Elections, Presidential

views updated Jun 11 2018


This entry contains 48 subentries, comprising an overview and brief accounts of each election from 1789 to 2000.


Presidential elections have taken place in the United States quadrennially, beginning in 1789. They include both the process of candidate nomination and the subsequent campaign for election. Since the 1830s, nomination has centered on national party conventions called to choose individuals to run for president and vice president and to adopt the party's platform. Delegate selection for these conventions was for a long time wholly extralegal and determined by local party traditions. Early in the twentieth century, some states set up presidential primaries to choose delegates and record voter preferences among the aspiring candidates. In the late 1960s, a further reform movement began to broaden the ability of party members to participate in delegate selection and to reduce the influence of party organizations. By the end of the twentieth century the party primary system dominated the nominating process, with party conventions reduced to a merely symbolic role.

An incumbent president who desires renomination usually obtains it without a serious primary challenge. If a president does not want it or has already served two terms, the convention makes the final choice, sometimes only after a lengthy and bitter struggle. Beginning in the late 1950s, rapid modes of transportation and ease of communication usually enabled one candidate to build up a strong lead prior to the convention and to win on the first ballot. Thus, the preconvention campaign has become the decisive part of the nominating process. Since 1972, the primaries have determined every major party nominee. Broadening public participation has reduced the role of state party leaders and hence also reduced past practices of convention bargaining among politicians who control blocs of delegates.

Candidates for president were often chosen from among successful governors, especially the governors of key states like Ohio and New York, which have large blocs of electoral votes. By the late twentieth century, Texas, California, and the deep South emerged as major breeding grounds for presidential nominees. In the nineteenth century, generals frequently won presidential nominations, but none has since 1956. After World War II the trend seemed to move away from governors in favor of U.S. senators because of greatly increased American concern with foreign relations and the greater national "visibility" senators can acquire. The trend reversed itself in the 1970s, as governors won every presidential election between 1976 and 2000, with the sole exception of 1988.

Once chosen, the presidential candidate selects a new national party chairman and sets up his own campaign organization. In the nineteenth century the nominee himself did little stumping and conducted instead a "front porch" campaign, but the twentieth century saw increased candidate involvement, often reaching a frantic pace after the middle of the century. From the 1920s on, radio figured prominently in getting the candidates' messages disseminated; since the 1952 campaign, television has been the key medium, although the Internet shows promise of playing a growing role in future campaigns. Generally the media increased in importance as grass-roots party organization declined in vigor and usefulness. Public relations experts and opinion pollsters also came to occupy crucial roles in campaign management.

Little has changed overall in the extent to which presidential campaigns emphasize general appeals and slogans rather than focus on clear-cut issues. With communications improvements, these appeals are more often carefully designed for national audiences instead of being tailored to each local group encountered on a campaign tour. Nevertheless, the New Deal era and the elections of 1964 and 1972 did see issues posed more sharply than usual.

The seven presidential campaigns between 1976 and 2000 represent a period of change in American politics, including new rules for campaigns, challenges to the two-party system, and altered electoral coalitions. The 1976 campaign was the first conducted under new rules for selecting convention delegates and new campaign finance regulations, and by 1992 these changes had been fully assimilated by both the Democratic and Republican parties. Extending the turmoil of the 1960s, these campaigns witnessed regular challenges to the two-party system by divisive primaries and significant independent candidacies. In addition, the dissension associated with the Vietnam War protests and the Watergate scandal of 1972–1974 developed into a persistent "anti-Washington" theme in presidential campaigns. During this period there were significant changes in the major parties' electoral coalitions as well, with southerners and religious conservatives shifting from the Democratic to the Republican camp in the 1970s and 1980s.

Conversely, suburbanites, Californians, and northeasterners shifted from the Republican camp to the Democratic in the 1990s. These shifting political alliances resulted in an extremely closely divided electoral map, as revealed by the 2000 presidential campaign. In the closest presidential election in modern history, Al Gore, the Democratic candidate, carried the popular vote by 650,000 votes, and George W. Bush, the Republican candidate, carried the electoral college by four votes. As the twenty-first century unfolded, no party seemed likely to create a national mandate anytime soon. Instead, divided government and close elections were likely to be the dominant features of American presidential politics for some time to come.


Asher, Herbert B. Presidential Elections and American Politics: Voters, Candidates, and Campaigns Since 1952. 4th ed. Chicago: Dorsey Press, 1988.

Brinkley, Alan, and Davis Dyer. The Reader's Companion to the American Presidency. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000.

Congressional Quarterly. Presidential Elections Since 1789. 5th ed. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly, 1991.

Dallek, Robert. Hail to the Chief: The Making and Unmaking of American Presidents. New York: Hyperion, 1996.

DeGregorio, William A. The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents. New York: Wings Books, 1993.

Dover, E. D. Presidential Elections in the Television Age, 1960–1992. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1994.

Graff, Henry E. The Presidents: A Reference History. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997.

Heale, M. G. The Presidential Quest: Candidates and Images in America Political Culture, 1787–1852. New York: Longman, 1982.

Hofstadter, Richard. The American Political Tradition. New York: Knopf, 1948.

Leuchtenburg, William E. In the Shadow of FDR: From Harry Truman to Ronald Reagan. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1983.

Levy, Leonard W., and Louis Fisher. Encyclopedia of the American Presidency. 4 vols. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994.

Lorant, Stefan. The Presidency: A Pictorial History of Presidential Elections from Washington to Truman. New York: Macmillan, 1951.

Milkis, Sidney M. The Presidents and the Parties: The Transformation of the American Party System Since the New Deal. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Nelson, Michael, ed. Congressional Quarterly's Guide to the Presidency. 2 vols. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly, 1996.

Polsby, Nelson W., and Aaron Wildavsky. Presidential Elections: Strategies and Structures of American Politics. New York: Chatham House, 2000.

Pomper, Gerald M. Nominating the President: The Politics of Convention Choice. New York: Norton, 1966.

Rosebloom, Eugene H. A History of Presidential Elections. 3rd ed. New York: Macmillan, 1970.

Wright, Russell O. Presidential Elections in the United States: A Statistical History, 1860–1992. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 1995.

Elmer E.CornwellJr./a. g.

See alsoCampaign Financing and Resources ; Campaign Songs ; Conventions, Party Nominating ; Democratic Party ;Governors ; Inauguration, Presidential ; Platform, Party ; Popular Sovereignty ; President, U.S. ; Primary, Direct ; Radio ; Republican Party ; Television: Programming and Influence ; Two-Party System ; Vice President, U.S. ; Voting .

1789 and 1792

These first two campaigns had no formal nominations, only one presidential candidate, and little opposition to the second choice. The Constitution ratified, the Continental Congress delayed three months before fixing the first Wednesday in January 1789 for choosing electors, the first Wednesday in February for their voting, and the first Wednesday in March for starting the new government. Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia elected electors; the Massachusetts legislature chose from elected electors; New Hampshire's election failed and its legislature appointed electors, as did those of the remaining states. Thirteen states could cast ninety-one votes; two states had not ratified, and one (New York) failed to elect or appoint electors; four electors failed to vote. George Washington received sixty-nine votes, one of the two votes of every elector. John Adams received thirty-four of the second votes, and the other thirty-five were scattered among ten different candidates (John Jay, Robert Harrison, John Rutledge, John Hancock, George Clinton, Samuel Huntington, John Milton, James Armstrong, Edward Telfair, and Benjamin Lincoln).

In 1792 fifteen states could cast 132 electoral votes. Alexander Hamilton's financial measures and the consolidation of national power roused an opposition (Jeffersonian Antifederalists), which centered its efforts on the defeat of Adams by the Antifederalist George Clinton, since to defeat Washington was seen to be futile. The attempt failed. Washington's vote was again unanimous, and Adams defeated Clinton by seventy-seven votes to fifty.


Elkins, Stanley M., and Eric McKitrick. The Age of Federalism: The Early American Republic, 1788–1800. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

McDonald, Forrest. The Presidency of George Washington. Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1974.

John C.Fitzpatrick/a. g.

See alsoFederalist Party .


For the first time the national election was contested by political parties. The French Revolution, the Genêt affair, and Jay's Treaty resulted in bitter partisanship. Without the modern machinery of nomination, the Federalists informally agreed on John Adams as Washington's successor; with him they chose Thomas Pinckney as the vice presidential nominee. With more enthusiasm the Democratic-Republicans chose their leaders, Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr. Electors were chosen in sixteen states—by popular vote in six and by the legislature in ten. Of the total electoral votes, Adams secured seventy-one, Jefferson sixty-eight, Pinckney fifty-nine, and Burr thirty; the remaining forty-eight were divided among nine others.


Brown, Ralph Adams. The Presidency of John Adams. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1975.

Miller, John C. The Federalist Era: 1789–1801. New York: Harper & Row, 1960.

Sharp, James Roger. American Politics in the Early Republic: The New Nation in Crisis. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1993.

FrankMonaghan/a. g.

See alsoRepublicans, Jeffersonian .

1800 and 1804

The election of 1800 marks a turning point in American political history. Its preliminaries were expressed in the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions proffered by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison as a party platform. Its party machinery, still more essential to success, was directed by Aaron Burr, with supplemental support in Pennsylvania and South Carolina.

Burr had already established the nucleus of a political machine that was later to develop into Tammany Hall. With this organization, he swept New York City with an outstanding legislative ticket, gained control of the state assembly, and secured the electoral votes of New York for the Democratic-Republicans. He had already secured a pledge from the Democratic-Republican members of Congress to support him equally with Jefferson. Hence the tie vote (seventy-three each) that gave him a dubious chance for the presidency. The Federalist candidates were John Adams, sixty-five votes, and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, sixty-four votes.

Publicly disclaiming any intent to secure the presidency, Burr was, nevertheless, put forward by the Federalists in order to defeat Jefferson and bring about another election. A slight majority in the House of Representatives enabled them to rally six states to Burr and divide the vote of two others, thus neutralizing the vote of the eight states that supported Jefferson. The contest was prolonged through thirty-five fruitless ballots; on the thirty-sixth, by prearrangement, a sufficient number of Federalists cast blank ballots to give Jefferson ten states and the presidency.

This narrow escape from frustrating the popular will led the incoming administration to pass the Twelfth Amendment to the Constitution, separating the balloting for president and vice president, in time for the 1804 election. Jefferson covertly helped eliminate Burr in New York, and the party caucus brought George Clinton forward as candidate for the vice presidency. Burr, already divining his political ostracism, attempted to recover ground as an independent candidate for governor of New York. Representative Federalists of New England sought his support in their plans for disunion, but he refused to commit himself to such a program. The Federalists selected Pinckney as their presidential candidate, and chose Rufus King for the vice presidency. Jefferson, preeminently successful in the more important measures of his administration, was triumphantly reelected in 1804 as president with Clinton as vice president.


Ellis, Joseph J. American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson. New York: Knopf, 1996.

Malone, Dumas. Jefferson the President. Boston: Little, Brown, 1970.

McDonald, Forrest. The Presidency of Thomas Jefferson. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1976.

Peterson, Merrill D. Thomas Jefferson and the New Nation. New York: Oxford University Press, 1970.

Weisberger, Bernard A. America Afire: Jefferson, Adams, and the Revolutionary Election of 1800. New York: William Morrow, 2000.

Isaac J.Cox/a. g.

See alsoConstitution of the United States ; Federalist Party ; Jefferson-Burr Election Dispute ; Republicans, Jeffersonian .

1808 and 1812

The field of candidates for the Democratic-Republican nomination in 1808 included James Madison, the choice of Thomas Jefferson; James Monroe, somewhat tainted by affiliation with John Randolph and the Quids, who were anathema to the outgoing administration; and George Clinton, a New Yorker not favored by the Virginia dynasty. Jefferson's own refusal to consider a third term confirmed the two-term tradition for a president. At the party caucus Madison received eighty-three votes; his rivals, three each.

The Federalist opposition was led by Charles Pinckney and Rufus King, but the chief obstacle to the Madison slate came from his own party, notably in Virginia and Pennsylvania, where William Duane, a powerful journalist, was unreconcilable. The malcontents finally voted the party ticket, and in the electoral college Madison obtained 122 out of 176 votes. Clinton ran far behind on the presidential ticket but became vice president by a wide margin. Defeated for the presidency, the Federalists nevertheless made serious inroads upon the Republican majority in the House of Representatives.

In 1812 Madison secured his renomination by a tacit rather than a formal yielding to the demands of Henry Clay and the war hawks. With Clinton having died in office, the vice presidential nomination, tendered first to John Langdon of New Hampshire, went to Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts. Opposition to the party slate was led by DeWitt Clinton of New York, who finally accepted nomination from the prowar Republicans, with the endorsement of the Federalists. Jared Ingersoll of Pennsylvania was nominated as his running mate. The electoral college gave Madison 128 votes, against 89 for Clinton. Vermont and Pennsylvania stood by Madison, but New York was led by Martin Van Buren into the Clinton column. Gerry and the ticket could not carry the candidate's own state of Massachusetts, notwithstanding his recent election as governor. Thus, at the beginning of the War of 1812, the Republican party was seriously divided.


Ketcham, Ralph. James Madison. New York: Macmillan, 1971.

Rutland, Robert A. The Presidency of James Madison. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1990.

Louis MartinSears/a. g.

See alsoDoves and Hawks .

1816 and 1820

There was no campaign by parties in 1816 worth the name, none at all in 1820. President James Madison's choice was James Monroe, old Jeffersonian protégé, secretary of state and war. Some Democratic-Republicans favored Gov. Daniel D. Tompkins of New York. Younger Republicans, interested in nationalist measures following the War of 1812, including a bank, protective tariffs, and internal improvements to speed the development of the West, preferred William H. Crawford, secretary of the treasury and citizen of Georgia. They gave him fifty-four votes in the congressional caucus to sixty-five for Monroe. In the electoral college, Monroe overwhelmed Rufus King, signer of the Constitution and statesman of note, but a Federalist whose party now was thoroughly discredited by the Hartford Convention. Monroe was given 183 votes to 34 for King.

Newer sectional conflicts and rivalry among the younger leaders embittered the Era of Good Feeling, but President Monroe was secure. He was reelected in 1820, with only one dissenting electoral vote (cast by William Plummer of New Hampshire for John Quincy Adams). Federalists saw a greater menace to their propertied interests rising with the democracy of the West; it was to dethrone "King Caucus" (the congressional caucus nominating system) and the Virginia dynasty in the free-for-all campaign of 1824.


Ammon, Harry. James Monroe: The Quest for National Identity. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1971.

Cunningham, Noble E., Jr. The Presidency of James Monroe. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1996.

Dangerfield, George. The Awakening of American Nationalism, 1815–1828. New York: Harper & Row, 1965.

Arthur B.Darling/a. g.


With the second inauguration of James Monroe in 1820, preparations began for the next campaign, which was to mark the beginning of the transition from federalism to democracy, with resulting voter realignment under new party emblems. The five candidates were prominent in national affairs and represented sections or factions rather than parties. In general, the politicians supported William H. Crawford; John Quincy Adams represented business; John C. Calhoun, the South and the rising slavocracy; Henry Clay, the expanding West; and Andrew Jackson, the people everywhere. The first three were cabinet members, Clay was speaker of the House, and Jackson was the country's most popular military figure.

Crawford was virtually eliminated by a paralytic stroke; Jackson was brought in late by his friends; Clay's support was never impressive; and Calhoun withdrew and became candidate for vice president on both the Adams and Jackson tickets. No candidate received a majority electoral vote. Jackson secured the greatest number, 99; Adams, 84; Crawford, 41; and Clay, 37. The House of Representatives made a selection and chose Adams. Jackson's supporters charged that a "corrupt bargain" had been made when it was learned that Clay threw his support to Adams in exchange for the position of secretary of state. The effect of Jackson's complaint was that he immediately began campaigning for the election of 1828.


Dangerfield, George. The Awakening of American Nationalism, 1815–1828. New York: Harper & Row, 1965.

Hargreaves, Mary W.M. The Presidency of John Quincy Adams. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1985.

Nagel, Paul. John Quincy Adams: A Public Life, A Private Life. New York: Knopf, 1997.

Thomas RobsonHay/a. g.

1828 and 1832

In 1828 President John Quincy Adams stood for reelection on the National Republican ticket and Andrew Jackson of Tennessee made his second campaign for the presidency, his supporters now being called Democrats. Designated the people's candidate by the action of friends in the legislature of his own state, Jackson won and held the necessary support of influential leaders in New York, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina. The campaign was waged throughout the administration of Adams. It was not marked by any clear-cut declaration of political principle or program, and Jackson came to think of it as a personal vindication.

Of the twenty-four states, Delaware and South Carolina still expressed their choice by vote of the legislature. In twenty-two states the elections were held in the period from late October to early December. There was a great increase in the popular vote cast, and both candidates shared in the increase: 647,286 being cast for Jackson and 508,064 for Adams. The electoral vote stood 178 for Jackson to 83 for Adams. John C. Calhoun of South Carolina was again elected vice president. In many parts of the nation there was evidence of a more effective organization of the vote than in any previous contest, yet over and above all considerations in this election was the appeal that the frontier hero made to an increasing body of democratically minded voters. Jackson himself was the cause of an alignment of public opinion in the years that followed. Jackson men controlled the Congress, and platforms and programs were supported by leaders and sections and groups, but not by clearly defined political parties.

Naturally, Jackson stood for re-election in 1832, although he had spoken in favor of a single term, and the campaign to renominate him began at once. After December 1831, when Henry Clay returned to the Senate, he, rather than Adams, received the support of most of those who were opposed to Jackson. This did not include Calhoun, who in 1830 had broken with Jackson. Clay was formally presented by a national convention that met in December 1831. He was endorsed by a national convention of young men, which prepared a platform in a meeting held in May of 1832. In that month a national convention of Jackson supporters nominated Martin Van Buren of New York for the vice presidency. The newly formed Anti-Masonic party supported William Wirt of Maryland.

The campaign not only witnessed the general use of the national party convention, but platforms were presented and cartoons freely used, and there was a concentration of popular attention upon the pageantry of parades. Aside from the personal contest between Jackson and Clay, the issues centered on Jackson's attack on the Bank of the United States and particularly his veto of the bill for the recharter of the bank, a bill that had the backing of Clay supporters in both houses of Congress. Twenty-four states participated in this election, and all except South Carolina provided a popular vote. The electorate endorsed Jackson's administration, for the distribution of the vote in twenty-three states gave Jackson, 687,502 votes; Clay, 530,189; and Wirt, 101,051. In the electoral college the vote stood Jackson, 219; Clay, 49; and Wirt, 7; with the 11 votes representing South Carolina cast for John Floyd of Virginia.


Cole, Donald B. The Presidency of Andrew Jackson. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1993.

Dangerfield, George. The Awakening of American Nationalism, 1815–1828. New York: Harper & Row, 1965.

Remini, Robert V. Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Freedom, 1822–1832. New York: Harper & Row, 1981.

Edgar EugeneRobinson/a. g.

