The Depression raged in 1931, while Roosevelt was governor of New York. He became the first governor to put into use a work relief program for those who were affected the most, directed by Harry Hopkins, a social worker who would later become his advisor. A wise man, he had used the radio, the most common form of media found in most U.S. families, to win the reelection for governor in 1930. Meanwhile, the Depression got more serious throughout the U.S.

All had not been happy during Roosevelt's governorship. He had contracted polio earlier on and had had to spend time in Florida in a polio recovery colony. He would be plagued with exceptionally weak legs for the rest of his life. He could walk only with cumbersome and uncomfortable leg braces or crutches, and for the rest of his life out of the public eye he had to get around in a wheelchair. Of course, no one could ever see this weakness, and therefore only one photo of him in a wheelchair survives.

Even though Roosevelt was only a governor, he showed great incentive as well as boldness in appointing a "brain trust" of Columbia professors to help him devise means of helping the U.S. during these hard times. Following their suggestions, he made it widely known that the country demanded bold, persistent experimentation. Meanwhile, his poltical backers were lining up candidates for him all throughout the country. Thus, when the Democratic Convention opened in Chicago in June 1932, FDR was, in most minds, the top choice as nominee for the Presidency. Yet it was not that easy, for to get the nomination, he had to battle some of the most formidable candidates, from House Speaker John N. Garner of Texas, to former Secretary of War Newton D. Baker of Ohio, and finally to fomer Governor Smith, who fondled rather vehement hopes of becoming president. Roosevelt had a large lead, but lacked the two-thirds margin needed to win, and would have lost, were it not for James Farley, the chairman for the New York State Democratic Committee (hand-picked by Roosevelt, who deemed him exceptionally suited to the job). Farley, a loyal backer of FDR, persuaded Garner to pull out by promising him the vice-presidential nomination, which he reluctantly accepted. With Garner out of the running, Roosevelt swept a clean victory, becoming the Democratic nominee for the presidency.

Hoover was running again that fall, hoping to win the reelection. During his campain against the president, FDR began to hint at a "new deal", a program that would curb the current excess farm produce which was causing a drop in prices, as well as supply new jobs for those who needed them (which was almost two-thirds of America). He also spoke for pensions for the elderly, insurance, etc. But in his campain against Hoover he was not clear on tariffs, foreign policy, and labor legislation. He was also vague, perhaps even reluctant, to disclose his plans of industrial recovery. While his vagueness may have alienated some supporters, most Americans saw him as their savior, the one who would pull them out of this grave they had dug for themselves, or rather, that Hoover had dug for them (for most blamed him for the Great Depression). So, on Election Day Roosevelt got 22,821,857 votes to Hoover's 15,761,841, and took the Electoral College 472 to 59. His first term had begun, while all of America awaited from him a miracle that would somehow set everything right.