While Roosevelt was governor of New York, the Great Depression tightened its grip on the country. Roosevelt, seeking new ideas, enlisted a “brains trust” of Columbia University professors to help him devise programs against hard times. These professors included Rexford Tugwell, Raymond Moley, and Adolf Berle, Jr. All became leading figures in the national administration in 1933. Acting on their suggestions, Roosevelt stressed the need to assist the “forgotten man.” He added “the country demands bold, persistent experimentation.” Meanwhile, Farley and other supporters were lining up delegates for Roosevelt throughout the country. By the time the Democratic national convention opened in Chicago in June 1932, Roosevelt stood out as the most dynamic and imaginative contender for the presidential nomination.
Despite these assets, FDR faced formidable opposition at the convention, from House Speaker John Nance Garner of Texas; former Secretary of War Newton D. Baker of Ohio, a potential compromise choice; and former Governor Smith, who still cherished ambitions of his own. For three ballots Roosevelt held a large lead, but lacked the two-thirds margin necessary for victory. Farley then promised Garner the vice-presidential nomination. The move succeeded. Garner reluctantly accepted the vice presidency, and FDR took the presidential nomination on the fourth ballot.
Most party leaders applauded the Roosevelt-Garner ticket, which closed the heretofore-fatal gulf between the urban-Eastern and rural-Southern-Western wings of the party. They responded especially to Roosevelt, who broke with precedent to fly to the convention and to tell the delegates, “I pledge you, I pledge myself, to a new deal for the American people.”