See alsoAnti-Masonic Movements ; Conventions, Party Nominating ; Jacksonian Democracy .


Made up chiefly of Anti-Masons, National Republicans, and anti-Jackson Democrats, the Whig party, formed in 1834, lacked unity. Because of this, the Whig leaders decided to put forward several sectional candidates in the 1836 presidential campaign. Accordingly, Judge Hugh L. White was entered in the race through nomination by legislative caucuses in Tennessee and Alabama, held in January 1835. At about the same time, Judge John Mc-Lean was nominated by a legislative caucus in Ohio, but he withdrew from the race in the following August. Sen. Daniel Webster was nominated by a Massachusetts legislative caucus, also in January 1835. Still another candidate of the Whigs was Gen. William H. Harrison, who was formally nominated by both Anti-Masonic and Whig state conventions in Pennsylvania in December 1835.

Meanwhile, at the Democratic National Convention held in Baltimore on 21–22 May 1835, Martin Van Buren, who was President Andrew Jackson's personal choice, had been unanimously nominated for the presidency. No platform was adopted by the convention, but a committee was authorized to draw up an address. Published in the party organ, the Washington Globe, on 26 August 1835, this address presented Van Buren as one who would, if elected, continue "that wise course of national policy pursued by Gen. Jackson." For all practical purposes, this address may be regarded as the first platform ever issued by the Democratic party.

When the election returns were finally in, Van Buren had won the presidency with 170 electoral votes and a popular vote of 765,483 to 739,795 for his opponents. White received 26 electoral votes, Webster 14, and Harrison 73, while South Carolina bestowed its 11 votes on W. P. Mangum. No candidate for the vice presidency received a majority of the electoral vote, so on 8 February 1837, the Senate chose the Democratic candidate Richard M. Johnson over his leading rival, Francis Granger.


Niven, John. Martin Van Buren: The Romantic Age of American Politics. New York: Oxford University Press, 1983.

Remini, Robert V. Martin Van Buren and the Making of the Democratic Party. New York: Columbia University Press, 1959.

Wilson, Major L. The Presidency of Martin Van Buren. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1984.

Erik McKinleyEriksson/a. g.


Distinctive in American history as the first national victory of the Whig party, the campaign of 1840 was unique for its popular and emotional appeal, organized on an unprecedented scale. To the Whigs belongs the credit of introducing into a presidential battle every political device calculated to sway the "common man." The Whig convention, assembled at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, on 2 December 1839, nominated Gen. William Henry Harrison of Indiana for president and John Tyler of Virginia for vice president. No attempt was made to frame a platform; indeed, the only bond uniting the various groups under the Whig banner was a determination to defeat the Democrats. The Democratic convention, held at Baltimore on 5 May 1840, was united behind Martin Van Buren for president, but the choice of a vice president was left to the state electors. A platform on strict construction lines was adopted.

The Whigs conducted their campaign at a rollicking pitch. Harrison was adroitly celebrated as the "Hard Cider and Log Cabin" candidate, a phrase the Democrats had used in contempt. Popular meetings, "log cabin raisin's," oratory, invective against Van Buren the aristocrat, songs, and slogans ("Tippecanoe and Tyler Too") swamped the country. In the election Harrison polled an electoral vote of 234, a popular vote of 1,274,624; Van Buren received 60 electoral votes and 1,127,781 popular votes. A minor feature in the campaign was the appearance of an abolition (the Liberty) party, whose candidate, James G. Birney, received 7,069 votes. Although the causes for Van Buren's defeat should be traced back to his opposition to Jackson, the Panic of 1837, the unpopular Seminole Wars, and the campaign methods employed by the Whigs contributed largely to Harrison's success.


Gunderson, Robert Gray. The Log-Cabin Campaign. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1957.

Peterson, Norma L. The Presidencies of William Henry Harrison and John Tyler. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1989.

Dorothy BurneGoebel/a. g.

See alsoAntislavery ; Campaign Songs ; Financial Panics ; Liberty Party .


No outstanding Democratic candidate could muster the necessary two-thirds vote in the 1844 convention, so James K. Polk of Tennessee, the first "dark horse" (compromise candidate), was nominated with George M. Dallas of Pennsylvania as running mate, on a platform demanding "the re-annexation of Texas and the re-occupation of Oregon" and in favor of tariff reform. The Whigs nominated Henry Clay of Kentucky and Theodore Freling-huysen of New Jersey on a platform favoring protective tariffs and a national bank, but quibbling on the Texas annexation issue, which alienated some of the Whigs. The Liberty party unanimously selected James G. Birney as its presidential candidate. Polk carried New York by a small popular majority and was elected with 170 electoral votes to 105 for Clay. The popular vote was Polk, 1,338,464; Clay, 1,300,097; and Birney, 62,300.


Bergeron, Paul H. The Presidency of James K. Polk. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1987.

McCoy, Charles A. Polk and the Presidency. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1960.

WalterPrichard/a. g.


The Whig nominee, Zachary Taylor, who sidestepped the burning issue of slavery extension, coasted to victory on his military reputation with Millard Fillmore as his vice president. His Democratic opponent, Gen. Lewis Cass of Michigan, straddled the slavery extension question by advocating state sovereignty. The new Free Soil party, specifically opposed to extension and headed by Martin Van Buren, split the Democratic vote in New York and thus contributed materially to Taylor's triumph. (Gerrit Smith, the National Liberty party candidate and staunch abolitionist, advised those who would not vote for an abolitionist to vote for Van Buren, rather than Cass.) Taylor carried half the states: eight in the South and seven in the North. The popular vote was Taylor, 1,360,967; Cass, 1,222,342; Van Buren, 291,263; Smith 2,733. The electoral vote was Taylor, 163; Cass, 127.


Hamilton, Holman. Zachary Taylor: Soldier in the White House. Indianapolis, Ind.: Bobbs-Merrill, 1951.

Rayback, Robert J. Millard Fillmore: Biography of a President. Buffalo, N.Y.: American Political Biography Press, 1959.

Smith, Elbert B. The Presidencies of Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1988.

HolmanHamilton/a. g.


The Whig party, suffering from apathy and demoralized by the slavery issue, entered the 1852 campaign in dangerously weak condition. Democratic victory seemed almost certain, but the question of who would serve on the Democratic ticket remained open. After many ballots, the leading Democrats, Lewis Cass, James Buchanan, and Stephen Douglas, fell out of the running and a dark horse, Franklin Pierce of New Hampshire, was nominated with William R. King of Alabama. The Whigs nominated the military hero Gen. Winfield Scott; the Free Soilers nominated the antislavery leader John P. Hale of New Hampshire. Both major parties endorsed the Compromise of 1850, so there were no issues and little contest. Pierce carried all states save Massachusetts, Vermont, Kentucky, and Tennessee. The popular vote was Pierce, 1,601,117; Scott, 1,385,453; and Hale, 155,825. The electoral vote was Pierce, 254; Scott, 42.


Gara, Larry. The Presidency of Franklin Pierce. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1991.

Nichols, Roy F. Franklin Pierce: Young Hickory of the Granite Hills. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1931.

Roy F.Nichols/a. g.


In its first presidential campaign, the Republican party nominated John C. Frémont of California. Its platform opposed slavery expansion and condemned slavery and Mormonism as twin relics of barbarism. The American, or Know-Nothing, party nominated Millard Fillmore, who had succeeded to the presidency following the death of Zachary Taylor. The Democrats nominated James Buchanan, selecting John C. Breckinridge as his running mate. Their conservative platform stressed states' rights, opposed sectionalism, and favored a somewhat ambiguous plank that gave popular sovereignty to the territories. The electoral vote was Buchanan, 174; Frémont, 114; and Fillmore, 8. The popular vote was Buchanan, 1,832,955; Frémont, 1,339,932; and Fillmore, 871,731. The Republicans rejoiced at their showing, having won the votes of eleven free states, while the Democrats congratulated themselves for saving the Union.


Klein, Philip S. President James Buchanan: A Biography. University Park: Penn State University Press, 1962.

Smith, Elbert B. The Presidency of James Buchanan. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1975.

Philip G.Auchampaugh/a. g.

See alsoKnow-Nothing Party ; Latter-Day Saints, Church of Jesus Christ of .


The Democratic National Convention met amid great excitement and bitterness over the slavery issue, at Charleston, South Carolina, on 23 April 1860. The delegates from the eight states of the far South (Southern Democrats) demanded the inclusion of a plank in the platform providing that Congress should guarantee slave property in the territories. This was refused, and after several days of useless wrangling and failure to unite the convention upon a candidate, adjournment was taken to Baltimore on 18 June. At this meeting the convention nominated Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois for president, and later the national committee nominated Herschel V. Johnson of Georgia for vice president. The platform pledged the party to stand by the Dred Scott decision or any future Supreme Court decision that dealt with the rights of property in the various states and territories.

Southern Democrat delegates met separately at Baltimore on 28 June and nominated John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky for president and Joseph Lane of Oregon for vice president. The platform reaffirmed the extreme Southern view regarding slavery. Meanwhile, the remains of the old-line Whig and American (Know-Nothing) parties had met in a convention in Baltimore on 9 May and adopted the name of the Constitutional Union party and a seemingly simple platform: "the Constitution of the country, the Union of the States and the enforcement of the laws." They nominated John Bell of Tennessee for president and Edward Everett of Massachusetts for vice president and attempted to ignore slavery and other sectional issues, with a plea for the preservation of the Union.

The Republican National Convention met in Chicago on 16 May. By means of the platform issues of non-extension of slavery, homestead law, and advocacy of a protective tariff, the agricultural elements of the Northern and Western parts of the country and the industrial elements of Pennsylvania, New England, and other Northern and Eastern sections of the country were united. At first it seemed that the convention would nominate either William H. Seward of New York or Salmon P. Chase of Ohio, but when a deadlock between their respective supporters seemed imminent, the convention instead nominated Abraham Lincoln of Illinois on the third ballot. Hannibal Hamlin of Maine received the nomination for vice president on the second ballot. The split in the Democratic party made possible Lincoln's election. He received 180 electoral votes against 72 for Breckinridge, who carried the extreme Southern states, and 39 for Bell, who carried the border states. Douglas received but 12 electoral votes—9 from Missouri and 3 of the 7 from New Jersey. The popular vote totaled 1,865,593 for Lincoln, 1,382,713 for Douglas, 848,356 for Breckinridge, and 592,906 for Bell. The combined opponents thus received 958,382 votes more than Lincoln, who was a minority president during his first administration.


Donald, David H. Lincoln. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995.

Oates, Stephen B. With Malice Toward None: The Life of Abraham Lincoln. New York: Harper & Row, 1977.

Paludan, Philip S. The Presidency of Abraham Lincoln. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1994.

William StarrMyers/a. g.

See alsoDred Scott Case ; Slave Trade .


A national convention was called in the name of "the executive committee created by the national convention held in Chicago on the sixteenth day of May 1860." The use of the name Republican was carefully avoided. The convention met in Baltimore on 7 June 1864 and named itself the National Union (Arm-in-Arm) Convention. The Republican leaders wanted to appeal to Union sentiment and eliminate partisan influence as much as possible. The platform, which was unanimously adopted, was a statement of "unconditional Union" principles and pledged the convention to put down rebellion by force of arms. Abraham Lincoln was nominated for a second term by the vote of every delegate except those from Missouri, who had been instructed to vote for Gen. Ulysses S. Grant. The nomination then was made unanimous. Andrew Johnson of Tennessee, a leading Southern Democrat who had been staunch in his loyalty to the Union, was nominated for vice president. The Democratic party met in convention on 29 August, also in Chicago. Its platform declared the war a failure and advocated the immediate cessation of hostilities and the restoration of the Union by peaceable means. The convention nominated Gen. George B. McClellan for president and George H. Pendleton for vice president. McClellan accepted the nomination but at the same time virtually repudiated the platform out of fear that it would alienate the Northern electorate.

At first it appeared that the Democrats might defeat Lincoln, but the victories of the Union army in the field—particularly the capture of Atlanta in September—proved that the war was not a failure and rallied the people to support Lincoln and Johnson and the Union cause. The election took place on 8 November. For the first time in U.S. history certain states—those of the South—deliberately declined to choose the electors whose job it was to select the president. Lincoln carried every state that took part in the election except New Jersey, Delaware, and Kentucky. He received 212 electoral votes, while McClellan received 21. Lincoln was given a popular majority of only 403,151 votes out of a total of 4,010,725 cast. This election was one of the most vital in the history of the country because the very survival of the national Union may have depended upon the outcome.


Castel, Albert E. The Presidency of Andrew Johnson. Lawrence: Regents Press of Kansas, 1979.

Donald, David H. Lincoln. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995.

Oates, Stephen B. With Malice Toward None: The Life of AbrahamLincoln. New York: Harper & Row, 1977.

Paludan, Philip S. The Presidency of Abraham Lincoln. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1994.

William StarrMyers/a. g.

See alsoAssassinations, Presidential ; Civil War ; Slave Trade ; Slavery .

1868 and 1872

The issues in 1868 were southern Reconstruction and the "Ohio Idea" (payment of the national debt in green-backs). Horatio Seymour of New York and Frank Blair of Missouri, the Democratic nominees, ran on a platform calling for a restoration of the rights of the southern states and payment of the war bonds in greenbacks. Alarmed by Democratic victories in 1867, the Republicans nominated the war hero, Ulysses S. Grant, and Schuyler Colfax of Indiana. Their platform acclaimed the success of Reconstruction and denounced as repudiation the payment of the bonds in greenbacks. Personal attacks on the candidates and Republican "waving the bloody shirt" were campaign features. An effort to replace the Democratic nominees in October failed but foreshadowed defeat. Grant received 214 electoral votes to Seymour's 80, and nearly 53 percent of the popular vote, receiving 3,013,421 votes to 2,706,829 for Seymour. Seymour carried eight states. The result was a personal victory for Grant rather than for Republican policies.

Dissatisfaction with the Reconstruction policy and a desire for reform led to a Liberal Republican organization, supported by tariff and civil-service reformers, independent editors, and disgruntled politicians. The new party nominated Horace Greeley, with B. Gratz Brown of Missouri as vice president, to oppose Grant's reelection in 1872. (Grant's running mate in this campaign was Henry Wilson of Massachusetts.) Its platform demanded civil-service reform, universal amnesty, and specie payment. The tariff issue was straddled to please Greeley, a protectionist. The Democrats accepted the Liberal Republican platform and nominees. The Greeley campaign lacked enthusiasm, and he was mercilessly lampooned. Grant received 286 electoral votes to Greeley's 66 and over 55 percent of the popular vote, receiving 3,596,745 votes to 2,843,446 for Greeley. Greeley died shortly after the election and before the electoral college met. His electoral votes were scattered among four other candidates.


McFeely, William S. Grant: A Biography. New York: Norton, 1981.

Perret, Geoffrey. Ulysses S. Grant: Soldier and President. New York: Random House, 1997.

Simpson, Brooks D. The Reconstruction Presidents. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1998.

Charles H.Coleman/a. g.

See alsoBloody Shirt ; Civil War ; Greenbacks ; Liberal Republican Party ; Reconstruction Finance Corporation .


This campaign is especially notable because it resulted in the famous disputed presidential election. The leading aspirant for the Republican nomination was James G. Blaine of Maine. His name was presented to the national convention at Cincinnati by Robert G. Ingersoll in a striking speech in which he dubbed Blaine "the Plumed Knight." Among the other candidates were Benjamin H. Bristow of Kentucky, Roscoe Conkling of New York, Oliver P. Morton of Indiana, and Rutherford B. Hayes of Ohio. For six ballots Blaine led the field, but his involvement in a scandal brought to light a few weeks before the Republican convention caused a stampede to Hayes on the seventh ballot, resulting in his nomination. William A. Wheeler of New York was named as his running mate. The platform endorsed the Resumption Act and eulogized the Republican party for its work during the Civil War and Reconstruction.

Thomas F. Bayard of Delaware, Allen G. Thurman of Ohio, Winfield Scott Hancock of Pennsylvania, and Thomas A. Hendricks of Indiana sought the Democratic nomination, but the leading contender was Gov. Samuel J. Tilden of New York, who was named on the first ballot. Hendricks was then nominated for the vice presidency. The scandals of the Grant administration were denounced in unsparing terms and "reform" was declared to be the paramount issue. Repeal of the clause of the act of 1875 providing for the resumption of specie payments was advocated, but Tilden personally was known to be a sound-money man rather than a Greenbacker. The platform also declared in favor of civil-service reform.

During the campaign, the Democratic speakers dwelt heavily upon the scandals under Republican rule and contended that only through a change of men and parties could there be any real reform. Republican orators resorted to "bloody shirt" tactics (that is, revived the Civil War issues), questioned Tilden's loyalty during that conflict, and praised Hayes's military record—four honorable wounds and a brevet major generalcy. In the North the campaign was a quiet one, but in some of the southern states, attempts to intimidate African American voters produced violent outbursts and considerable bloodshed.

Early returns on election night indicated Tilden's election, but quickly it became obvious that the result would be in doubt. When the electoral college met and voted, Tilden received 184 unquestioned votes, Hayes, 165. The 4 votes of Florida, Louisiana's 8 votes, South Carolina's 7 votes, and Oregon's 1 vote were claimed by both parties. After a protracted, bitter dispute, Congress created an electoral commission of five senators, five representatives, and five Supreme Court judges to help decide the result. Of the senators, three were to be Republicans and two Democrats; of the representatives, three were to be Democrats and two Republicans; four of the judges, two Republicans and two Democrats, were designated by their districts, and together they were to choose the fifth judge. It was expected that the fifth judge would be David Davis, but his election to the Senate by the Democrats in the Illinois legislature gave him an excuse to decline the thankless task. The choice then fell upon Joseph P. Bradley, who had been appointed to the bench as a Republican but then made several decisions that made him acceptable, temporarily, to the Democrats.

In case the two houses of Congress, voting separately, refused to accept any return, the dispute was to be referred to the commission, whose decision was to be final unless it was rejected by both houses. The two houses, voting separately on strict party lines, did disagree. The decision, therefore, rested with the commission, which, in all cases, by a vote of eight to seven (Bradley voting with the majority), refused to go against the election results as certified by the state authorities (in the case of Oregon by the secretary of state) and declared in favor of the Republican contenders. In each case the Senate accepted this decision, while the House rejected it. All the disputed votes were therefore counted for Hayes and Wheeler, and they were declared elected.


Hoogenboom, Ari. Rutherford B. Hayes: Warrior and President. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1995.

Simpson, Brooks D. The Reconstruction Presidents. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1998.

Woodward, C. Vann. Reunion and Reaction: The Compromise of1877 and the End of Reconstruction. Boston: Little, Brown, 1951.

Paul L.Haworth/a. g.


