The Republicans nominated General Dwight D. Eisenhower after a primary campaign in which he defeated "Mr. Republican," Ohio Senator Robert Taft, and Governors Earl Warren and Harold Stassen of California and Minnesota.
Ike swept to a landslide victory over the professorial, eloquent governor from Illinois Adlai Stevenson -- a Harvard Law grad and Chicago lawyer before his successful run for the Illinois statehouse in 1948.
Some historians say that God himself couldn't have beaten Ike in 1952, but the country was not only in love with the D-Day commander, they were also ready for a change in direction from Truman's failure to end the Korean War and his inability to ease the economic dislocations that had ravaged the country since the end of the world war and the start of the one on the Korean peninsula.
A decade of war now separates voters from 9/11. General Petraeus isn't likely to be on the GOP ticket or even whispered about as Slow Joe Biden's replacement (though that would be a master stroke of the sort that Axelrod could orchestrate). No war hero is available to inject confidence into the national psyche.
Rather a Harvard Law school grad and Chicago lawyer-professor-turned-failed-president-professor will almost certainly face the hyper-competent Mitt Romney in November. (If Romney wins as expected tomorrow in Florida primary, the campaign won't be over but it will have been decided.)
As was the case 60 years ago, the country already knows it is mired in an economic and military swamp. This time voters will not have the non-politician general as the alternative to the failed politician. This time they will have the non-politician businessman seeking to oust the failed politician.
Mitt Romney will beat Barack Obama because a majority of the country already knows that the president is an epic failure at his job, and a thin-skinned, self-absorbed ideologue to boot.
All the noise about Romney's wealth and the nonsense about his "effective tax rate" won't make a lick of difference to a voter afraid of losing his or her job or fearing for their children's future.
All the left's harrumphing about Bain just isn't going matter to a country desperate for competence and character, discipline and the values of hard work, thrift and sacrifice.
Everybody already knows everything the Chicago gang is going to throw at Romney thanks to Newt. After the intensity of the nomination battle drains away, the focus will shift back to the president's massive incompetence, and ho-him will be the response when yet another Democrat with talking points about Romney tries to evade the reality of an unemployment rate that have never been below 8 percent when the president promised it would never go above that level.
To his great credit, Newt hasn't played the anti-Mormon card and the left certainly will, but that, too, is drained of its power after the campaign of 2008 and the pulverizing realities of the economic mismanagement of the past three years.
When Truman was forced from office, just as LBJ was, and when Carter and George H.W. Bush were denied second terms, the elections were about the overwhelming sense that the country needed a U-turn.
That's what the cover on Time proclaimed when below the smiling picture of Reagan on its November 17, 1980, election "special edition" appeared the words "A Fresh Start."
That is what November's vote will be about as well, and the memories and relevance of the primary battles will be long gone. The GOP's primary battles didn't matter in 1952 or 1980, and they won't matter in 2012.
Examiner Columnist Hugh Hewitt is a law professor at Chapman University Law School and a nationally syndicated radio talk show host who blogs daily at HughHewitt.com.