Dead Presidents

Historical facts, thoughts, ramblings and collections on the Presidency and about the Presidents of the United States.

By Anthony Bergen
Posts tagged "Presidential Elections"
Asker Anonymous Asks:
Do you think Eugene Mccarthy could have won the democratic nomination in 1968 if LBJ had stayed in the race or if he had faced Hubert Humphrey on his own in the primary? I'm just curious about why Mccarthy didn't do better since it was his strong showing IIRC that made LBJ drop out of the race
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I don’t think that Eugene McCarthy could have won the Democratic nomination in 1968 if LBJ had stayed in the campaign and ran for another term. As I mentioned in that earlier post about what I think would have happened if LBJ and Nixon had faced each other in the ‘68 election, Johnson, like any incumbent President, would have had significant advantages and as the head of the Democratic Party, he would have controlled the party throughout the process, so any challenge from fellow Democrats could have been handled pretty easily once he put the party apparatus into action and shaped the Democratic National Convention into whatever he might have needed it to be in the case of a floor fight. Plus, LBJ had a powerful campaign organization that was already familiar with a a primary fight (the unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination against John F. Kennedy in 1960) and a Presidential election (the massive popular vote and Electoral College victory in 1964).

There is also another thing that is frequently overlooked when people bring up Eugene McCarthy’s impressive showing against LBJ in the 1968 New Hampshire Primary. President Johnson actually wasn’t on the ballot in the New Hampshire Primary; he was a write-in candidate, partly for strategic reasons (to test the waters in case something like McCarthy’s strong showing in the primary were to happen). So while LBJ won 49% of the vote and McCarthy won an impressive 42% of the vote, I think it’s always important to note that Johnson was a write-in candidate. Still, McCarthy’s performance was impressive, no matter what, and it was a sign that LBJ was going to face a fight from anti-war advocates during primary season and that McCarthy couldn’t be taken lightly. McCarthy technically came in second place in the 1968 New Hampshire Democratic Primary, but it was basically considered a victory, and his strong showing definitely led Johnson to withdraw from the race.

Why didn’t McCarthy do better in the 1968 Democratic primaries once Johnson withdrew from the race? Well, to put it bluntly, Bobby Kennedy screwed him over. For several months prior to the New Hampshire Primary, anti-war activists urged RFK to challenge LBJ for the Democratic nomination, but Kennedy consistently declined to consider a challenge and openly voiced his support in favor of President Johnson’s re-election. Then Eugene McCarthy stunned LBJ and the Democratic Party with his showing in the New Hampshire Primary, and it became clear that there was a passionate anti-war voting bloc that could make a serious difference in the 1968 election. Despite shooting down for months about not entering the race and supporting the incumbent LBJ over his fellow anti-war advocate McCarthy, Kennedy jumped into the race just four days after the New Hampshire Primary.

I know this isn’t a very scholarly way to put it, but RFK pulled a real dick move by jumping into the race after McCarthy had done the legwork in New Hampshire and demonstrated that President Johnson was very vulnerable. When Kennedy announced his candidacy, he immediately started siphoning a lot of those anti-war votes that had propelled McCarthy to the cusp of an upset over an incumbent President in the New Hampshire Primary. Many of those voters saw Kennedy as more electable than McCarthy because he was, of course, a Kennedy, and as they battled each other during the primaries that followed, Johnson’s Vice President, Hubert H. Humphrey, joined the race and was basically seen as the mainstream candidate. To a lot of those young Democratic voters who had supported McCarthy and then bailed in favor of Kennedy once RFK declared his candidacy, HHH was a continuation of the Johnson Administration’s increasingly unpopular foreign policy. But the back-and-forth battle between RFK and McCarthy in many of the state primaries helped clear a path for Humphrey to take a nearly insurmountable lead in delegates as the 1968 Democratic National Convention approached. After winning the California Primary, Bobby Kennedy looked to have some momentum, but he was assassinated that night. In truth, RFK’s only chance at the nomination was probably if all of the candidates headed into the Democratic National Convention without anybody able to clinch the nomination on the first ballot and having a floor fight ensue. Even then, I believe it would have been unlikely for RFK to have been nominated by a Democratic National Convention that was still largely controlled by Lyndon Johnson’s party organization, which would have worked diligently to prevent Bobby Kennedy from being nominated as President. As for McCarthy, he ended up in second place in the delegate count at the Convention, but the battles between him and RFK during the primary season resulted in many of the delegates who had pledged to support Kennedy voting for anybody else besides McCarthy (Kennedy’s delegates were released from their pledge due to his death). Eugene McCarthy got a pretty raw deal in 1968 after being responsible for a major turning point in history with his near-defeat of President Johnson and the aftermath of the ‘68 New Hampshire Primary.

