a prior elected political office. A member of the GOP's liberal wing, Willkie campaigned against aspects of the New Deal he thought were wasteful or inefficient. He was also a firm internationalist, but in his pursuit of the isolationist vote, he waffled badly on the issue of World War II.

Although Willkie in 1940 received more votes than any previous GOP candidate (22.3 million votes), he lost to incumbent Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt in an Electoral College landslide: 449 to 82, carrying ten states. Ironically, President Roosevelt employed Willkie as an ambassador-at-large after the election. Willkie attempted to gain the nomination again in 1944, but ultimately he dropped out. He died of a heart attack shortly after.

Willkie is remembered in popular culture for his alliterative campaign slogans "Win With Wendell" and "We Want Willkie."

Wendell Willkie in The War That Came Early[]

Wendell Willkie was the Republican Party's main candidate in the 1940 Presidential Election, seeking to defeat the Democratic incumbent, Franklin D. Roosevelt.[1]

The War That Came Early
POD: July 20, 1936;
Relevant POD: September 29, 1938
Appearance(s): The Big Switch
Type of Appearance: Contemporary reference

Willkie did little to distinguish himself from Roosevelt. He had no intention of dismantling the New Deal, for example.[2] On matters of foreign policy, Willkie attacked Roosevelt for sending too few armaments to Britain and France in their war against Germany.[3] Adding to Willkie's problems, the isolationist wing of the Republican Party concluded that Willkie was too interventionist, and nominated Alf Landon.[4] While Landon didn't campaign much, he did syphon votes from Willkie. In the end, Roosevelt won a third term with at least a plurality, if not a majority, in nearly every state.[5]

Wendell Willkie in Joe Steele[]

Joe Steele
POD: 1878;
Relevant POD: July, 1932
Novel or Story?: Both
Type of Appearance: Contemporary reference

Wendell Willkie was the Republican presidential candidate in the 1940 election. He accepted the nomination with a speech in which he announced that he used to be a Democrat, until incumbent President Joe Steele drove him from the party. He further alleged that Steele had driven everyone who cared about freedom from the party, and that it was time to drive Steele from the White House. He further lambasted Steele for his pursuit of a third term, saying that no one had ever had a third term before, and that Steele certainly didn't deserve one.[6]

Willkie campaigned with vigor, charging around the country giving speeches. Steele, on the other hand, left his machine to do most of his campaigning for him. He also consulted with GBI Director J. Edgar Hoover in the last six weeks before the election almost every day.[7]

In the end, Willkie lost by a wider margin than Alf Landon had in 1936. Willkie conceded on election night. He claimed there were irregularities, but not enough to change the result.[8]

Literary comment[]

In the short story, Wendell Willkie is the Republican candidate in 1940 as in the novel. He also has the dubious distinction of being the last GOP candidate; Joe Steele runs unopposed in 1944, 1948, and 1952.

Wendell Willkie in Southern Victory[]

Southern Victory
POD: September 10, 1862
Appearance(s): The Victorious Opposition
Type of Appearance: Contemporary reference
Political Party: Republican Party

Wendell Willkie was the Republican Party's candidate in the 1940 presidential election. Like every Republican presidential candidate since 1884, he was soundly defeated, taking only his home state of Indiana and finishing a distant third to Socialist incumbent Al Smith and Democrat Robert Taft.[9] Ironically, Willkie's slogan was "Win With Wendell".


  1. The Big Switch, pg. 264
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid., pg. 335
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid., pg. 346.
  6. Joe Steele, pg. 225.
  7. Ibid., pgs. 226-228.
  8. Ibid., pgs. 227-228.
  9. The Victorious Opposition, pg. 475
Party political offices
Preceded by
Alf Landon
Republican Party Presidential Candidate
1940 (lost)
Succeeded by
Thomas Dewey
Party political offices
(Joe Steele)
Preceded by
Alf Landon
Republican Party presidential candidate
1940 (lost)
Succeeded by
Thomas Dewey1
Party political offices
(Southern Victory)
Preceded by
Last known is
James G. Blaine
Republican Party presidential candidate
1940 (lost)
Succeeded by
Harold Stassen
Party political offices
(The War That Came Early)
Preceded by
Alf Landon
Republican Party presidential candidate2
1940 (lost)
Succeeded by
Most Recent
Notes and references
1. Dewey was nominated in the novel only. In the short story, there were no GOP candidates after 1940.

2. The Republican Party saw fracturing in 1940, with the mainstream Republicans nominating Willkie, but the isolationist wing nominating Alf Landon.