Taking place during a business revival and with no definite issue before the country, the 1880 campaign was routine politics. The Republicans overcame a serious split between groups headed by James G. Blaine and Roscoe Conkling by nominating James A. Garfield, a member of neither faction, over former President Ulysses S. Grant, who had the support of the Conkling wing in seeking a third term in office. The nomination of Chester A. Arthur for the vice presidency appeased the Conkling faction. Against Garfield the Democrats nominated Winfield Scott Hancock, a nonpolitical Civil War general. However, their party had no positive program and was discredited by its factious opposition to the Hayes administration, two factors that led to a narrow defeat. The Republicans carried the "doubtful states" and regained control over Congress. The popular vote was Garfield, 4,453,295; Hancock, 4,414,082. The electoral vote was Garfield, 214; Hancock, 155.


Doenecke, Justus D. The Presidencies of James A. Garfield and Chester A. Arthur. Lawrence: Regents Press of Kansas, 1981.

Peskin, Allan. Garfield: A Biography. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1978.

Theodore ClarkSmith/a. g.

See alsoAssassinations, Presidential .


Fought primarily between Republican James G. Blaine and Democrat Grover Cleveland, the campaign of 1884 was one of the most vicious in American history. There were several reasons why it became relentlessly personal in character. From the moment of Blaine's nomination in Chicago on 6 June, he came under heavy fire from the reform element of all parties. He was believed to be allied with the spoils element in Republican politics; he had an unhappy record for baiting the South; he favored certain big business interests; and his railroad transactions had raised a suspicion that he had used his position as speaker of the House for personal profit. To divert attention from these attacks, certain Republicans published evidence that Cleveland, nominated on 10 July, also in Chicago, was the father of an illegitimate son born in Buffalo some ten years earlier.

There were virtually no serious issues between the two parties—both had good reason not to meddle seriously with the currency question or tariffs, and international affairs attracted little attention. One leading feature of the campaign was the secession of a large body of Republicans who could not stomach Blaine and who became Cleveland Democrats, or mugwumps. Another feature was the open enmity of Tammany Hall, under political boss John Kelly, for Cleveland, and the success of it and other malcontents in carrying many Irish voters over to Blaine or to the new Antimonopoly party headed by Benjamin F. Butler. After exchanges that one observer compared to the vulgar battles between quarreling tenement dwellers, the two parties approached election day running neck and neck. Democratic victory was finally decided by the vote of New York state, where three key events unfolded: the Rev. Samuel D. Burchard's "rum, Romanism and rebellion" speech at a reception for Blaine, the "Belshazzar's feast" of Republican millionaires and politicians at Delmonico's just before the election, and Roscoe Conkling's knifing of Blaine; together, the three spelled a narrow defeat for Blain. Cleveland and his running mate, Thomas A. Hendricks, obtained a popular vote of 4,879,507 against Blaine's 4,850,293, and an electoral vote of 219 against Blaine's 182. Butler's popular vote was just over 175,000, and that of John P. St. John, Prohibition candidate, was just over 150,000.


Summers, Mark Wahlgren. Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion: TheElections of 1884. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000.

Welch, Richard. The Presidencies of Grover Cleveland. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1988.

AllanNevins/a. g.

See alsoAntimonopoly Parties ; Prohibition Party ; Tariff .


The tariff was the chief issue of this campaign, which resulted in the election of Republican candidate Benjamin Harrison over Grover Cleveland by a majority of the electoral college but not of the popular vote. The Republicans had approached the election with scant hope of victory, for Cleveland had proved an admirable president; however, when his annual message of 1887 was devoted entirely to arguments for tariff reform, they gained new hope. The issue was one on which they could rally nearly all manufacturers, most general businesses, and perhaps a majority of workingmen. Benjamin Harrison, who represented extreme high-tariff demands, was nominated by the Republicans at Chicago on 25 June after James G. Blaine withdrew for health reasons and John Sherman and Walter Q. Gresham, whose tariff views were moderate, failed to gain any additional supporters. Levi P. Morton was named Harrison's vice presidential candidate.

Harrison was supported by Blaine, by manufacturing interests who were induced by the Republican chairman (Matthew S. Quay) to make large campaign donations, and by Civil War veterans hungry for pension legislation. With their assistance, Harrison waged an aggressive campaign, during which his speechmaking abilities made a deep impression on the country.

Cleveland, who was renominated by the Democrats at Saint Louis early in June, felt that his presidential office made it improper for him to actively campaign, and his running mate, former Sen. Allen G. Thurman of Ohio, was too old and infirm to be anything but a liability to the party; to make matters worse, campaign funds were slender. However, the worst news for the Democrats involved their national chairman, Sen. Calvin S. Brice of Ohio, who held high-tariff convictions, was allied with big business, and refused to put his heart into the battle. Two weeks before election day, the Republicans published an indiscreet letter by Lord Sackville-West, the U.S. minister to Britain, hinting to a supposed British colleague that Cleveland would probably be more friendly to England than Harrison; and though Cleveland at once had Sackville-West recalled, the incident cost him many Irish-American votes. Cleveland received 5,537,857 popular votes, Harrison 5,447,129; but Cleveland had only 168 electors against Harrison's 233. Clinton B. Fisk of New Jersey, the Prohibition candidate, polled 249,506 votes; Alson J. Streeter of Illinois, the Union Labor nominee, 146,935.


Sievers, Harry J. Benjamin Harrison: Hoosier President. New York: University Publishers, 1968.

Socolofsky, Homer E., and Allan B. Spetter. The Presidency of Benjamin Harrison. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1987.

AllanNevins/a. g.

See alsoPensions, Military and Naval .


Grover Cleveland was reelected over Benjamin Harrison in 1892 by a majority, the size of which surprised observers of both parties. Cleveland had been named on the first ballot at the Democratic convention in Chicago, although David B. Hill of New York had made a demagogic attempt to displace him. Adlai E. Stevenson was selected for the vice presidency. The incumbent Harrison, who had estranged the professional politicians of his party, who had quarreled with its most popular figure (James G. Blaine), and who had impressed the country as cold and unlikable, was reluctantly accepted by the Republicans at Minneapolis on 10 June. With no other desirable candidate available, the party found it politically unfeasible to repudiate his administration. However, the McKinley Tariff of 1890 had excited widespread discontent, the Sherman Silver Purchase Act of the same year had angered the conservative East, and heavy federal expenditures had caused general uneasiness. Cleveland's firm stand on behalf of the gold standard and low tariffs and his known strength of character commended him to large numbers of independent voters. One factor that hurt the Republicans was the great strength manifested by the Populists, who polled 1,040,000 votes for James B. Weaver of Iowa and James G. Field of Virginia, most from old Republican strongholds in the Middle West. Another factor was the labor war at Homestead, Pennsylvania, which revealed that the highly protected steel industry did not properly pass on its tariff benefits to the worker. Cleveland, with a popular vote of 5,555,426, had 277 electors; Harrison, with a popular vote of 5,182,690, had 145; while Weaver won 22 electoral votes.


Nevins, Allan. Grover Cleveland: A Study in Courage. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1932.

Welch, Richard. The Presidencies of Grover Cleveland. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1988.

AllanNevins/a. g.

See alsoPopulism .


This campaign and election marked the end of a twenty-two-year period in which neither major party had been able to control the national government for more than the life of a single Congress; it ushered in a period of Republican domination that lasted until 1911. Favored by Marcus A. Hanna's cannily managed campaign, William McKinley of Ohio was named on the first ballot by the Republican convention meeting at Saint Louis. Garret A. Hobart was selected as the vice presidential candidate. The traditional party platform was adopted with the exception of a declaration for the gold standard until bimetallism could be secured by international agreement. A bloc of western delegates bolted and organized the Silver Republican party.

With Cleveland tainted by the sour economy, no candidate had an inside track on the Democratic nomination. The important contest was over the platform. As presented to the delegates, it was an anti-administration document favoring free silver at the sixteen-to-one ratio, criticizing the use of injunctions in labor disputes, and denouncing the overthrow of the federal income tax. In its support William Jennings Bryan delivered his "Cross of Gold" oration and endeared himself to the silver delegates by his effective answers to the criticisms of the administration orators. The enthusiasm growing out of that speech gave impetus to Bryan's candidacy for the presidential nomination. Backing this was also the long campaign he had waged by personal conferences, speeches, and correspondence with the inflationist delegates from the South and West. Another factor was the bolting Republicans and the Populists, who saw themselves being forced to support the Democratic nominee and demanded someone not too closely identified with the regular Democratic party platform. Bryan appealed to the delegates as the Democrat who could unite the silver and agrarian factions. The Populists, Silver Republicans, and National Silver party members joined the Democrats in support of Bryan. The administration Democrats placed a National Democratic ticket in the field to hold conservative Democratic votes away from him, nominating John M. Palmer of Illinois as their presidential candidate.

The campaign was highly spectacular. The Democrats exploited Bryan's oratory skills by sending him on speaking tours across the country, at which enormous crowds came out to hear him. In sharp contrast, the Republican management kept McKinley at his home in Canton, Ohio, where carefully selected delegations made formal calls and listened to "front porch" speeches by the candidate. More important was the flood of advertising, the funds for building local organizations, and the large group of speakers that campaigned for McKinley, which all were maintained by Hanna's organization. The metropolitan press, like the other business groups—except the silver miners—overwhelmingly opposed Bryan. The results showed a sharp city-versus-rural division, with Bryan carrying the Solid South and most of the trans-Missouri states. The remainder, including California, Oregon, North Dakota, Kentucky, and Maryland, went to McKinley. With him were elected a Republican House and a Senate in which various minor party members held a nominal balance of power. The popular vote was unusually large, each candidate receiving larger totals than any previous candidate of his party, McKinley's vote being 7,102,246 and Bryan's 6,492,559. The electoral vote was 271 and 176, respectively.


Glad, Paul W. McKinley, Bryan, and the People. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1964.

Gould, Lewis L. The Presidency of William McKinley. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1980.

ElmerEllis/a. g.

See alsoCross of Gold Speech ; Free Silver .


The presidential candidates and most of the issues of the 1896 campaign carried over to the 1900 campaign. With the trend of prices upward, the pressure for inflation had declined, and the expansion of American control over new territories had created the issue of imperialism. At the Republican convention in Philadelphia, a combination of circumstances forced Marcus A. Hanna and President William McKinley to accept Theodore Roosevelt as the vice presidential candidate. The party's position on the new territories was defined as American retention with "the largest measure of self-government consistent with their welfare and our duties." When the Democrats met at Kansas City, they once again selected William Jennings Bryan as their presidential candidate, but they were unwilling to accept the conservatives' proposal to forget the last platform and make anti-imperialism the only issue. The 1896 platform was reendorsed, an antitrust plank added, and imperialism designated the "paramount issue."

The campaign lacked the fire of 1896. The Republicans emphasized the "full dinner pail" and the danger threatening it from the Democratic platform; the Democrats stressed the growth of monopolies under the McKinley administration and the danger of imperialistic government. The result was a more emphatic Republican victory than in 1896, one generally interpreted as an endorsement of both McKinley's domestic and foreign policies. The popular vote was McKinley, 7,218,491; Bryan, 6,356,734. McKinley obtained 292 electoral votes to 155 for Bryan. This election made Roosevelt's elevation to the presidency automatic upon McKinley's death in September 1901.


Gould, Lewis L. The Presidency of William McKinley. Lawrence: Regents Press of Kansas, 1980.

Morgan, Wayne H. William McKinley and His America. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1963.

ElmerEllis/a. g.

See alsoAssassinations, Presidential .


Theodore Roosevelt, who succeeded to the presidency on the death of William McKinley in 1901, ardently hoped to be nominated and elected "in his own right." The death of Marcus A. Hanna of Ohio, whom the big business interests of the country would have preferred, made possible the president's nomination by acclamation when the Republican convention met in Chicago on 21 June. Charles W. Fairbanks of Indiana was chosen for the vice presidency. The Democrats, meeting at Saint Louis on 6 July, pointedly turned their backs upon "Bryanism" by omitting from their platform all reference to the money question. They nominated for president Alton B. Parker, a conservative New York judge, who at once pledged himself to maintain the gold standard, and for vice president, Henry Gassaway Davis, a wealthy West Virginia octogenarian. Business leaders, more afraid of the Democratic party than of Roosevelt, contributed so heavily to the Republican campaign chest that Parker rashly charged "black-mail." He claimed that the Republican party had forced corporations to contribute funds to the campaign, and in return the government pledged to suppress evidence it had against them. Roosevelt, indignantly denying the charge, won by a landslide that reclaimed Missouri from the Solid South and gave him 336 electoral votes to Parker's 140 and a popular plurality of 2,544,238. Prohibitionist, Populist, Socialist, and Socialist Labor candidates received only negligible support.


Brands, H.W. TR: The Last Romantic. New York: Basic Books, 1997.

Gould, Lewis L. The Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1991.

Morris, Edmund. Theodore Rex. New York: Random House, 2001.

Mowry, George E. The Era of Theodore Roosevelt and the Birth of Modern America, 1900–1912. New York: Harper & Row, 1958.

John D.Hicks/a. g.

See alsoAntimonopoly Parties ; Socialist Labor Party ; Socialist Movement .


Theodore Roosevelt, although at the height of his popularity, refused to run for a second elective term in 1908, but swung his support at the Republican convention to William Howard Taft, who was nominated. The convention selected James S. Sherman of New York for the vice presidency. William Jennings Bryan completely dominated the Democratic convention and became its nominee. Party differences on the issues played an insignificant role in the election. After an apathetic campaign Bryan carried only the Solid South, Kansas, Colorado, and Nevada, although

he received about 44 percent of the popular vote, securing 6,412,294 to Taft's 7,675,320. Taft's electoral vote was 321; Bryan's, 162. The Republicans won the presidency And both houses of Congress.


Anderson, Donald F. William Howard Taft: A Conservative's Conception of the Presidency. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1973.

Coletta, Paolo E. The Presidency of William Howard Taft. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1973.

Chester LloydJones/a. g.


This campaign marked the culmination of the progressive movement in national politics and resulted in the return of the Democrats after sixteen years of Republican presidents. The struggle for the Republican nomination became a bloody battle between the progressive and conservative wings, aided in each case by personal followings and some division of support from large interests. In the beginning it was the progressive Sen. Robert M. La Follette of Wisconsin against the incumbent, William Howard Taft. But former President Theodore Roosevelt, who had been largely responsible for Taft's nomination in 1908, entered the race to rally behind him Republicans who believed Taft had been too friendly with the conservative Old Guard. The influence in Taft's hands was sufficient to return delegates pledged to him where they were named by conventions, but either Roosevelt or La Follette was successful in states where presidential primaries were held, save one. The conservative-controlled national committee placed Taft delegates on the temporary roll in all contests, and the small majority resulting gave Taft the nomination. Roosevelt was later nominated by the newly organized Progressive (Bull Moose) party, consisting largely of Republican bolters.

The contest for the Democratic nomination was also hard fought with both of the leading candidates accepted as progressives. Beauchamp ("Champ") Clark of Wisconsin led from the beginning and had an actual majority in the convention for a time, but when William Jennings Bryan transferred his support to the second progressive, Woodrow Wilson, a shift began that resulted in the latter's nomination. The choice for vice president was Thomas R. Marshall. All three party platforms adopted planks unusually favorable to progressive policies. Wilson, backed by a united party, won easily, and Roosevelt was second. There was an unusual amount of shifting of party loyalties, although most Democrats voted for Wilson and most Republicans for Roosevelt or Taft. Wilson's popular vote was 6,296,547, Roosevelt's was 4,118,571, and Taft's was 3,486,720. The electoral vote was, respectively, 435, 88, and 8. The Democrats won majorities in both branches of Congress. In spite of the three-way contest, a fourth candidate, Eugene V. Debs, Socialist, secured approximately 900,000 votes.


Burton, David H. The Learned Presidency: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and Woodrow Wilson. Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1988.

Clements, Kendrick A. The Presidency of Woodrow Wilson. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1992.

Cooper, John Milton, Jr. The Warrior and the Priest: Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1983.

Link, Arthur S. Wilson. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1947.

Mowry, George E. Theodore Roosevelt and the Progressive Movement. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1946.

ElmerEllis/a. g.

See alsoBull Moose Party ; Progressive Movement .


This campaign reunited the Republican party and determined that American foreign policy should be left in Woodrow Wilson's hands. The Republicans reunited when, after the nomination of Charles Evans Hughes, Theodore Roosevelt, already nominated by the rapidly declining Progressive party, announced support of the ticket. There was no opposition to the renomination of President Wilson and Vice President Thomas R. Marshall. The Democrats defended the policies of the administration, especially the Underwood Tariff and the measures for the regulation of business. They also praised the foreign policy as one that had kept the United States out of war and preserved national honor. The Republicans attacked the policies of the administration, promised a stronger foreign policy, and were supported by the more extreme partisans of both alliances in the European war.

The results were in doubt for several days because of the close vote in several states. Wilson won the presidency, carrying Ohio, New Hampshire, the South, and most of the border and trans-Missouri states, including California, with an electoral vote of 277, against 254 for Hughes. The popular vote was Wilson, 9,127,695; Hughes, 8,533,507. Congress remained Democratic only because independent members of the House were friendly.


Clements, Kendrick A. The Presidency of Woodrow Wilson. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1992.

Cooper, John Milton, Jr. The Warrior and the Priest: Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1983.

ElmerEllis/a. g.

See alsoWorld War I .


The debate on the League of Nations determined the alignment of political forces in the spring of 1920. The Republicans were confident: the wounds of the intraparty strife of 1912 had been healed; the mistaken strategy of 1916 admitted; and the conservative mood of the country was easily interpreted. They met in convention in Chicago, could not agree upon any one of the leading pre-convention candidates (Frank O. Lowden, Hiram Johnson, or Leonard Wood), and nominated Warren G. Harding, senator from Ohio, on the tenth ballot. Calvin Coolidge, governor of Massachusetts, was nominated for the vice presidency. The Democrats met in San Francisco. None of the discussed candidates, William G. McAdoo, Alfred E. Smith, John W. Davis, A. Mitchell Palmer, or James M. Cox, commanded a great following. Cox, governor of Ohio, was nominated on the forty-fourth ballot, with Franklin D. Roosevelt, thirty-eight-year-old assistant secretary of the navy, as vice presidential nominee. The Socialist party, meeting in May, nominated Eugene Debs for the fifth time. A Farmer-Labor ticket appeared also.

None of the platforms was unexpected or significant on domestic issues. The Republicans attacked the president and opposed American entrance into the League of Nations. The Democratic national committee supported Wilson's appeal for a "solemn referendum" on the covenant of the League; Cox waged a persistent and vigorous campaign. Harding, remaining at his home for the most part, contented himself with vague generalizations. Neither candidate had been nationally known at the outset of the contest, no clear-cut issue developed, and no real contest transpired. The total vote cast was 26,733,905. The Nineteenth Amendment had been proclaimed in August, and in every state women were entitled to vote. Harding won more than 60 percent of the total vote cast. Cox won the electoral vote in only eleven states, receiving 127 electoral votes to Harding's 404. The Socialist vote was 919,799, but the strength of all the third parties totaled only about 5.5 percent.


Ferrell, Robert H.. The Strange Deaths of President Harding. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1996.

Trani, Eugene P., and David L. Wilson. The Presidency of Warren G. Harding. Lawrence: Regents Press of Kansas, 1977.

