Nixon had always played politics not merely as a game against worthy opponents but as a war against enemies. His first campaign for a congressional seat, in 1946, in California was conducted against Jerry Voorhis, a five-term Democratic liberal. Nixon linked Voorhis with a left-wing representative from New York City, Vito Marcantonio, and falsely claimed that Voorhis had been endorsed by a political action committee of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). He won the election and two years later, taking advantge of the California primary law, entered and won both the Democratic and Republican primaries, thus avoiding potential defeat in an election year that favored Democrats. In 1950, Nixon defeated Helen Gahagan Douglas for a California seat in the United States Senate with the same techniques: he linked Douglas to Marcantonio by distributing the infamous "pink sheet," which tied their voting records together.
Nixon propelled himself into national politics through his skills as a tactician. A member of the California delegation to the 1952 Republican National Convention, he convinced the delegates to vote in favor of the "fair play" resolution that settled a dispute over credentials of rival Taft and Eisenhower delegates in favor of Eisenhower, thus ensuring the general the nomination. As a result, Nixon's name appeared on the shortlist of acceptable vice presidential candidates that Eisenhower submitted to a group of Republican leaders at the convention. The group recommended Nixon, because his anti-Communist credentials and tough campaign tactics would complement Eisenhower's political assets and because Nixon would help Republicans in the West.
Nixon took the low road in the presidential campaign, referring to Adlai Stevenson as an appeaser whose election would be welcomed by the Kremlin. In the midst of the campaign it became known that a group of seventy-six southern California businessmen had contributed to a secret fund that paid Nixon $900 per month (a total of $18,168.87 up to that point). Nixon defended himself by misrepresenting the uses to which the money had been put, claiming it was for office expenses only. In a nationwide television address on 23 September 1952, he claimed that he and his wife did not live well and that Pat Nixon did not even own a fur coat like corrupt Democrats but only "a respectable Republican cloth coat." Revealing that someone had given his children another gift, a dog that they had named Checkers, he said defiantly, "Regardless of what they say about it, we're going to keep it." When the so-called Checkers Speech met with overwhelming public approval, Eisenhower realized that he would be better off keeping Nixon on the ticket. At a meeting a few days later, he announced, "You're my boy." The two were swept into office in November.