dark horse

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DARK HORSE, a compromise candidate selected as party nominee when a deadlock arises among leading candidates. The candidate is usually substantially colorless with respect to current issues, unidentified with party factions, and unobjectionable in his public and private life. In 1844, James K. Polk became the first dark horse presidential candidate when Martin Van Buren, the expected Democratic choice, rendered himself unpopular to many in his party by arguing against the immediate annexation of Texas. In 1852, Franklin Pierce followed in the dark horse tradition. Other more recent examples of dark horses include James A. Garfield, Chester A. Arthur, and Warren G. Harding.


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

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

Haynes, Sam W. James K. Polk and the Expansionist Impulse. New York: Longman, 1997.

W. B.Hatcher/a. e.

See alsoElections, Presidential ; Political Parties ; President, U.S.

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dark horse • n. 1. a person about whom little is known, esp. someone whose abilities and potential for success are concealed: [as adj.] a dark-horse candidate. 2. a competitor or candidate who has little chance of winning, or who wins against expectations.

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dark horse, in U.S. politics, a person unexpectedly chosen by a major party as a candidate for public office, especially for the presidency. A presidential dark horse is usually chosen at a party national convention and often has acquired only a local or limited reputation at the time of his nomination. He is invariably the offspring of compromise after rival factions have deadlocked the convention. Probably the best-known example of a dark horse is James K. Polk, who was selected at the Democratic convention of 1844 on the ninth ballot, although he had not been nominated until the eighth ballot.

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Dark Horse ★★½ 1992 (PG)

Meyers is a young woman distraught over the death of her mother. She gets into trouble and is assigned to do community service work at a horse farm where she finds herself caring for a prize-winning horse. 98m/C VHS . Ari Meyers, Mimi Rogers, Ed Begley Jr., Donovan Leitch, Samantha Eggar; D: David Hemmings.