Edgar EugeneRobinson/a. g.

See alsoConstitution of the United States ; Farmer-Labor Party of 1920 ; Suffrage: Woman's Suffrage .


As in 1920, the candidates in 1924 were new in a presidential canvass. The Republican convention, meeting in Cleveland, with a few scattered votes in dissent, nominated Calvin Coolidge, who as vice president had succeeded to the presidency in August 1923 when President Warren Harding died. The vice presidential nomination, refused by several, was accepted by Charles G. Dawes of Illinois. The platform was marked by extreme conservatism. The Democrats met in New York and were in almost continuous session for two and a half weeks. Not only did serious division exist on the matter of American adherence to the League of Nations and on the proposed denunciation of the Ku Klux Klan, but also upon the choice of the nominee. Each of the two leading candidates, Alfred E. Smith and William G. McAdoo, possessed enough delegates to prevent the nomination of the other, and finally on the 103d ballot the nomination went to John W. Davis of West Virginia. Gov. Charles W. Bryan of Nebraska was nominated for vice president. The platform called for a popular referendum on the League of Nations.

The Conference for Progressive Political Action brought about a series of meetings and eventually a widespread support of Sen. Robert M. La Follette in his independent candidacy, with Burton K. Wheeler as his running mate. La Follette's platform, in which appeared most of the progressive proposals of the previous twenty years, was endorsed by the Socialist party and the officers of the American Federation of Labor. So real did the threat of the third-party candidacy appear to be that much of the attack of the Republicans was on La Follette, who waged an aggressive campaign.

The total vote cast exceeded that of 1920 by 2.36 million, but because of the vote cast for La Follette (nearly 5 million), that cast for Republican and for Democratic tickets was less than four years earlier, Coolidge securing 15,718,211 votes, and Davis 8,385,283. La Follette carried Wisconsin (13 electoral votes). Coolidge topped the poll in thirty-five states, receiving 382 electoral votes, leaving the electoral vote for Davis in only twelve states, or 136 votes.


Ferrell, Robert H. The Presidency of Calvin Coolidge. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1998.

Sobel, Robert. Coolidge: An American Enigma. Washington D.C.: Regnery, 1998.

Edgar EugeneRobinson/a. g.

See alsoProgressive Party, 1924 .


On 2 August 1927, President Calvin Coolidge announced that he would not run for reelection in 1928. The majority of Republican party leaders was undecided as to which candidate they should support. A popular movement, taking its strength from the rank and file voters, forced the nomination of Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover on the first ballot at the Republican National Convention, which met at Kansas City, Missouri, in June. The platform contained strong support of the usual Republican policies, such as a protective tariffs and sound business administration. It advocated the observance and rigorous enforcement of the Eighteenth Amendment. Charles Curtis of Kansas was nominated for vice president. The Democrats met at Houston, Texas, and on 28 June nominated New York Gov. Alfred E. Smith, the first Catholic to be nominated for the presidency. They then nominated Arkansas Sen. Joseph T. Robinson for vice president. The platform did not differ strikingly from that of the Republicans. The contest became one between rival personalities. Smith, an avowed "wet," took a stand in favor of a change in the Prohibition amendment, and advocated that the question of Prohibition and its enforcement be left to the determination of the individual states.

At the election on 6 November, Hoover was overwhelmingly successful. He carried forty states, including five from the Old South, with a total of 444 electoral votes. Smith carried eight states with an electoral vote of 87. The popular plurality of Hoover over Smith was 6,375,824 in a total vote of 36,879,414.


Burner, David. Herbert Hoover: A Public Life. New York: Knopf, 1979.

Fausold, Martin L. The Presidency of Herbert C. Hoover. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1985.

Finan, Christopher M. Alfred E. Smith: The Happy Warrior. New York: Hill and Wang, 2002.

William StarrMyers/a. g.

See alsoFinancial Panics ; Great Depression ; Stock Market .

1932 and 1936

The presidential campaign of 1932 began in earnest with the holding of the Republican National Convention at Chicago from 14 to 16 June. President Herbert Hoover and Vice President Charles Curtis were renominated on the first ballot. The platform praised the Hoover record, including his program for combating the depression. After a long debate a "wet-dry" plank on Prohibition was adopted, which favored giving the people an opportunity to pass on a repeal amendment. The Democratic National Convention was also held in Chicago, 27 June to 2 July 1932. On the fourth ballot, Gov. Franklin Delano Roosevelt of New York was nominated for the presidency, defeating Alfred E. Smith and ten other candidates. John Nance Garner of Texas was selected as the vice presidential candidate. The platform pledged economy, a sound currency, unemployment relief, old-age and unemployment insurance under state laws, the "restoration of agriculture," and repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment together with immediate legalization of beer.

After a campaign featuring Roosevelt's promise of "a new deal," the elections were held on 5 November. The popular vote for each party was as follows: Democratic, 22,809,638; Republican, 15,758,901; Socialist, 881,951; Socialist-Labor, 33,276; Communist, 102,785; Prohibition, 81,869; Liberty, 53,425; and Farmer-Labor, 7,309. The electoral vote was 472 for the Democrats and 59 for the Republicans.

In 1936 the Republican National Convention was held at Cleveland beginning on 9 June. Gov. Alfred M. Landon of Kansas and Frank Knox, a Chicago publisher, were nominated for the presidency and vice-presidency, respectively. The platform strongly denounced the New Deal administration, from both constitutional and economic viewpoints. It pledged the Republicans "to maintain the American system of constitutional and local self-government" and "to preserve the American system of free enterprise." The Democratic National Convention assembled at Philadelphia on 25 June for what proved to be a ratification meeting for the New Deal. President Roosevelt and Vice President Garner were renominated without opposition. The platform vigorously defended the New Deal and pledged its continuance. When the election was held on 3 November, the Democrats again won an overwhelming victory, carrying every state except Maine and Vermont. The popular vote for each party was as follows: Democratic, 27,752,869; Republican, 16,674,665; Union, 882,479; Socialist, 187,720; Communist, 80,159; Prohibition, 37,847; and Socialist-Labor, 12,777. The Democrats received 523 electoral votes while the Republicans received only 8.


Burns, James MacGregor. Roosevelt: The Lion and the Fox. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1956.

Freidel, Frank. Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Rendezvous with Destiny. Boston: Little, Brown, 1990.

Schlesinger, Arthur M., Jr. The Age of Roosevelt: The Crisis of the Old Order, 1919–1933. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1957.

Erik McKinleyEriksson/a. g.


Although either Robert A. Taft, Arthur H. Vandenberg, or Thomas E. Dewey was expected to be the Republican candidate, the nomination was won by Wendell L. Willkie at Philadelphia, 28 June, on the sixth ballot. As president of a large utilities corporation Willkie had fought the New Deal, but in foreign affairs he was an internationalist, and with Europe at war, this fact commended him to the liberal element of the party, which carried his nomination against the Old Guard. The nomination of a liberal by the Republicans, together with the international crisis, in turn made the nomination of Franklin D. Roosevelt by the Democrats (Chicago, 16 July) a practical certainty, even though his running for a third term was unprecedented. Foreign affairs dominated the campaign. Both candidates promised aid to the Allies; both promised at the same time to keep the United States out of foreign wars. Roosevelt and Henry A. Wallace, secretary of agriculture, received 27,307,819 popular and 449 electoral votes against 22,321,018 popular and 82 electoral votes for Willkie and Charles L. McNary of Oregon.


Burns, James MacGregor. Roosevelt: The Soldier of Freedom. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1970.

Freidel, Frank. Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Rendezvous with Destiny. Boston: Little, Brown, 1990.

ChristopherLasch/a. g.

See alsoForeign Aid ; Foreign Policy ; World War II .


Thomas E. Dewey, governor of New York, was nominated by the Republican convention in Chicago on 26 June with little opposition. John W. Bricker of Ohio was chosen as his running mate. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, running for a fourth term, encountered even less opposition at the Democratic convention in Chicago. The real struggle revolved around the choice of a vice presidential candidate. With Roosevelt's support, Vice President Henry Wallace could probably have been nominated for another term, but the opposition to Wallace from within the party convinced the president that a compromise candidate had to be found. James F. Byrnes of South Carolina was acceptable to the White House and to the party conservatives, but not to labor, in particular not to Sidney Hillman of the Congress of Industrial Organizations. Accordingly, Sen. Harry S. Truman of Missouri was nominated on the second ballot on 20 July.

In the November election Roosevelt received 25,606,585 popular and 432 electoral votes to Dewey's 22,014,745 popular and 99 electoral votes. The Democrats preserved their control of both houses of Congress.


Burns, James MacGregor. Roosevelt: The Soldier of Freedom. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1970.

Freidel, Frank. Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Rendezvous with Destiny. Boston: Little, Brown, 1990.

Goodwin, Doris Kearns. No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994.

ChristopherLasch/a. g.

See alsoAmerican Federation of Labor–Congress of Industrial Organizations .


The Republicans, having gained control of Congress in 1946 and confidently expecting to turn the apparently un-popular Truman administration out of power in the autumn elections, for the first time in the party's history renominated a defeated candidate, Thomas E. Dewey, at the convention meeting in Philadelphia on 21 June. The Democrats, on the other hand, suffered from severe internal conflicts. Truman's nomination at Philadelphia on 15 July roused no enthusiasm. Radicals left the party and, meeting in the same city on 22 July, nominated Henry A. Wallace and Sen. Glen Taylor of Idaho as the candidates of the Progressive party. Southerners, offended by the civil rights planks of the Democratic platform, also seceded and in Birmingham, Alabama, on 17 July, formed the States' Rights Democratic Party, with Gov. J. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina and Gov. Fielding L. Wright of Mississippi as their candidates.

Under these circumstances Truman's candidacy appeared to be hopeless. The president, however, proved to be a whistle-stop campaigner of unexpected ability. Moreover, he enjoyed the support not only of organized labor and of African American voters but, as it turned out—to the great surprise of prophets and pollsters—of midwestern farmers as well. The election was close—Truman retired for the evening on election night thinking he had lost. He and Alben W. Barkley of Kentucky polled 24,105,812 popular and 304 electoral votes against 21,970,065 popular and 189 electoral votes for Dewey and Gov. Earl Warren of California. Thurmond polled 1,169,063 popular votes and the 38 electoral votes of South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Wallace won 1,157,172 popular votes. The Democrats regained control of Congress by small majorities.


Hamby, Alonzo L. Man of the People: A Life of Harry S. Truman. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

Karabell, Zachary. The Last Campaign: How Harry Truman Won the 1948 Election. New York: Knopf, 2000.

McCullough, David. Truman. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992.

ChristopherLasch/a. g.


After a long and bitter struggle, the internationalist wing of the Republican party succeeded on 11 July in bringing about the nomination of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower against the opposition of Sen. Robert A. Taft and his supporters. The Democrats, following the Republicans to Chicago ten days later, turned to Gov. Adlai E. Stevenson of Illinois, who consented to become a candidate only at the last moment. In the campaign that followed Stevenson suffered from revelations of corruption in the Truman administration, from the widespread dissatisfaction with the seemingly inconclusive results of the war in Korea, and from the vague feeling that it was "time for a change." Eisenhower's personal appeal, moreover, was immense. He and Sen. Richard M. Nixon of California polled 33,936,234 votes to 27,314,987 for Stevenson and Sen. John J. Sparkman of Alabama. The Republicans carried the electoral college, 442 to 89. They carried the House of Representatives by a narrow margin and tied the Democrats in the Senate.


Ambrose, Stephen. Eisenhower: The Soldier and Candidate, 1890– 1952. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1983.

Cochran, Bert. Adlai Stevenson: Patrician Among the Politicians. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1969.

Patterson, James T. Mr. Republican: A Biography of Robert A. Taft. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1972.

ChristopherLasch/a. g.

See alsoKorean War .


Adlai E. Stevenson was renominated on the first ballot by the Democrats at Chicago, with Sen. Estes Kefauver of Tennessee as his running mate. President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Vice President Richard M. Nixon were renominated by the Republicans at San Francisco with equal ease. The campaign, however, was far from a rehash of 1952. Stevenson, having been advised that his serious discussions of issues in 1952 had been over the voters' heads, agreed to pitch his campaign at a somewhat lower level. The results disappointed his more ardent supporters without winning him any votes. The Suez crisis, occurring on the eve of the election, further strengthened the administration's position by creating a national emergency. In the election the president polled 35,590,472 popular and 457 electoral votes to Stevenson's 26,022,752 popular and 73 electoral votes. As in 1952, Eisenhower broke into the Solid South, carrying not only Florida, Virginia, and Tennessee, which he had carried in 1952, but also Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. In spite of his personal triumph, however, the Democrats carried both houses of Congress.


Ambrose, Stephen. Eisenhower: The President. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1984.

Broadwater, Jeff. Adlai Stevenson and American Politics: The Odyssey of a Cold War Liberal. New York: Twayne, 1994.

Greenstein, Fred I. The Hidden-Hand Presidency: Eisenhower as Leader. New York: Basic Books, 1982.

ChristopherLasch/a. g.


The Democrats nominated Sen. John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts at Los Angeles in July, with Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas as his running mate. The Republicans, meeting at Chicago two weeks later, nominated Vice President Richard M. Nixon and Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts. The most striking feature of the campaign was a series of televised debates, in which the candidates submitted to questioning by panels of reporters. By sharing a national audience with his lesser-known opponent, Nixon may have injured his own cause. Indeed, the debates, in view of the closeness of the result, may have been the decisive factor in Kennedy's victory. The final vote was not known until weeks after the election. Kennedy received 34,227,096, Nixon 34,108,546, and minor candidates 502,773. Despite the fact that Kennedy won by only 118,550 votes and had only 49.7 percent of the total vote as compared with 49.6 percent for Nixon, the President-elect won 303 electoral votes to Nixon's 219. At forty-three, Kennedy was the youngest man ever elected to the presidency (although not the youngest to occupy the office). He was also the first Roman Catholic ever to become president.


Matthews, Christopher. Kennedy and Nixon: The Rivalry That Shaped Postwar America. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996.

Parmet, Herbert S. JFK: The Presidency of John F. Kennedy. New York: Dial Press, 1983.

White, Theodore H. The Making of the President: 1960. New York: Atheneum, 1962.

ChristopherLasch/a. g.

See alsoAssassinations, Presidential ; Bay of Pigs Invasion ; Catholicism ; Cold War ; Cuban Missile Crisis .


Upon assuming office following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in November 1963, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson acted quickly to restore public calm and to achieve many of President Kennedy's legislative goals. Johnson was subsequently nominated by acclamation by the Democrats, meeting in Atlantic City, New Jersey. The only uncertainty was the choice of a vice presidential nominee. After Johnson's earlier veto of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, brother of the slain president, the choice of Johnson and the party fell to Minnesotan Hubert H. Humphrey, assistant majority leader of the Senate.

Conflict over the presidential nomination centered in the Republican party. New York's Gov. Nelson Rockefeller represented the moderate and liberal factions that had dominated the party since 1940. A new, conservative group wasled by Arizona's Sen. Barry M. Goldwater, who offered "a choice, not an echo." Presidential primaries indicated the limited appeal of both candidates, but no viable alternative emerged. Goldwater accumulated large numbers of delegates in the nonprimary states, particularly in the South and West, and sealed his first-ballot victory with a narrow win in the California primary. Rep. William E. Miller of New York was selected as his running mate.

The main issues of the 1964 campaign were presented by Goldwater, who challenged the previous party consensus on a limited welfare state and the emerging Democratic policy of accommodation with the Communist world. The Democrats defended their record as bringing peace and prosperity, while pledging new social legislation to achieve a "Great Society." The armed conflict in Vietnam also drew some attention. In response to an alleged attack on American warships in the Gulf of Tonkin, the president ordered retaliatory bombing of North Vietnam, at the same time pledging "no wider war."

In the balloting, Lyndon Johnson was overwhelmingly elected, gaining 43,129,484 popular votes(61.1 percent) and a majority in forty-four states and the District of Columbia—which was voting for president for the first time—for a total of 486 electoral votes. Goldwater won 27,178,188 votes (38.5 percent) and six states—all but Arizona in the Deep South—for a total of 52 electoral votes. There was a pronounced shift in voting patterns, with the South becoming the strongest Republican area, and the Northeast the firmest Democratic base.


Dallek, Robert. Flawed Giant: Lyndon Johnson and His Times, 1961–1973. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

Perlstein, Rick. Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus. New York: Hill & Wang, 2001.

White, Theodore H. The Making of the President: 1964. New York: Atheneum, 1965.

Gerald M.Pomper/a. g.

See alsoCivil Disobedience ; Civil Rights Movement ; Cold War ; Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee ; Students for a Democratic Society ; Tonkin Gulf Resolution ; Vietnam War ; Youth Movements .


The presidential election took place in an atmosphere of increasing American civil disorder, evidenced in protests over the Vietnam War, riots in black urban neighborhoods, and assassinations of political leaders. On 31 March, President Lyndon B. Johnson startled the nation by renouncing his candidacy for re-election. His withdrawal stimulated an intense contest for the Democratic nomination between Minnesota's Sen. Eugene McCarthy, New York's Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, and Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey. Kennedy appeared to have the greatest popular support, his campaign culminating in a narrow victory over McCarthy in the California primary. On the night of this victory, Kennedy was assassinated. Humphrey abstained from the primaries but gathered support from party leaders and from the Johnson administration. At an emotional and contentious convention in Chicago, Humphrey easily won nomination on the first ballot. Maine's Sen. Edmund S. Muskie was selected as the vice presidential candidate.

Former Vice President Richard M. Nixon was the leading candidate for the Republican nomination. He withstood challenges from moderate Gov. Nelson Rockefeller of New York and conservative Gov. Ronald Reagan of California. Gaining a clear majority of delegates on the first ballot at the party's convention in Miami Beach, he then named Gov. Spiro T. Agnew of Maryland as his running mate. A new party, the American Independent Party, was organized by Gov. George C. Wallace of Alabama and able to win a ballot position in every state. Curtis LeMay, former air force general, was selected as the new party's vice presidential candidate. The campaign centered on the record of the Johnson administration. Nixon denounced the conduct of the war and promised both an "honorable peace" and ultimate withdrawal of American troops. He also pledged a vigorous effort to reduce urban crime and to restrict school desegregation. Wallace denounced both parties, calling for strong action against North Vietnam, criminals, and civil rights protesters. Humphrey largely defended the Democratic record, while also proposing an end to American bombing of North Vietnam.

The balloting brought Nixon a narrow victory. With 31,785,480 votes, he won 43.4 percent of the national total, thirty-two states, and 301 electoral votes. Humphrey won 31,275,166 votes, 42.7 percent of the total, thirteen states and the District of Columbia, and 191 electoral votes. Wallace gained the largest popular vote for a third-party candidate since 1924—9,906,473 votes and 13.5 percent of the popular total. The five southern states he captured, with 46 electoral votes, were too few to accomplish his strategic aim—a deadlock of the electoral college.


Ambrose, Stephen E. Nixon: The Triumph of a Politician. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987.