Simple question: do you think LBJ would've won in 1968? I think he could have despite the turbulence surrounding his presidency simply because people knew he was a leader. And also, the war in Vietnam hadn't quite hit it's peak though it was close. I think that Americans would rather want the devil they know than the one they don't, especially in wartime. Anyways, what's your opinion?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I agree — I think LBJ would have won in ‘68 if he had run. First of all, Hubert Horatio Humphrey, of all people, almost pulled off the victory over Richard Nixon in 1968. Humphrey lost the popular vote by a margin of just over 500,000 votes — in an election where George Wallace won nearly 10 million votes. Despite his Civil Rights accomplishments, I think Johnson would have neutralized Wallace in some of those Southern states. In fact, it’s very possible that a heavyweight like LBJ in the race would have kept George Wallace from launching a bid as serious as he actually did in 1968. Wallace won 46 Electoral votes (all of them being states of the Deep South) and I don’t think that would have happened with LBJ in the race.

Wallace was a big factor in the race, but another big factor was the battle for the Democratic nomination and the turbulence surrounding the primaries, RFK’s assassination, and the battles between Chicago police and anti-war protesters outside of the Democratic National Convention. If LBJ had been the candidate, there would have been no primary fight, and the DNC would have been much more disciplined. There definitely still would have been anti-war protests, but instead of seeming to add to the chaos of the Democrats’ nomination process, it would have come across differently.

And the biggest difference would have been the difference between Lyndon Baines Johnson on the campaign trail and Hubert H. Humphrey on the campaign trail. On television, LBJ often came across wooden and uninspiring, but he was something altogether different while campaigning. More importantly, LBJ wouldn’t have rolled over and just let Nixon get away with any Nixonian dirty tricks. LBJ could play just as dirty, and he would have if it meant the difference between four more years and a forced retirement. LBJ was the incumbent President of the United States and the head of the Democratic Party; he controlled the party apparatus would have known who to use the power of his office and his power of the Democratic Party to propel him to victory if it was kept close.

It definitely would have been closer than the 1964 election; LBJ wouldn’t have cruised to a landslide over Nixon in 1968 like he did over Barry Goldwater four years earlier, but I do think LBJ would have beat Nixon. In the election that we did get — a three-way race between Nixon, Humphrey, and Wallace — the Electoral College results were Nixon 301, Humphrey 191, Wallace 46 (270 votes needed to win). Nixon won the popular vote in 1968 over Humphrey by only a few hundred thousand more votes than Kennedy beat him in 1960 (one of the narrowest victories in American history) and George Wallace claimed 9.9 million votes. As I said, in my opinion, if LBJ had run in ‘68, Wallace either wouldn’t have run or he wouldn’t have been able to get ballot access in all 50 states. Either way, he wouldn’t have won 9.9 million votes and I don’t think he would have won any of the five states that he did actually win in ‘68 (Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi). LBJ would have built a powerful voter registration and get out the vote organization in those Southern states with large African-American populations whose right to vote was signed into law and protected three years earlier by LBJ. I think that those new voters, in addition to the Democrats who remained Democratic voters in the South despite LBJ’s Civil Rights policy, would have put those states in the Democratic column. Wallace also won one of North Carolina’s 13 Electoral votes in ‘68.

