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Smoke-Filled Room


SMOKE-FILLED ROOM. During the 1920 Republican National Convention a small group of party leaders gathered in a private hotel room to select the Republican presidential nominee. After hours of bargaining and cigar smoking, the group agreed upon Warren Harding as a compromise candidate. A reporter described the selection as being done in a smoke-filled room. Popular distaste with a nomination process that featured too much influence from party leaders and professional politicos sparked reforms leading to the electoral primary system. Nevertheless, the phrase lingers in America's political jargon and metaphorically describes a decision-making process whereby power brokers make deals while hidden from public scrutiny.


Downes, Randolph C. The Rise of Warren Gamaliel Harding, 1865–1920. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1970.

Pomper, Gerald. Nominating the President: The Politics of Convention Choice. Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press, 1963.

Michael B.Henderson

See alsoElections, Presidential: 1920 ; Primary, Direct ; Republican Party .

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