Gould, Lewis L. 1968: The Election That Changed America. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1993.

White, Theodore H. The Making of the President: 1968. New York: Atheneum, 1969.

Gerald M.Pomper/a. g.

See alsoAssassinations and Political Violence, Other ; Riots, Urban ; Riots, Urban, of 1967 ; Vietnam War .


The Nixon administration provided the campaign setting in 1972 with a series of American policy reversals, including the withdrawal of most American ground forces from Vietnam, the imposition of wage and price controls, and presidential missions to Communist China and the Soviet Union. President Richard M. Nixon's control of the Republican party was undisputed, resulting in a placid party convention in Miami, where he and Vice President Spiro T. Agnew were renominated.

In the Democratic party, major party reform resulted in a more open delegate selection process and increased representation at the convention of women, racial minorities, and persons under the age of thirty. At the same time, a spirited contest was conducted for the presidential nomination. The early favorite, Maine's Sen. Edmund S. Muskie, was eliminated after severe primary defeats. Alabama's Gov. George C. Wallace raised a serious challenge but was eliminated from active campaigning after being seriously injured in an assassination attempt. The contest then became a two-man race between South Dakota's Sen. George S. McGovern and former Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, the 1968 candidate. A series of upset primary victories and effective organization in local party caucuses culminated in a direct victory for McGovern in the California primary and a first-ballot nomination in Miami, the convention city. The vice presidential Democratic position was awarded to Missouri's Sen. Thomas Eagleton. After the convention adjourned, it was revealed that Eagleton had been hospitalized three times for mental depression. He was persuaded to resign, and the Democratic National Committee then, at McGovern's suggestion, named Sergeant Shriver as his running mate. With Wallace disabled, the American Independent party named Rep. John G. Schmitz of California as its presidential candidate.

The Democrats attempted to focus the campaign on the alleged defects of the administration, including the continuation of the war in Vietnam, electronic eavesdropping by the Republicans on the Democratic national headquarters at Washington's Watergate complex, and governmental favors for Republican party contributors. The full extent of these improprieties was not revealed, however, until the following year. Aside from defending the Nixon record, the Republicans attacked the Democratic candidate as advocating radical positions on such issues as amnesty for war resisters, marijuana usage, and abortion, and as inconsistent on other questions. Much attention centered on 25 million newly eligible voters, including the eighteen-year-olds enfranchised by constitutional amendment.

The final result was an overwhelming personal victory for Nixon, who won the highest total and proportion of the popular vote in electoral history. Nixon won 47,169,905 popular votes (60.7 percent) and 521 electoral votes from forty-nine states. McGovern won 29,170,383 popular votes (37.5 percent), but only 17 electoral votes (from Massachusetts and the District of Columbia). Despite this landslide, the Republicans failed to gain control of the House and lost two seats in the Senate.


Ambrose, Stephen E. Nixon: The Triumph of a Politician. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1987.

White, Theodore H. The Making of the President: 1972. New York: Atheneum, 1973.

Witker, Kristi. How to Lose Everything in Politics Except Massachusetts. New York: Mason & Lipscomb, 1974.

Gerald M.Pomper/a. g.

See alsoAssassinations and Political Violence, Other ; China, Relations with ; Nixon, Resignation of ; Nixon Tapes ; Russia, Relations with .


The Democratic nomination attracted hopefuls from across the political spectrum. Former Georgia Gov. James Earl (Jimmy) Carter, an unknown moderate, defeated better-known rivals in a classic campaign. Under-standing the new delegate selection rules, Carter first attracted media attention by winning the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary, and then defeated in turn each of his liberal and conservative rivals. The national convention displayed great unity, and Carter picked former Minnesota Sen. Walter F. Mondale as his vice presidential candidate.

The Republican nomination contest was more divisive. Gerald R. Ford, the only president not to have been elected to the office, faced a conservative challenge from former California Gov. Ronald Reagan. After a bitter campaign, Ford prevailed with slightly more than half the delegates, and at a divided national convention replaced Vice President Nelson A. Rockefeller (also appointed to office and not elected) with Kansas Sen. Robert Dole. Ford ran on the record of his brief administration, emphasizing continued restraint on the federal government and détente with the Soviet Union. Carter offered a mix of conservative and liberal critiques of the Nixon-Ford record, including the poor economy and foreign policy controversies. His basic appeal was returning trust and morality to government, promising the voters, "I will never lie to you." Both candidates sought to avoid divisive social issues, such as abortion.

On election day 54 percent of the electorate went to the polls and gave Carter a very narrow victory; he won 50 percent of the popular vote (40,828,929 ballots) and 23 states and the District of Columbia for 297 electoral votes. The key to Carter's success was victory in all but one of the southern states. Ford won 49 percent of the popular vote (39,148,940 ballots) and 27 states for 241 electoral votes. The independent campaign of former Sen. Eugene McCarthy received 1 percent of the vote and influenced the outcome in several states.


Anderson, Patrick. Electing Jimmy Carter: The Campaign of 1976. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1994.

Greene, John Robert. The Limits of Power: The Nixon and Ford Administrations. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992.

Kutler, Stanley I. The Wars of Watergate: The Last Crisis of Richard Nixon. New York: Knopf, 1990.

Stroud, Kandy. How Jimmy Won: The Victory Campaign from Plains to the White House. New York: Morrow, 1977.

John C.Green/a. g.


The 1980 presidential election occurred in an atmosphere of crisis. The taking of American hostages in Iran in 1978 and the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union in 1979 had produced popular indignation, while the scar-city of oil and a poor economy generated discontent. Tensions mounted with the founding of the Moral Majority, a religious interest group, and President Jimmy Carter declared the country suffered from a "malaise" and a "crisis of confidence." Under these circumstances, the Republican nomination attracted several candidates. Former California Gov. Ronald Reagan was the early favorite but had to overcome spirited challenges from party moderates, including former Rep. George Bush of Texas and Rep. John Anderson of Illinois. At the national convention, Reagan chose Bush for vice president, but Reagan's conservatism led Anderson to run as an independent in the general election, stressing moderation.

Meanwhile, President Carter faced serious divisions in the Democratic party. His principal challenger was Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy. Although popular with party liberals, questions about Kennedy's character and foreign policy crises undermined his campaign, allowing Carter to score early and decisive primary victories. Kennedy pursued his campaign into a divided convention, where he refused to endorse Carter. The fall campaign produced sharp ideological divisions. Carter ran a liberal campaign based on his comprehensive energy program, plans to manage the economy, the Equal Rights Amendment, and human rights in foreign policy. In contrast, Reagan ran a conservative campaign based on free enterprise, reduction of federal spending, traditional moral values, and an anticommunist foreign policy. The climax of the campaign came in the last televised presidential debate, when Reagan asked the voters "Are you better off than you were four years ago?"

On election day, 54 percent of the electorate went to the polls and gave Reagan a decisive victory. He won 51 percent of the popular vote (43,899,248) and 44 states for 489 electoral votes; his victory extended to every region of the country, including the South. Carter won 41 percent of the popular vote (35,481,435) and 6 states and the District of Columbia for 49 electoral votes. Independent Anderson collected 7 percent of the vote but won no states.


Cannon, Lou. Reagan. New York: Putnam, 1982.

Evans, Rowland, and Robert Novak. The Reagan Revolution. New York: Dutton, 1981.

Germond, Jack W., and Jules Witcover. Blue Smoke and Mirrors: How Reagan Won and Why Carter Lost the Election of 1980. New York: Viking, 1981.

Jordan, Hamilton. Crisis: The Last Year of the Carter Presidency. New York: Putnam, 1982.

Kaufman, Burton Ira. The Presidency of James Earl Carter, Jr. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1993.

John C.Green/a. g.

See alsoIran Hostage Crisis .


The 1984 presidential campaign occurred in a climate of peace and prosperity. Anti-Soviet foreign policy produced a sense of security and a strong economy reduced discontent. While the nation faced many problems, the public was tranquil compared to previous elections. President Ronald Reagan enjoyed considerable personal popularity, even with voters who disagreed with him on issues, and was not challenged for the Republican nomination. Although there was some grumbling from the right wing about Vice President George Bush, both he and Reagan were renominated by acclamation, giving the Republicans the luxury of a united party. They also enjoyed the support of a broad conservative coalition, including many southerners and religious conservatives, who came to be known as Reagan Democrats.

Among the Democrats, former Vice President Walter Mondale was the front-runner, but he received a strong challenge from former Colorado Sen. Gary Hart, who won the New Hampshire primary, and the Reverend Jesse Jackson, the first African American candidate to make a serious presidential bid. A divided Democratic National Convention made history by nominating the first female vice presidential candidate, New York Rep. Geraldine Ferraro. During the campaign Reagan ran on the theme of "It's morning in America," stressing national pride and optimism and his defense and economic policies. Mondale offered a liberal alternative, attacking Reagan's aggressive foreign policy and conservative economic program. Mondale received attention for his unpopular promise to raise taxes to reduce the federal budget deficit. The candidates also differed on women's rights and abortion, and a "gender gap" developed in favor of the Democrats. Reagan ran far ahead for most of the campaign, stumbling briefly when he showed apparent signs of age in a televised debate.

On election day 53 percent of the electorate went to the polls and overwhelmingly reelected Reagan. He won 59 percent of the popular vote (54,281,858 ballots) and 49 states for a record high 525 electoral votes; indeed, he came within some 4,000 votes of being the first president to carry all fifty states. Mondale won 41 percent of the popular vote (37,457,215) and carried only the District of Columbia and his home state of Minnesota, for 13 electoral votes.


Cannon, Lou. President Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991.

Germond, Jack W., and Jules Witcover. Wake Us When It's Over: Presidential Politics of 1984. New York: Macmillan, 1985.

Mayer, Jane, and Doyle McManus. Landslide: The Unmaking of the President, 1984–1988. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1988.

Wills, Garry. Reagan's America: Innocents at Home. New York: Penguin Books, 1988.

John C.Green/a. g.

See alsoReaganomics .


The selection of candidates for the 1988 campaign began in an atmosphere of uncertainty. President Ronald Reagan could not run for reelection and, although the economy was strong, some of the costs of Reagan's programs caused public concern. In addition, the Iran-Contra scandal had hurt Reagan's foreign policy, and tensions over social issues were increasing. The Democratic nomination attracted a crowded field. Because of his strong showing in 1984, former Colorado Sen. Gary Hart was the favorite but a personal scandal ended his campaign early. Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukak is became the front-runner because of a well-financed and disciplined campaign. After winning the New Hampshire primary, Dukakis outlasted his rivals, including a strong surge for the Reverend Jesse Jackson, who finished second and hoped for the vice presidential nomination. Instead, Texas Sen. Lloyd Bentsen was chosen in an otherwise united national convention.

Vice President George Bush, the Republican favorite, attracted numerous opponents and was upset in the Iowa caucus by Kansas Sen. Robert Dole and televangelist Marion (Pat) Robertson and his "invisible army" of religious conservatives. Bush rallied to win in New Hampshire and the southern primaries that followed. The unity of the national convention was marred by a controversial vice presidential choice, Indiana Sen. J. Danforth (Dan) Quayle, whom critics accused of lacking the personal and intellectual qualifications necessary for high office.

The fall campaign began with Dukakis enjoying a big lead in the polls, but it collapsed under Republican attacks on his record and liberal views, some of which had racial overtones. The Bush campaign stressed the Reagan record on foreign and economic policy and included the pledge, "Read my lips. No new taxes." Dukakis campaigned on his immigrant roots, fiscal conservatism, and the need for economic growth, calling for "good jobs at good wages."

Fifty percent of the electorate went to the polls and gave Bush a solid victory—54 percent of the popular vote (48,881,221) and 40 states for 426 electoral votes. Dukakis won 46 percent of the popular vote (41,805,422 ballots) and 10 states and the District of Columbia for 112 electoral votes.


Cramer, Richard Ben. What It Takes: The Way to the White House. New York: Random House, 1992.

Germond, Jack W., and Jules Witcover. Whose Broad Stripes and Bright Stars?: The Trivial Pursuit of the Presidency, 1988. New York: Warner Books, 1989.

John C.Green/a. g.

See alsoIran-Contra Affair ; Religion and Religious Affiliation ; Taxation .


The end of the Cold War in 1990 left the United States in search of a "new world order," while major economic and social transformations suggested the need for a new domestic agenda, and the 1992 campaign occurred in a time of great change. These strains produced high levels of disaffection with politics and government. Republican President George Bush's popularity after the Persian Gulf War reduced the number of contenders for the Democratic nomination. Arkansas Gov. William J. (Bill) Clinton emerged early as the front-runner, and a unified national convention nominated another southerner, Tennessee Sen. Albert Gore, for the vice presidency.

Bush's early popularity also reduced the number of contenders for the Republican nomination, but a weak economy and his broken pledge not to raise taxes led commentator Patrick Buchanan to enter the race. Although Buchanan won no primaries, he embarrassed Bush and created dissension at the national convention, where Bush and Vice President Dan Quayle were renominated.

The fall campaign began with Bush behind in the polls, but unlike in 1988 he never recovered. Bush campaigned on his foreign policy successes, free enterprise, and conservative social issues and sharply attacked his opponent's character. Clinton offered himself as a "new Democrat" with a moderate message of economic opportunity and personal responsibility and waged a disciplined campaign.

The independent candidacy of Texas billionaire and political newcomer H. Ross Perot complicated the race. He launched his campaign from a television talk show in February but withdrew from the race in July, only to reenter in September. Drawing on voter discontent, Perot offered an attack on politics and government as usual.

On election day 55 percent of the electorate went to the polls and gave Bill Clinton a narrow victory—43 percent of the popular vote (44,908,254 ballots) and 32 states and the District of Columbia for 370 electoral votes. At age forty-six, Clinton was the first baby boomer to win the White House. Bush won 38 percent of the popular vote (39,102,343 ballots) and 18 states for 168 electoral votes. Perot received 19 percent of the popular vote, for the second strongest performance by a twentieth-century independent candidate, but won no states.


Germond, Jack W., and Jules Witcover. Madas Hell: Revolt at the Ballot Box, 1992. New York: Warner Books, 1993.

Maraniss, David. First in His Class: A Biography of Bill Clinton. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995.

John C.Green/a. g.

See alsoConservatism ; Free Trade ; Persian Gulf Syndrome .


The Republican landslide in the 1994 midterm elections set the stage for the presidential election of 1996. Expecting to win handily, the Republicans nominated Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole of Kansas, a seventy-three-year-old pragmatic conservative who was known for his dry wit. Despite his age and dour demeanor, Dole was minimally acceptable to all elements of the Republican coalition. He chose as his running mate Representative Jack Kemp, a former Buffalo Bills quarterback from upstate New York. Fearing a sweeping Republican victory, Democrats united behind President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore, making Clinton the first Democrat nominated without substantial opposition since Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1944. H. Ross Perot, the Texas billionaire whose third-party candidacy garnered 19 percent of the vote in 1992, entered the race as an independent.

Clinton pursued a strategy of "triangulation," attempting to stake out a position between Republicans and Democratic liberals in Congress. He called for a balanced federal budget, declared that the "era of big government is over," and advocated a welfare reform bill that took away one of the Republicans' key issues. Clinton's candidacy was also buoyed by the wave of prosperity that swept the country during his first term, and by a growing backlash against the Republican Congress and House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

The Republicans ran a lackluster campaign, marked by Dole's clumsy rhetoric. They blamed Clinton for a lack of leadership, character, and trustworthiness, but these charges did not stick with most voters. Dole resigned from the Senate, but could not shake his image as a Washington insider. Desperate, he proposed a tax cut he had once scorned, but this only damaged his credibility. The Republican ticket was also hurt by memories of a partial federal government shutdown in the fall of 1995, which most voters blamed on the Republican Congress. In the end, Clinton won 49 percent of the popular vote to Dole's 41 percent, took every region of the country except the South, and captured a large majority of the electoral college.


Denton, Robert E., Jr. The 1996 Presidential Campaign: A Communication Perspective. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 1998.

Pomper, Gerald M., et. al. The Election of 1996: Reports and Interpretations. Chatham, N.J.: Chatham House, 1997.



The conflicted legacy of the Clinton years profoundly shaped the presidential election of 2000, an election that ultimately proved to be the longest, one of the closest, and among the most controversial in history. Ultimately decided by the Supreme Court, the election highlighted serious flaws in the nation's electoral system.

The campaign opened in the midst of the nation's longest economic boom and in the wake of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, which led to President Clinton's impeachment. Vice President Al Gore fended off a primary challenge by New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley to secure the Democratic nomination. A staunch environmentalist and policy enthusiast, Gore had held national elective office from the age of twenty-eight. Though smart and experienced, Gore was widely viewed as wooden, and he was haunted by his ties to the Clinton administration. Nevertheless, in a time of peace and prosperity, most commentators believed the election was Gore's to lose.

The Republicans chose Texas Governor George W. Bush over Arizona Senator John McCain. Son of the forty-first president, Bush had been a heavy drinker and playboy before becoming a born-again Christian at age forty. Affable and self-confident, but widely viewed as both inexperienced and an intellectual lightweight, Bush used his family name and connections to raise a huge campaign war chest. Rejecting the hard-line approach taken by Republican congressional leaders since 1994, Bush ran as a "compassionate conservative" and argued that a limited government could care for those in need by enlisting the private sector.

Two key questions framed the campaign: was Bush competent to be president, and did Gore have the personal integrity required? Both men picked running mates designed to offset these concerns. Bush selected Richard "Dick" Cheney, who had served as his father's secretary of defense during the Gulf War. Gore chose Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman, an openly observant Orthodox Jew who had publicly denounced Clinton's sexual conduct. (Lieberman was the first Jew named to the presidential ticket of a major party.) In debates, Bush generally did better than expected, while Gore was caught in several exaggerations and misstatements that hurt his credibility. Nevertheless, as the election neared, dissatisfaction with both candidates prompted some voters to turn to Green Party candidate Ralph Nader, who argued for sweeping reform of the political system.

When the election was held on 7 November Gore won the popular vote by 540,000 votes, a mere five of every 1,000 cast. Meanwhile, Bush appeared to have won the electoral college by 271 to 266 votes, thus becoming the first president since 1892 to be elected without a plurality of the popular vote. The outcome, however, remained uncertain for thirty-six days because of the closeness of the vote in Florida, where only a few hundred votes separated the two candidates. The Democrats protested election irregularities, particularly involving punch-card voting, and demanded a manual recount in certain counties. Eventually, they took their case to the courts. The Florida Supreme Court initially ruled 4 to 3 in favor of allowing such a recount, but its decision was over-turned by the U.S. Supreme Court in a controversial 5 to 4 ruling. The justices' decision in Bush v. Gore effectively ended the election and delivered the presidency to Bush. The election revealed problems with vote-counting machinery and procedures that disfranchised voters, and prompted some commentators to call for an end to the electoral college system.


Ceaser, James W., and Andrew E. Busch, The Perfect Tie: The True Story of the 2000 Presidential Election. Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2001.

Deadlock: The Inside Story of America's Closest Election by the Political Staff of the Washington Post. New York: Public Affairs, Washington Post Co., 2001.

Jamieson, Kathleen Hall, and Paul Waldman, eds. Electing the President, 2000. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001.

Rakove, Jack, ed. The Unfinished Election of 2000. New York: Basic Books, 2001.


See alsoBush v. Gore ; andvol. 9:Responses to Supreme Court Decision in Bush v. Gore .

Presidential Elections

views updated Jun 11 2018


Although the Civil War had been over for five years by 1870, its deathlock grip on electoral politics remained tight through the century, and perhaps beyond. Appointing two former Confederates to his first cabinet in 1885 was a controversial act for President Grover Cleveland (1837–1908), the only Democrat elected to the White House between the Civil War and 1912. The Republican Party depended on its base of pro-Union voters to respond loyally to its platform, which favored the interests of business over those of farmers, workers, debtors, former Confederates, immigrants, and other seemingly disparate single-issues groups, whom the Democratic Party found difficult to herd under a common banner throughout the period of 1870 to 1920.

Often, those separate groups splintered into third parties. Both major parties, for example, supported some form of tariff on imported goods—the Democrats wanted a tariff high enough to bring in needed revenue, and the Republicans wanted the tariff even higher, to protect American business from foreign competition. Tariff policy remained a constant problem through the late nineteenth century, yet the eventual solution—raising revenue by a national income tax—was the program of neither major party.

These third parties—such as the Greenback Party, the Socialist Party, the Prohibition Party, the Populist Party, the Progressive Party, and many others—drew millions of popular votes for presidential candidates whose positions, radical at the time, often came to be embraced by one or both major parties by the mid-twentieth century. Men and women with prescient ideas (the Equal Rights Party nominated women for the presidency in 1884 and 1888) expressed their ideas in political campaigns and in their writing, some of which was remarkably popular: Edward Bellamy's best-selling utopian novel of 1888, Looking Backward, 2000–1887, foresaw a twentieth century that abounded in equity, progressive thought, and peace. No major party, of course, came close to endorsing Bellamy's vision, but the short-lived Nationalist Party did support his utopian views. The appeal of Bellamy's ideas, as such, was due to their "fictive impact" (as Jay Martin argues in Harvests of Change), which allowed the ideas to reach a wider audience than an economist like Thorstein Veblen, for example, could hope to reach. Other visionaries tried projecting political ideas into literary forms—William Dean Howells wrote utopias, A Traveler from Altruria in 1894 and Through the Eye of the Needle in 1907, as did Charlotte Perkins Gilman in Moving the Mountain (1911), Herland (1915), and With Her in Ourland (1916). Bellamy himself wrote a less successful sequel in Equality in 1897, but such imaginative thinking was decades ahead of the hard-headed, practical politics of this era. Writers of dystopias, too, flourished: Minnesota Congressman Ignatius Donnelly, author of the widely read novel Caesar's Column (1889), foretelling a totalitarian twentieth century, also wrote the 1892 Populist Party platform denouncing the Democratic and Republican pursuit of "power and plunder" while masking their true venality behind "a sham battle over the tariff."


Between the Grant administration and the Harding administration, the American president generally occupied a less prominent place than the leading American

New Jersey914
New York3545
North Dakota5
South Dakota5
Note: Included are those states where there was an increase in 5 or more electoral votes from 1872 to 1920. Colorado, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Washington were territories in 1872.

businessmen. As capitalists such as John Jacob Astor, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Andrew Carnegie, J. P. Morgan, and John D. Rockefeller invented new ways to make money, government considered carefully whether restraining that moneymaking urge could be in the public interest, and if so, what methods of restraint could be employed, both practically and legally. Some of the most powerful fiction of the period featured businessmen as protagonists devoting themselves to amassing great wealth and power, acts at which they prove far more successful than at finding ways to restrain themselves from immoral behavior: Theodore Dreiser's Frank Cowperwood, Howells's Silas Lapham, and Frank Norris's Curtis Jadwin all exemplify this figure of the grasping, morally obtuse American businessman of the time. As the Gilded Age endured, fictional portraits of business leaders grew less and less admiring, but even at the outset astute observers saw the need to control big business's appetite: "The depravity of the business classes," Walt Whitman observed in 1871, "is not less than has been supposed, but infinitely greater" (p. 214).

While big businesses prospered, presidents, starting with Ulysses S. Grant (1822–1885), surrendered the active role to other branches of government: when legislators "visited the White House," said a member of Congress during Grant's administration, "it was to give, not to receive advice" (Nelson, p. 88). The scandals erupting from this lack of leadership—the gold crisis of 1869, the Crédit Mobilier scandal unearthed just before the 1872 election, the Whiskey Ring discovered after it, and numerous lesser scandals—inspired Mark Twain (and Charles Dudley Warner to dub the period (and their coauthored 1874 novel) "The Gilded Age," in honor of the superficial probity of the lackluster leaders whose policy of laissez-faire capitalism enabled the voracious and ethically dubious business practices of the late nineteenth century to dominate American culture. The efficiency of wealth and power concentrated into large corporations was not questioned by either major political party or the courts, as third parties and journalists loudly but fruitlessly decried their excesses, rarely even slowing their progress.

Saddled with a hopelessly corrupt administration as he strove for re-election in 1872, Ulysses S. Grant ran against former fellow Republican Horace Greeley (1811–1872). Lacking an effective candidate of its own, the Democratic Party endorsed Greeley out of sheer desperation, although Supreme Court Justice Salmon B. Chase and diplomat Charles Francis Adams vied for the nomination. An ardent abolitionist, Greeley gained the support of Southern Democrats, who preferred his plans for the withdrawal of federal troops from southern soil to a second Grant administration enforcing radical reconstruction of the south. Former slaves continued to support the Grant administration with their votes, contributing heavily to Grant's political success.

An energetic campaigner against Grant's ineffective intervention in the scandals of his appointees, Greeley was derided during the campaign as a do-gooder and too incompetent, according to Mark Twain's 1872 volume Roughing It, to answer a farmer's simple question about turnips. Greeley's editorials in his New York Tribune had long advocated for unpopular positions, such as temperance and women's rights, a record that now emerged in the increasingly vituperative campaign. Although the unkempt Greeley was a strong speaker who enjoyed enthusiastic support among his followers, he lacked the dignified, statesmanlike bearing that Grant projected. (Twain lampooned Greeley as a careful dresser who would spend hours searching through his discarded laundry for a suitably soiled shirt to wear on the campaign trail.) Grant's record as a war hero, still overshadowing his appointees' record for unprecedented corruption, won him a comfortable majority of popular votes, and 286 Electoral College votes. Greeley earned some 63 electoral votes but never lived to receive a single one: shortly after Election Day, Greeley suffered a massive breakdown, both physically and emotionally, and he died within a month of the election.

Because of further scandal in the second Grant administration, such as the Whiskey Ring, and economic hard times caused by the panic of 1873, the Democrats took back the house of representatives in 1874 and looked to consolidate their gains in the upcoming presidential election. They nominated Samuel Tilden (1814–1886), who had been elected governor of New York on the basis of his exposure of the infamously corrupt Tammany Hall ring led by William "Boss" Tweed. As governor, Tilden then went on to the Canal Ring, a conspiracy to defraud the state budget, and seemed an ideal candidate to campaign against the Grant administration's besmirched record. Also running as a reformer was Ohio Governor Rutherford B. Hayes (1822–1893), a former Civil War general. After simmering for the past decade in national campaigns, the passions of the Civil War boiled over in the election of 1876, nearly causing a second Civil War.


Hayes's supporters, like Grant's, had waved "the bloody shirt" to rally Republican voters; Robert G. Ingersoll (1833–1899), campaigning for Hayes, reminded Union veterans that "every man that shot Union soldiers was a Democrat." Republicans characterized their political opponents as traitors, creating a rancorous climate that grew only worse as the campaign continued. Tilden easily won the majority of popular votes. In the Electoral College, he stood only a single electoral vote shy of a majority, with fifteen electoral votes from Florida, South Carolina, Oregon, and Louisiana in dispute.

To break the virtual deadlock, Congress appointed a fourteen-member commission, equally split between Democrats and Republicans: five senators, five congressmen, and four Supreme Court justices, who were then empowered to appoint a fifteenth member, ultimately a Republican replacement felt capable by Democrats of rendering a nonpartisan decision. In February, three months after the voting was concluded and one month before the new president would be inaugurated, the commission voted 8 to 7, in favor of Hayes, along party lines.

Since the Republicans had demonized Southern Democrats in the "bloody shirt" campaign, the Democrats stood on the brink of rejecting the commission's judgment. Had they done so, a second Civil War might have erupted, but Governor Tilden persuaded his supporters to abide by the commission's ruling. In conceding defeat, Tilden told supporters, "I can retire to private life with the consciousness that I shall receive from posterity the credit of having been elected to the highest position in the gift of the people, without any of the cares and responsibilities of the office," an expression of relief some found too convincing.

But settling the election of 1876 also involved brokering a deal that would affect generations of Americans: over the course of reaching a compromise solution, the Republicans agreed to concessions that Southern Democrats particularly wanted: to withdraw federal troops from the South and to allow Southern whites to control voting in their states. This last concession nullified the Southern black vote and, in effect, allowed the American South to practice segregation within its own borders while nominally subject to federal law. The betrayal felt by black Americans after the resolution of the 1876 election was voiced by such writers as Paul Laurence Dunbar, W. E. B. Du Bois, Charles Waddell Chesnutt, and James Weldon Johnson.

Farmers, and other borrowers of money, were hoping for a softer money policy resulting in inflated dollars that would be easier to pay back, but they, too, were disappointed to have Hayes elected, in that his hard-money fiscal policies were aimed at shoring up the dollar, not at relieving the problem of debtors. Fiction writers, most notably Hamlin Garland (1860–1940) in his 1891 collection Main-Travelled Roads, described "the endless drudgery" of farming, while chroniclers of urban misery, such as Henry Fuller (1857–1929), author of The Cliff-Dwellers (1892), described squelched lives as dreary as those of their rural counterparts. The Democratic Party would continue to be divided for at least another generation, as its constituencies, of big-city labor, rural farmers, immigrants, and blacks, had varied and often conflicting needs.

The Republicans were also divided: deeply unpopular, President Hayes let it be known that he was unwilling to run for re-election in 1880. Hayes had virtually courted the disdain of Washington by applying his own rectitude to the office. He refused, for example, a presidential appointment to his own nominator at the 1876 convention, Robert G. Ingersoll, on moral and religious grounds. Praised in The Autobiography of Mark Twain (1956) as "the silver-tongued infidel," Ingersoll, an effective and flamboyant orator, was famous for his denunciations of religion. (Ingersoll played a small but interesting role in the genesis of one of the most popular novels of the late nineteenth century, made even more popular on stage and on screen in the twentieth as well. After discussing religion with the notoriously nonbelieving Ingersoll, Lew Wallace came away determined to write a novel about his own personal beliefs, which turned out to be Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ [1880].) Ingersoll denounced Hayes for his cowardice in denying him political preference, and he was not alone in finding Hayes finally lacking in strong leadership.

With Hayes out of the running, Ulysses S. Grant let it be known that he was willing to serve a third term as president. The conservative wing of the Republican Party, known as "Stalwarts," supported the front-runner, Grant, while the more moderate wing, the "Half Breeds," favored Senators James G. Blaine (1830–1893) of Maine or John Sherman (1823–1900) of Ohio.

In nominating Sherman for the presidency, Ohio Congressman James A. Garfield delivered a low-key reasoned address, and his manner impressed the delegates with his potential as a compromise candidate. They nominated the astounded Garfield on the thirty-sixth ballot. A major issue of division in the party was that of patronage: the Stalwart wing of the party opposed large-scale civil service reform, regarding such appointments as the just reward for political services rendered. The Half Breeds sought to advance President Hayes's tepid attempts to introduce merit into civil service appointments, and Garfield's acceptance of a Stalwart, Chester A. Arthur (1829–1886) of New York, as his vice presidential candidate united the party for the general election.

Now that Reconstruction of the South, a divisive point of contention in previous election campaigns, was over, the parties needed to find other issues by which to distinguish themselves for the electorate. Feeling cheated by the results of the previous election, Democrats attacked Garfield's service on the election commission that had selected President Hayes as the winner in 1876, and they criticized Garfield's involvement in the Credit Mobilier scandal during the Grant administration, in which Garfield received a small sum intended to influence his vote in Congress. A deciding factor may have been the still-lingering Greenback Party, which won over 300,000 votes on a platform of inflationary paper currency, aimed at relieving debtors. The Democrats, headed by former the Civil War general Winfield Scott Hancock, lost the popular vote by a smaller margin than the vote total of the Greenback Party, which siphoned votes away from the Democrats. Concentrating their strength in the South, the Democrats lost by fewer than 10,000 popular votes and by a 214 to 155 margin in the Electoral College.

Garfield's choice of Chester A. Arthur proved critical when four months into the new administration, Garfield was assassinated. Unlike Garfield, Arthur had achieved distinction prior to his vice presidency primarily at a patronage job. As Collector of the Port of New York City, Arthur had been responsible for collecting much of the nation's tariff revenues. Although patronage had been the bane of presidents for decades, wasting much of their time and energy squabbling with local leaders over whose candidate got which petty job in repayment for political services rendered, it was so deeply entrenched that it remained in force as powerful as ever until, as president, Arthur surprisingly turned against it and was able to institute some mild Civil Service reforms, such as the Pendleton Civil Service Act of 1883, which required candidates for federal positions to take competitive examinations. Garfield's assassin, in publicly proclaiming his Stalwart loyalties, may have created suspicion that Arthur was somehow involved in the assassination, so Arthur felt obliged to pursue reforms to clear his administration of partisan suspicions.


Unhappily for him, Arthur's own political base, the Stalwart wing of the Republican Party, failed to appreciate the conciliatory strategy. Having no interest in nominating Arthur for a term of his own, the Republicans considered the Civil War general William Tecumseh Sherman, whose lack of ambition for the presidency was expressed in his famously firm disavowal: "If nominated. I will not accept; If elected, I will not serve." Thus squelched, they turned once more to James G. Blaine, who had served as Arthur's own secretary of state. Along with the Stalwarts, the more liberal elements of the Republican Party also mistrusted Arthur, probably from a lack of familiarity with him, and they bolted the Republican Party. These disaffected Republican liberals, calling themselves "Mugwumps," felt that Blaine represented corruption, having become wealthy in a life of public service positions. (The anonymously written 1880 novel Democracy—of which Henry Adams was posthumously revealed the author in 1918—was read as a titillating roman-à-clef, with its villainous political manueverer thought to be a thinly disguised James G. Blaine suavely arguing against what he termed a government "artificially" purer than the society it represented.) Refusing to explain whence his personal fortune had come, Blaine defended his record by claiming that no proof had been offered against him. When letters surfaced showing Blaine's unethical practices (Blaine's incriminating postscript asked its recipient to "Burn this letter") the Mugwumps supported the Democratic candidate.

That turned out to be Grover Cleveland, the effective reformist governor of New York State, and enemy of Tammany Hall. "We love him for the enemies he has made" was a Cleveland slogan of 1884, indicating the strong partisan nature of the campaign. When Cleveland admitted to fathering an illegitimate child, Republicans chanted "Ma, Ma, Where's my Pa?" (Democrats topped that with: "Gone to the White House, ha, ha, ha"). The election of 1884 also marked the first presidential election in twenty years not to have on the ballot at least one former Union general: neither Blaine nor Cleveland had served in the Civil War. But the "bloody shirt" was nonetheless again waved: a minister, in Blaine's presence, characterized the Democrats as the party of "Rum, Romanism and rebellion." When Blaine did not repudiate that charge, he lost crucial Irish American support. For their part, Democrats referred to Blaine's evasiveness about his own financial history by rhyming, "Blaine! Blaine! James G. Blaine, Monumental liar from the state of Maine!" (Nelson, p. 288).

Cleveland's margin of victory, 219 to 182, seems less narrow than it was, in that New York State, with thirty-six electoral votes, went Democratic by the slimmest of margins, barely over a thousand votes. Had six hundred New Yorkers voted Republican instead, New York and thus the nation would have elected Blaine.

The only Democrat elected president in the late nineteenth century, Cleveland attempted to reform long-standing policies of his Republican predecessors he considered corrupt, with marginal success. He supported the ill-fated Dawes Act of 1887, which sought to give citizenship and land ownership to tribal Indians, passionately sought by Helen Hunt Jackson in her 1881 exposé Century of Dishonor and her 1884 novel Ramona. Cleveland also tried to stem the flow of pension moneys granted to Union veterans, a source of hardcore Republican support. He was less effective in reducing the tariff, which, coupled with his appointment of two former Confederates to his Cabinet, became an issue in Cleveland's re-election campaign of 1888.

Indiana Senator Benjamin Harrison (1833–1901), the Republican nominee in 1888, made the tariff into the main issue of the campaign, which was generally perceived as decorous and issues-oriented, following the raucous campaign of 1884. The election of 1888 was the first in which both parties' candidates campaigned via written-out position papers arguing the merits of the issues. Lew Wallace, best-selling novelist, governor of the New Mexico territory, and (like Harrison) another former Union general in the Civil War, contributed a campaign biography of Harrison, whose stiff personality resisted all attempts to package him as the "Grandson of Tippecanoe." In another close election, Harrison won both his home state of Indiana and Cleveland's home state of New York by narrow margins, beating Cleveland in the electoral vote, although Cleveland gathered some 100,000 more popular votes than Harrison.

Re-elected to a second (nonconsecutive) term in 1892, however, Cleveland saw the national economy almost immediately collapse. The depression emboldened Cleveland to act assertively. Backed up by the courts, this assertiveness allowed future presidents to take more active roles in leading the government. Cleveland's method of combating the 1894 strike against Pullman workers, for example, was to call out federal troops, citing the "danger and public distress" caused by the strike. Hoping to draw conservative support to his bold policy, Cleveland instead drove Labor's support from it. The Democratic Party turned to William Jennings Bryan (1860–1925), a thirty-six-year-old populist orator from Nebraska, as their candidate in 1896. Bryan electrified the 1896 convention with his powerful plea for monetary reform, charging his listeners not to "crucify Mankind on a cross of gold." Ultimately as unsuccessful in running for the presidency as anyone has been (Bryan would be defeated in 1896, 1900, and 1908), the populist Bryan set an agenda for the Democratic Party that was sharply distinct from the Republican platform, and the 1896 election was deeply inspiring to many who had been disenchanted with the bland similarity of the two major parties' policies.

Bryan's first evangelical campaign was characterized in a nostalgic 1919 poem that was perhaps Vachel Lindsay's (1879–1931) most focused: "Bryan, Bryan, Bryan, Bryan" spoke of its hero's losing effort as a triumph of American independence. He castigated Bryan's Republican opponent, Ohio Governor William McKinley (1843–1901), hand-chosen by Republican Party boss Mark Hanna (1837–1904), asking "Where is McKinley, Mark Hanna's McKinley, / His slave, his echo, his suit of clothes?" And, while attacking other enemies, like President Cleveland and future President Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919), Lindsay celebrated "that Heaven-born Bryan / That Homer Bryan, who sang from the West," whose song Lindsay recalled as the "Defeat of my boyhood, defeat of my dream."

Charisma and eloquence were defeated, at least in 1896, by the force of money, as Hanna raised many times the money for McKinley's campaign as Bryan was able to raise. The decidedly uncharismatic and ineloquent McKinley ran over Bryan like one of the railroads that underwrote the Republican campaign. In opposing the prevailing conservative fiscal policy, Bryan's pro-silver forces distributed copies of William Hope Harvey's popular 1893 tract Coin's Financial School and his 1894 novel A Tale of Two Nations, both of which traced a conspiracy resisting conversion of the monetary standard to London-based Jewish financiers.


This xenophobic vein of populism divided the left for years while McKinley pursued a foreign policy equally intolerant of foreigners. Somewhat reluctantly at first, McKinley seized from Spain the territories of Cuba, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico, disappointing those who believed that the United States was liberating these oppressed lands from imperialism. Mark Twain, in his 1901 philippic "To the Person Sitting in Darkness," thundered against American hypocrisy in wresting the mantle of oppression from Spain's shoulders only to place it on its own. What made the hypocrisy particularly galling was the absurd claim that America would bring Christianity to the Spanish possessions, which had been Christian for longer than the United States had been a nation. Many prose writers, including William Dean Howells and W. E. B Du Bois, joined Mark Twain in denouncing U.S. imperialism, among other social ills of the day.

Verse writers, too, spoke out: William Vaughn Moody (1869–1910) followed up his 1899 poem "On a Soldier Fallen in the Philippines" with his "Ode in a Time of Hesitation" (1900), in which he juxtaposed long-standing American ideals with those of a country that has "stooped to cheat / And scramble in the marketplace of war" (p. 19). Like Twain, an early supporter of the Spanish-American War, Moody felt betrayed by the turn taken by the United States. The most widely read poet of the day, Edwin Markham (1852–1940), published his poem "The Man with the Hoe," in 1899, arguing that American laborers in a system of laissez-faire capitalism were treated as disposable commodities. Markham's poem was reviled by critics ranging from his former admirer Ambrose Bierce, who accused the poem of spreading the gospel of hate called "industrial brotherhood," to Bierce's adversary, the wealthy industrialist Collis P. Huntington, who sponsored a prize for a poem to argue against Markham. Shortly after McKinley again defeated Bryan, even more decisively than in the previous election, McKinley was assassinated. His vice president, former New York Governor Theodore Roosevelt, combined McKinley's aggressive foreign policy with some of his own swashbuckling style (Roosevelt had been a much-celebrated hero of the campaign in Cuba) and with his own peculiar brand of domestic reformism, undercutting one of the Democrats' main issues of contention. A ferocious yet highly selective critic of big business, Roosevelt turned his trust-busting and the general approval of U.S. foreign policy to his electoral advantage, soundly defeating the weak Democratic candidate, New York's Alton B. Parker, in 1904, restricting Parker's vote-getting to the Deep South.

Outspoken on literary as well as social matters, Roosevelt actively encouraged men and women of letters, breaking racial precedent in inviting a black man (and author) Booker T. Washington to dine at the White House, and elevating the then-obscure Edwin Arlington Robinson (1869–1935) to renown by praising his work in print and placing him in a sinecure in the New York customs house. The enthusiastic Roosevelt wrote that he was not sure if he understood "Luke Havergal," one of Robinson's more cryptic poems, but he knew that he liked it. Roosevelt also invited to the White House such writers as Henry James, who thought Roosevelt a "dangerous and ominous jingo," and Edith Wharton, upon whose first novel (The Valley of Decision, 1902) the sitting president offered his editorial suggestions. Appreciative of artists, Roosevelt jostled against those writers who entered the political arena with him. Willa Cather, as editor of McClure's magazine before embarking on her career as a fiction writer, was responsible for the publication of many articles whose "muckraking" particularly irritated Roosevelt.

The most effective muckraker was the socialist Upton Sinclair (1878–1968), whose 1906 novel The Jungle described conditions in Chicago's meatpacking industry that quickly compelled new legislation in the form of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, with Roosevelt's approval. (When Sinclair had initially called on the president, however, to act on the evils exposed by The Jungle, Roosevelt wrote to Sinclair that he must keep his head.) Although Frank Norris (1870–1902) died young, early in Roosevelt's first administration, his novels also dramatized forces that Roosevelt would soon seek to control: the railroads' tyranny over the smaller landholders in The Octopus (1901) and the "malefactors of great wealth" (as Roosevelt would term financiers) in The Pit (1903). Whether in fiction or in journalism, muckraking exposed truths about American culture that Roosevelt preferred to expose himself or else to defend.

When Roosevelt pledged not to seek the Republican nomination in 1908, that promise much amused Mark Twain, who was disinclined to credit Roosevelt much for simply keeping his word. Instead, Roosevelt threw his support behind his protégé William Howard Taft (1857–1930), the former governor of the Philippines, who easily defeated William Jennings Bryan in the 1908 election, marking the end of the Populist Party. Although Taft's policies simply sought to continue Roosevelt's, arguably more effectively in such areas as opposing trusts, the mercurial Roosevelt soon came to regret stepping aside and, in 1912, formed the Progressive Party in an attempt to unseat Taft. What he accomplished, however, was merely to divide the Republican majority, allowing New Jersey Governor Woodrow Wilson (1856–1924) to win the presidency with only 42 percent of the popular vote (but a commanding 435 to 96 electoral edge over Roosevelt and Taft combined). Roosevelt rationalized his decision to run again by claiming that in disqualifying himself in 1908, he had only meant he would not serve a third consecutive term in the White House. Although Wilson campaigned for re-election in 1916 on the slogan "He kept us out of war," he was not able to maintain American neutrality far past his second inauguration. When the United States emerged from the war in 1918, less brutalized than the European powers who had fought in it much longer and had their own countries ravaged by it, young Americans who had served in the war, such as Ernest Hemingway and E. E. Cummings, would feel alienated from the high-minded idealism Wilson professed. The country had become, almost by a process of elimination, a world power, and the relationship between its writers and its leaders would now change too.

See alsoCentennial; Journalism; Political Parties; Populism; Reform


Primary Works

Adams, Henry. Democracy: An American Novel. 1880. With an introduction by Arthur Schlesinger Jr. New York: Modern Library, 2003.

Bellamy, Edward. Equality. 1897. New York: AMS Press, 1970.

Bellamy, Edward. Looking Backward, 2000–1887. 1888. Indianapolis: Cork Hill Press, 2003.

Donnelly, Ignatius. Caesar's Column: A Story of the Twentieth Century. 1889. Edited by Walter B. Rideout. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1960.

Fuller, Henry. The Cliff-Dwellers. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1893.

Garland, Hamlin. Main-Travelled Roads. 1891. With an introduction by William Dean Howells. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995.

Garland, Hamlin. A Spoil of Office: A Story of the Modern West. Boston: Arena, 1892.

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. Herland. 1915. Edited by Ann J. Lane. New York: Pantheon Books, 1979.

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. "Moving the Mountain." 1911. In The Charlotte Perkins Gilman Reader, edited by Ann J. Lane. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1999.

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. With Her in Ourland: Sequel to Herland. 1916. Edited by Mary Jo Deegan and Michael R. Hill. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1997.

Harvey, William Hope. Coin's Financial School. Chicago: Coin, 1894.

Harvey, William Hope. A Tale of Two Nations. Chicago: Coin, 1894.

Hay, John. The Bread-Winners: A Social Study. 1883. Ridgewood, N.J.: Gregg Press, 1967.

Howells, William Dean. My Mark Twain: Reminiscences and Criticisms. 1910. Edited by Marilyn Austin Baldwin. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1967.

Howells, William Dean. Through the Eye of the Needle: A Romance. 1907. New York: AMS Press, 1977.

Howells, William Dean. A Traveler from Altruria. 1894. Edited by David W. Levy. Boston: Bedford Books of St. Martin's Press, 1996.

Jackson, Helen Hunt. Century of Dishonor: The Classic Exposé of the Plight of the Native Americans. 1881. Mineola, N.Y.: Dover, 2003.

Jackson, Helen Hunt. Ramona. 1884. New York: Modern Library, 2005.

Lindsay, Vachel. The Poetry of Vachel Lindsay: Complete & with Lindsay's Drawings. Edited by Dennis Camp. Peoria, Ill.: Spoon River Poetry Press, 1985.

Markham, Edwin. "The Man with the Hoe." 1899. New York: Doubleday and McClure, 1900.

Moody, William Vaughn. The Poems and Plays of William Vaughn Moody. New York: AMS Press, 1969.

Norris, Frank. The Octopus: A Story of California. 1901. Edited by Kenneth S. Lynn. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1958.

Norris, Frank The Pit: A Story of Chicago. 1903. Edited by Joseph R. McElrath Jr. and Gwendolyn Jones. New York: Penguin, 1994.

Sinclair, Upton. The Jungle: An Authoritative Text, Contexts and Backgrounds, Criticism. 1906. Edited by Clare Virginia Eby. New York: Norton, 2003.

Twain, Mark. The Autobiography of Mark Twain. 1959. Edited by Charles Neider. New York: HarperCollins, 2000.

Twain, Mark. Mark Twain in Eruption: Hitherto Unpublished Pages about Men and Events. Edited by Bernard DeVoto. New York: Harper, 1940.

Twain, Mark. Roughing It. 1872. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Twain, Mark, and Charles Dudley Warner. The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today. 1874. Edited by Louis J. Budd. New York: Penguin Books, 2001.

Wallace Lew. Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ. 1880. With an introduction by Blake Allmendinger. New York: Modern Library, 2002.

Wharton, Edith. The Valley of Decision. 1902. New York: AMS Press, 1970.

Whitman, Walt. "Democratic Vistas." 1871. In The Complete Poetry and Prose of Walt Whitman, vol. 2, pp. 208–263. New York: Pellegrini & Cudahy, 1948.

Secondary Works

Blotner, Joseph. The Political Novel. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1955.

Boller, Paul F., Jr. Presidential Campaigns: From George Washington to George W. Bush. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Chace, James. 1912: Wilson, Roosevelt, Taft & Debs—The Election that Changed the Country. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2004.

Hofstader, Richard. The Age of Reform; from Bryan to F. D. R. New York: Knopf, 1955.

Hofstader, Richard. The American Political Tradition and the Men Who Made It. New York: Knopf, 1973.

McMath, Robert C. American Populism: A Social History, 1877–1898. New York: Hill and Wang, 1993.

Martin, Jay. Harvests of Change: American Literature, 1865–1914. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1967.

Nelson, Michael, ed. Congressional Quarterly's Guide to the Presidency. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly, 1989.

Rosenstone, Steven J., Roy L. Behr, and Edward H. Lazarus. Third Parties in America: Citizen Response to Major Party Failure. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1984.

Schlesinger, Arthur, Jr. "Henry Adams's 'Democracy.'" New York Review of Books, 27 March 2003.

Weibe, Robert. The Search for Order, 1877–1920. New York: Hill and Wang, 1967.

Steven Goldleaf

Presidential Elections

views updated May 18 2018

Presidential Elections


Trends. From the controversial election of 1824, when popular-vote totals were first counted, to the election of 1848, presidential elections were, with a few exceptions, close contests. Popular candidates, such as Andrew Jackson, won significant victories over their opponents. Because both major parties offered clear and competing ideologies and programs, elections were vital to the nations political direction and to the parties themselves. In order to implement their policies, parties had to win. For this reason voter turnout was high, and the fate of the nation seemed to hang in the balance every four years.


Through no action of his own, the fate of the presidential election of 1824 lay in the hands of Stephen Van Rensselaer, a New York congressman. When the election, in which no candidate won an electoral majority, was referred to the House of Representatives, Van Rensselaer was undecided between Andrew Jackson and William Crawford. Each state was entitled to a single vote, and New Yorks delegation seemed deadlocked between John Quincy Adams and Crawford. Adams needed New York to win the election, and he needed Van Rensselaers vote to carry New York, but Van Rensselaer shared a board-inghouse with staunch Crawford supporters Martin Van Buren and Louis McLane, and was thought to be leaning toward Crawford. At breakfast on the day of the vote, 9 February 1825, Van Rensselaer assured his friends that he would never vote for Adams over Crawford. When he arrived at the capital, however, he was confronted by Daniel Webster and Speaker of the House Henry Clay, who whisked him into the Speakers office to urge him to vote for Adams. Agitated, Van Rensselaer by some accounts forgot to bring a ballot when he entered the House; when he approached New Yorks ballot box, still undecided, he bowed to pray for divine guidance and opened his eyes to see an Adams ballot on the floor at his feet. He deposited it in the box, giving New Yorks vote (and the presidency) to Adams. Adams soon selected Clay as his secretary of state, perhaps in part for helping to twist Van Rensselaers arm.

Source: George Dangerfield, The Era of Good Feelings (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1952).

1816. James Madison, following precedent, retired from office after his second term. James Monroe was secretary of state, holding the office that had traditionally been a stepping-stone to the presidency. William Crawford halfheartedly challenged Monroe, but the Republican caucus selected Monroe as the partys nominee. The Federalists, discredited by the Hartford Convention, ran New Yorker Rufus King in the last national election they

would contest. Even before the election the Republicans had accepted an economic program reminiscent of the Federalists, making potential conflict between National Republicans who favored governmental action and Old Republicans who followed Jeffersonian strict construction seem more likely. But serious intrapary tension never materialized because Monroe appealed to both groups. In the election Monroe easily defeated King, who won only Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Delaware, by a count of 183 electoral votes to 34. Monroes victory began the rdquo;Era of Good Feelings, ldquo;though some northerners believed that a Virginia Dynasty had come to control the executive office. Monroe deflected sectional criticism by touring the North, where he was greeted with great enthusiasm.

1820 . In spite of a serious economic depression and renewed sectional conflict, Monroe was overwhelmingly reelected. This time of the Republicans did not even convene a caucus, and the Federalists were so weak and localized they failed to nominate a candidate. Monroe won 231 electoral votes; three electors abstained, and one voted for John Quincy Adams only to preserve for George Washington the honor of being the only president elected unanimously. Voter turnout was low, and Monroes reelection seemed more an act of unanimous indifference than universal acclamation.

1824 . For the first time, there was no clear successor for the nations highest office, when Monroe continued the precedent of retiring after two terms. Several contenders emerged during Monroes second term, all claiming to be National Republicans. Monroes secretary of state, Adams, the only northern candidate, was an obvious possibility, while his secretary of the treasury, William Crawford, was a southerner who had been selected by the revived Republicans caucus and was a favorite of the Old Republicans. He was, however, tainted by the perceived elitism of the caucus. Henry Clay, Speaker of the House and a westerner, was a contender, as was Monroes secretary of war, John C. Calhoun. Finally, war hero Jackson, who had served as a United States senator but whose politics remained a mystery, emerged as a front-runner after the state legislatures of Tennessee and Pennsylvania passed resolutions favoring his candidacy. Calhoun, the youngest candidate, realized that the presence of other southerners and westerners diminished his chances, and he withdraw to become the lone vice presidential candidate. As the others vied for the presidency, new coalitions that would solidify in later years into the Second Party System began to evolve. In an election where only 27 percent of the electorate bothered to vote, Jackson won 99 electoral votes (153, 544 popular votes 43.1 percent)to Adams 84 votes (108, 740 popular votes, 30.5 percent), Crawfords 41 votes (46, 618 votes(47, 136 popular votes, 13.2 percent), and Clays 37 electoral votes (47, 136 popular votes, 13.2 percent). Since no candidate secured a majority of the electoral votes, the Constitution called for the House of Representatives to choose the president from among the leading candidates. Clay, who had the lowest electoral total, was dropped from consideration, but ass Speaker could still influence the outcome. Crawford had strong support in the House but was seriously ill. Clay distrusted Jackson and was closer to Adams philosophically; though he and Adams had quarreled during the peace conference at Ghent, Clay threw his support to Adams, who won thirteen states to Jacksons seven and Crawfords four, on the first ballot. Jackson, who had won the most popular votes, was denied the presidency, and his supporters charged that Adams and Clay (who was named secretary of state) had entered into a corrupt bargain to steal the presidency from the peoples candidate. (Since the states that had supported Clay did not actually switch their votes to Adams, the corrupt bargain charge was, while effective, untrue.)

1828. Jackson began running for the presidency after his defeat in 1824, organizing his supporters in the states. He benefited from Crawfords illness, as many Crawford men switched to Jackson in 1828. Even Adamss vice president, Calhoun, switched sides. Adams, on the other hand, refused to conduct any kind of campaign for reelection and even retained Jackson supporters in key federal offices. The corrupt bargain charge continued to haunt Adams. Though the election offered a clear choice between Adamss vision of an expansive federal government and Jacksons small-government philosophy, issues were largely ignored. Instead vicious attacks on both sides reduced the campaign to the depths of personal mudslinging. Adams supporters accused Jackson of gambling, dueling, and murder. Further, they alleged that Jackson and his wife, Rachel, were bigamists since the two had married before her divorce from her first husband was final. Jacksonians attacked Adams for supposedly providing young American girls to the Russian czar while Adams served as minister to Russia. Voter turnout doubled, and Jackson won 647, 286 popular votes (56 percent) to Adamss 508, 064 (44 percent). Jackson became president with 178 electoral votes to Adamss 83 votes. Jacksons victory was tempered by his wifes death in December 1828, which he attributed to the slurs she suffered during the campaign.

1832. Jackson originally considered serving only a single term. By 1831, sensing that the success of republican government required his continued vigilance, he decided to run for a second term. His election had heralded the Age of the Common Man, largely because of the spread of the franchise and the increased democratization of politics in the decade before. One facet of increasing public participation was the advent of the political parties and nominating conventions of the Second Party System. Clay was selected by one of the first nominating conventions to represent the major anti-Jacksonian groups, the National Republicans. Clay precipitated the Bank War before the election, hoping to use the banks recharter as an issue. South Carolina nullifiers, who could stomach neither Jackson nor Clay, chose Virginia governor John Floyd, and the Anti-Masons nominated William Wirt. Jackson again won easily, capturing 687, 502 popular votes (55 percent) to Clays 530, 189 (42.4 percent). Wirt and Floyd combined for only 33, 108 votes (2.6 percent). Jackson won 219 electoral votes Clay 49, Floyd 11, and Wirt 7.


In 1840 the Whig Party, having lost the two previous presidential elections because it resisted the new political techniques of the age of mass democracy, took them up with a vengeance. The Whigs nominated William Henry Harrison, a military hero who had few political opinions and no public record. They offered no platform, in the hopes they might avoid an intraparty feud over issues. To broaden the appeal of the ticket, they selected for Harrisons running mate John Tyler, a states rights former Democrat who would eventually betray everything for which the Whig Party stood. The Whigs campaign slogan, Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too, promoted Harrison on the virtue of his victory at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811, twenty-nine years earlier. When a Democratic editor scoffed at Harrisons political inexperience and suggested that he would be better off retiring to a log cabin to collect a military pension and drink hard cider, the Whigs (eager to shake their elitist image) seized on the words. Whigs built log cabins everywhere, including a 50-by-100-foot model on New York Citys Broadway, and hard cider flowed at Whig gatherings. A whiskey distiller, E. C. Booz, made whiskey bottles shaped like log cabins and. added its name to the American lexicon. One massive Whig barbecue served 360 hams, 26 sheep, 20 calves, 1, 500 pounds of beef, 8, 000 pounds of bread, 1, 000 pounds of cheese, and 4, 500 pies. Although Harrison in fact came from a wealthy family and had never lived in a log cabin, the Whigs portrayed him as a man of the people and castigated his opponent, Martin Van Buren, as an effete dandy. Van Buren was accused of living in luxury and wearing expensive silk clothing, drinking wine from coolers of silver and lounging on his cushioned settee while Harrison on his buckeye bench remained content with hard cider. The Whigs had learned the new politics well: Harrison won 234 electoral votes to Van Burens 60.

Source: Daniel W. Howe, The Political Culture of the American Whigs (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979).

1836. Like his predecessors, Jackson retired after two terms. His handpicked successor, Martin Van Buren of New York, won the Democratic nomination for the presidency though many southerners did not trust him The Whigs, as the foremost anti-Democrats were no known, had not coalesced enough to run a single candidate and did not hold a convention. Clay opted out, realizing that Van Buren would likely win. The loosely organized party ran three sectional candidates, hoping to deny Van Buren a majority and throw the election to the House. Daniel Webster ran as the northern candidate; Tennessees legislature selected Hugh Lawson White to represent southern interests; and William Henry Harrison, nominated by the Anti-Masons, was a favorite of the West and middle states. Finally, South Carolina again ran its own candidate, William Mangum. The Whig strategy failed. Van Buren took 765, 483 popular votes (50.9 percent). The Whigs combined for 739, 795 votes (Harrison, 550, 816; White, 146, 107; Webster, 41, 201), while Mangum received 11 electoral votes. Van Buren won a close popular election but secured more than enough electoral votes, 170, to win.

1840. Van Buren faced the serious lingering economic problems that followed the Panic of 1837 but still secured the Democratic nomination. The Whigs, frustrated by prior losses, met in December 1839 at Harris-burg, Pennsylvania, to select their candidate. They realized that the bleak economic situation gave them their best chance yet for victory. Clay fully expected to get the nod, but the party wanted someone with less political baggage and turned instead to a military hero, Harrison, who had few known convictions and appealed to Anti-Masons. A Democratic editor inadvertently helped the Whig cause by suggesting that Harrison would be happier using his military pension to retire to a log cabin where he could sip hard cider. The Whigs readily accepted the terminology, which countered their image as the party of the elite, and ran the Log Cabin and Hard Cider campaign. They selected as vice president John Tyler, a southern former Democrat who opposed Jacksons use of power. Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too became the rallying cry of a campaign notable for its hoopla and lack of substance. The Liberty Party, dedicated to the abolition of slavery, ran former slaveholder James G. Birney as a third candidate. Harrison won 1, 274, 624 popular votes (53.1 percent) and 234 electoral votes to Van Burens 1, 127.781 votes (46.9 percent) and 60 electoral votes. Birney received only 7, 069 popular votes. The Whigs had finally won, but Harrison contracted pneumonia (perhaps during his long, meandering inaugural address) and died within a month of becoming president.

1844. The new president, Tyler, offended the Whigs by rejecting their economic program. Alienated from the Whigs, Tyler hoped to use the annexation of Texas to gather support for a Democratic or southern nomination, but that strategy also failed. The annexation of Texas did become one of the elections major issues, along with the resolution of the Oregon Territorys joint occupation. The Democrats initially looked to Van Buren, but he opposed the annexation of Texas, and the Democratic convention turned to; the first dark horse candidate, the little-known James K. Polk, a dedicated Jacksonian (known as Young Hickory) and expansionist who promised to annex Texas and get all of Oregon, too. The Whigs were united against annexation and unanimously selected Clay. Clay might have won, but he erred when he started to hedge his opposition to the increasingly popular idea of annexing Texas. Clays change of heart was unlikely to win Democratic votes but alienated antislavery Whigs who deserted him in favor of the Liberty Party and Birney. As a result the Liberty Party won enough Whig votes in New York to hand the state, and the election, to Polk. Polk won narrowly, garnering 1, 338, 464 popular votes (49.6 percent) to Clays 1, 300, 097 votes (48.1 percent). Polk won 170 electoral votes to Clays 105. Birneys Liberty Party won 62, 300 votes (2.3 percent).

1848. Polk promised to serve only one term and had by 1848 reached his goals of settling matters in Oregon and Texas. The major issue in the election to determine his successor was whether to allow slavery into the territory taken from Mexico after the Mexican War. Democrats nominated an old party regular, Michigans Lewis Cass. Cass favored the doctrine of popular sovereignty, which held that the people within each territory could decide for themselves whether to allow slavery. The Democratic platform, however, was more overtly pro-slavery and denied congressional authority to interfere with slavery anywhere, including the federal territories. The Whigs, having lost again with Clay in 1844, went back to the old formula of selecting a military hero with an unknown political past. They chose Zachary Taylor, southern slaveholder and Mexican War hero. Taylor admitted that he had never voted, and when the letter from Whig officials announcing his nomination arrived, he refused to pay the postage. On learning of his victory at the polls, he noted that the people were imprudent enough to elect me. The Free-Soil Party, a new third party born from the agitation over slavery in the territories, nominated Van Buren. Van Buren, who originally wanted to rejuvenate political partisanship to avoid sectionalism, finally had had enough of the Democrats after being rejected in 1844. Taylor won 1, 360, 967 popular votes (47.4 percent) to Casss 1, 222, 342 votes (42.5 percent). Van Buren polled 291, 263 (10.1 percent). Taylor secured 163 electoral votes to Casss 127 votes.


Richard Hofstadter, The American Political Tradition and the Men Who Made It (New York: Vintage 1948);

Daniel W. Howe, The Political Culture of the American Whigs (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979);

Edward Pessen, Jacksonian America: Society, Personality, and Politics (Homewood, 111.: Dorsey, 1969).

Presidential Elections

views updated Jun 11 2018

Presidential Elections


Close Elections. Between the disputed presidential election of 1876 and the dramatic contest of 1896, presidential elections were close contests in which minor-party candidates drew enough votes away from the Republicans and Democrats to ensure that neither major party candidate won a majority of the popular vote. The two major parties did all they couldlegally and ille-gallyto ensure their own candidates victory. Presidential elections in the 1880s were battles over political patronage, with little disagreement over issues between the two major parties.

Third Parties. The issues-oriented politics of the 1880s came from a series of third parties that gained national followings with single-issue campaigns that pulled votes away from the major party candidates. The 1880 and 1884 elections marked the gradual decline of the Greenback-Labor Party, which favored increasing the supply of paper money and opposed a return to the gold standard. The party had its strongest showing in the 1878 congressional elections, winning more than one million votes and fourteen seats in the House of Repre-sentatives. In 1880 its presidential candidate, James B. Weaver, garnered more than three hundred thousand votes (3.32 percent). After Greenback-Laborite Benjamin Franklin Butler won just over 175,000 votes (1.7 percent) in 1884, the party became largely defunct, with some members later joining the Populist Party. In 1885 Adin Thayer concluded that the result of the election settles the question that one of the two great parties will continue to control the government, and that there will be no new national party for a generation to come that will have any considerable influence in politics. The next third party to gain a national voice was the single-issue Prohibition Party. In 1884 Prohibition candidate John P. St. John of Kansas received nearly 150,000 votes (1.47 percent) in a close election in which Democrat Grover Cleveland defeated Republican James G. Blaine in the popular voting by less than twenty-six thousand I votes. In 1888 Prohibition candidate Clinton Fisk received nearly 250,000 votes (2.19 percent), and in 1892 Prohibitionist John Bidwell won more than 270,000 votes (2.25 percent). The party exerted strong pressure on Republican platforms and candidates throughout the Midwest and found supporters among churchgoing rural areas in the North and among middle-class southerners who feared the effects of liquor on blacks and poor whites. Prohibition was too narrow an issue to carry the country, but the Populists absorbed many of the concerns of the Prohibition Party in the 1890s.

The Peoples Party, or Populists. In July 1892 the first formal Populist national convention brought together an impressive group of speakers, including Ignatius Donnelly of Minnesota, Jeremiah Sockless Jerry Simpson of Kansas, and Tom Watson of Georgia. As their presidential candidate the convention nominated James B. Weaver of Iowa, who had run for president of the Greenback ticket in 1880, and for his running mate they chose James G. Field of Virginia, a former Confederate general. This ticket earned more than one million popular votes (8.5 percent) of the roughly twelve million cast in the 1892 presidential election and won five states outright for a total of twenty-two electoral votes. The Populists also did well in the 1894 congressional elections. Support for the party faded after the 1896 presidential election, in which the Populists backed Democratic candidate William Jennings Bryan, but much of their platform was coopted by the Democrats.

The Election of 1880. With President Hayes keeping a promise to serve only one term, the Republicans were divided over the presidential nomination, with various factions supporting former president Ulysses S. Grant, Sen. James G. Blaine of Maine, and Treasury Secretary John Sherman of Ohio. On the thirty-fourth ballot, however, a darkhorse candidate emerged: Shermans campaign manager, James A. Garfield, former speaker of the House and senator-elect from Ohio. Despite his protests that he was not a candidate, Garfield, who had a distinguished military record as brigadier general in the Union army, won the nomination on the thirty-sixth ballot. Chester A. Arthur of New York was chosen as Gar-fields running mate on the first ballot. To prevent the Republicans from waving the bloody shirt at them as the party of southern whites and Confederate sympa-thizers, the Democrats turned to another distinguished Union general, Winfield Scott Hancock. His only real opposition came from supporters of the 1876 Democratic standard-bearer, Samuel J. Tilden of New York, who announced after the first ballot that he was not a candidate. Hancock won the nomination easily on the third ballot, and Rep. William H. English of Indiana was the Democrats unanimous choice for the second spot on the ticket. In the November election Garfield narrowly edged out Hancock in the popular voting, garnering 4,446,158 votes (48.27 percent) to 4,444,260 (48.25 percent) for Hancock. Yet Garfield swept the heavily populated northeastern and midwestern states, winning in the electoral college by a margin of 214-155.

The Election of 1884. After the assassination of President Garfield in 1881, Vice President Arthur became president. His efforts to reform the civil-service system had earned him the enmity of the Stalwarts in his party. Republicans turned to James G. Blaine, who had served as Speaker of the House and secretary of state under Garfield and Harrison. As the plumed knight of reform and a leader among the Half Breeds in 1876, he had been a presidential contender until charges that he had taken bribes from the railroads destroyed his chances for the presidential nomination. Yet despite the allegations against him, he had remained popular in his party. After Blaine defeated Arthur on the fourth ballot, the party nominated Stalwart John A. Logan, a senator from Illinois, for the vice presidency. The Democrats nominated a reform candidate, Gov. Grover Cleveland of New York, who arrived at the convention as the front-runner and won on the third ballot. The party nominated Sen. Thomas A. Hendricks of Indiana for his running mate. The ensuing presidential campaign was one of the dirtiest in American history. Democratic newspapers reprinted the old charges against Blaine, as well as new letters with more embarrassing disclosures. The Republican press responded by revealing that as a young bachelor Cleveland had fathered an illegitimate child. Cleveland admitted paternity. As Democrats chanted Blaine, Blaine, James G. Blaine, the continental liar from the state of Maine, Republicans responded with Ma, Ma, wheres my pa? (After Cleveland won the election, Democrats gleefully added: Gone to the White House, ha, ha, ha.) Blaine was also hurt when a visitor to his New York headquarters, the Reverend Samuel D. Bur-chard, referred to the Democrats as the party of rum, Romanism, and rebellion. Blaine, who heard the remark; did not repudiate it, severely damaging his chances with Irish Americans, whose vote he had been courting. The various charges and countercharges hurt Blaine more than Cleveland, as disillusioned Republican Mugwumps defected to the Democratic camp. Cleveland defeated Blaine by fewer than twenty-six thousand popular votes (48.5 percent to 48.25 percent) and thirty-seven electoral votes (219-182), becoming the first Democratic president since before the Civil War.

The Election of 1888. The Democrats renominated incumbent president Grover Cleveland by acclamation and easily agreed on former senator Allen G. Thurman of Ohio as his running mate, to replace Vice President Thomas A. Hendricks, who had died in 1885. When the Republican National Convention began in late June the front-runner was Sen. John Sherman of Ohio, who led the voting on the first six ballots but lacked the necessary votes to secure the nomination. With the fourth ballot, however, a groundswell of support began for a grandson of President William H. Harrison, a little-known Indiana lawyer and former senator named Benjamin Harrison. After supporters of James G. Blaine gave up hope that he would recant his refusal to run again, they shifted their votes to Harrison on the seventh ballot. Harrison took the lead in the voting and won the nomination easily on the next roll call. Former congressman Levi P. Morton of New York won the vice-presidential nomination easily on the first round of balloting. Both Harrison and Cleveland were equally uncharismatic and relied on their respective party organizations for voter appeals. The Republicans scored points by attacking Cleveland for his advocacy of lower tariffs, his veto of veterans pension bills, and his signing of an order to return Confederate battle flags to the South. Rumors also circulated that he was a drunkard and a wife beater. Cleveland won in the popular voting by a margin of less than one hundred thousand votes (48.62 percent to 47.82 percent), but Harrison took most of the heavily populated northern and midwestern states, including the key states of Indiana and New York, winning the election in the electoral college by a vote of 233-168.

The Election of 1892. Despite opposition within their own parties Harrison and Cleveland easily won the nominations of their respective parties on the first ballots. The Republicans replaced incumbent vice president Levi P. Morton on the ticket with Whitelaw Reid, ambassador to France and former editor of The New York Tribune. Adlai Ewing Stevenson of Illinois (grandfather of the Democratic presidential candidate in 1952 and 1956) won the second spot on the Democratic ticket. With Populist candidate Weaver waging the most successful third-party campaign of the nineteenth century, Cleveland defeated Harrison by more than 370,000 popular votes (46.05 percent to 42.96 percent) and 132 electoral votes (277-145).

The Election of 1896. Discontent with the Bourbon Democrats in general, and particularly Cleveland and the depressed economy over which he presided, culminated in the emergence of a different Democratic Party in 1896. No one shaped this new direction more than Illinois governor John Peter Altgeld, who seized control of the party platform and attempted to cut the party free of Bourbon Democrat machines and the gold standard.

William Jennings Bryan. While Altgeld shaped the platform for the upcoming election, William Jennings Bryan was the spokesman for the new Democrats. A charismatic Nebraska lawyer, Bryan earned a national reputation in the early 1890s with an assault on the McKinley Tariff of 1890, which set import duties at an all-time high. Skillfully responding to the growing agrarian discontent, Bryan took up the free-silver issue with a vengeance, and by 1896 he was the leading champion of farmers. Adopting the populist slogan Equal Rights to All and Special Privileges to None, Bryan brought some of the vitality of the Populist Party to the divided Democratic Party. His capacity to draw crucial support from both Populists and Silver Democrats made him a powerful player in the 1896 political season.

Cross of Gold. At the 1896 party convention, the thirty-six-year-old Bryan regaled Democrats with his famous Cross of Gold speech during the floor debate on the currency plank in the platform. Announcing that the country could not exist without farmers, Bryan called for an end to the single gold standard and unrestricted coin-age of silver and gold, saying: You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns. You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold. The speech electrified the convention and was instrumental in winning him the presidential nomination on the fifth ballot at the divided convention. Arthur Sewall of Maine was the Democrats choice for the second slot on the ticket.

New Divisions. Bryans position on silver divided the party, and some Democrats who favored the gold standard bolted for the Republican Party while others organized the National Democratic Party, which nominated John M. Palmer of Illinois and Simon B. Buckner of Kentucky to run on a platform that supported the gold standard. Western Republicans who supported free silver formed the National Silver Party and endorsed Bryan and Sewall. The Populists were divided as well. To avoid splitting the free-silver vote between two candidates, they eventually gave their presidential nomination to Bryan. Yet some Populists feared that the free-silver issue would overshadow their broader reform goals. Western Populists supported joining with Silver Democrats while southern Populists held out for a third-party campaign. The Populists chose Thomas E. Watson of Georgia rather than Sewall as their vice-presidential candidate.

The Republicans. Under the leadership of Mark Hanna, an Ohio businessman-turned-politician, the GOP also set a new course, becoming the party of industrial capitalism. As campaign manager for Gov. William McKinley of Ohio, Hanna had spent more than a year before the convention courting delegates for his candidate, especially in the South. His hard work paid off when McKinley won the presidential nomination handily on the first ballot. McKinley supporter Garret A. Hobart of New Jersey won the vice-presidential nomination almost as easily. Lacking Bryans charisma, McKinley had quiet dignity and an impressive record of service in the Civil War. Running on the promise of the full dinner pail, McKinley argued that high tariffs and adherence to the gold standard protected American companies as well as the jobs and wages of their employees.

The Campaign. Both Bryan and McKinley set new records for campaigning. Bryans speaking tours covered an unprecedented twenty-seven states. He traveled some eighteen thousand miles by train, speaking up to thirty-six times a day and reaching about five million people. Bryan took on a messianic aura with crowds of people pressing close to him just to touch his clothes. His opponents tried to depict him as a radical antichrist who would plunge the nation into anarchy. McKinley did not travel but also reached substantial numbers of voters. Hanna ran an organized, efficient campaign, using opinion polls to pinpoint areas in which to concentrate campaign efforts and producing hundreds of millions of pamphlets, fliers, and books depicting McKinley as an exemplar of solid middle-class and working-class values.

Republican Dominance. McKinley became the first presidential candidate since Ulysses S. Grant in 1872 to win a majority of the popular vote (51.01 percent to 46.73 percent for Bryan). Bryan did well in the West and the South, but with a strong showing in the more populous Northeast and Midwest McKinley defeated Bryan in the electoral college by a vote of 271-176. The election solidified Republican gains in the 1894 congressional elections, assured the national supremacy of the party for a generation, and established its position as the voice of industrial, middle-class America. Until 1912 Bryan remained nearly unchallenged as the leader of the Democratic Party, an uneasy coalition of his western and southern populist and agrarian supporters and Altgelds northern liberals. With the exception of Woodrow Wil-sons two terms in 1913-1921, Republicans controlled the White House until 1933.


Richard Hofstadter, The Age of Reform: From Bryan to F.D.R. (New York: Knopf, 1955);

Stanley Llewellyn Jones, The Presidential Election of 1896 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1964);

Morton Keller, Affairs of State: Public Life in Late Nineteenth Century America (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1977);

Gil Troy, See How They Run: The Changing Role of the Presidential Candidate (New York: Free Press, 1991).

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Presidential Elections

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Presidential Elections