If it was just LBJ vs. Nixon, I think LBJ would have won all of the states that Humphrey won (Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Washington, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia) as well as the states that Wallace won (Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi). I also think that LBJ would have won 11 of the 32 states that Nixon won majorities in over Humphrey (Alaska, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia). In many of the 32 states that Nixon won in the actual 1968 election, his margin of victory was slim and Wallace’s removal from the equation likely would have swung more votes into the Democratic column than the Republican, resulting in a swing of those 11 states. The popular vote margin would still be pretty close, but LBJ would win majorities in most of the major states (those with the most Electoral College votes). In a straight LBJ vs. Nixon matchup in 1968, I think the Electoral College result would be: LBJ 381, Nixon 157.

And, yes, this question motivated me to actually go back and re-figure the 1968 Presidential election’s Electoral College map state-by-state. Don’t say I never did anything for you guys.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
I'm not sure this is something anyone can really predict but I'll ask anyway... How do you think Bobby Kennedy could have done as president?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

It is definitely impossible to predict, and there’s no guarantee he would have ever become President. I don’t think RFK would have won the 1968 election; in fact, I highly doubt he would have even won the Democratic nomination in 1968.

If RFK had eventually ended up as President, he would have had to change some of his ways. In order for Presidents to be successful they must find a way to frequently compromise and have to establish positive personal relationships with Congress. That wasn’t a strength of Bobby Kennedy’s, and Jimmy Carter is a prime example of what happens when that’s a major weakness of a President. Bobby Kennedy lacked JFK’s vision and Ted Kennedy’s political skills, as well as the natural charisma that both of those brothers possessed. RFK was the toughest of the brothers and probably the most fearless politically, and those qualities served him well as a campaign manager and in the chief of staff role that he unofficially filled in JFK’s Administration (along with being Attorney General). But those are traits that can also be troublesome for a President unless they are combined with the personal political skills that his brothers had stockpiles of.

I know you've touched on this in past posts, but is the GOP really suicidal enough to run Jeb Bush against Mrs. Bill Clinton? I would love to see a conservative win in 2016 but I cannot envision a third member of the Bush clan swinging enough moderates to compete with her. I would think Romney round 2 would be a better call than Bush^3.
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

No, I don’t think that it would be suicidal at all.  I think Jeb Bush is the best possible candidate that the Republicans can put forth in 2016, and I think that he’s the only GOP contender who might be able to hang with Hillary Clinton.  Ideologically, Jeb Bush is far more similar to his father than his brother, and I believe that he’s the only possible GOP candidate (unless the Republicans nominate Jon Huntsman — like they SHOULD) who can lock down the support of moderates.  Bush would have trouble with the hardcore conservatives in his party, but if the GOP wants to have a chance in 2016, they’ll need to rally behind a candidate who might be able to…you know…win…and Bush is their best shot (and, even then, it’s no sure thing).

Romney has been adamant that he’s not running for President again and that he doesn’t imagine any sort of of draft changing his mind.  Because of the guy that Romney is, I believe that he doesn’t want to run again, but I also think he’d accept a draft if he felt it was his duty to serve his party and country.  And despite Romney’s defeats in the 2008 GOP primaries and the 2012 general election, I think he’s probably the strongest possible Republican candidate in 2016 (if he did change his mind and run) besides Jeb Bush.

Mr. Buchanan’s real trouble is that he cannot use my Administration and shape his course according to his own ever varying whims, in order to promote his aspirations to the Presidency. He cares nothing for the success or glory of my Administration further than he can make it subservient to his own political aspirations…The truth is that the scheming and intriguing about the Presidential election, and especially by Mr. Buchanan, is seriously embarrassing my Administration.

James K. Polk, on his frustration with his Secretary of State James Buchanan for actively working to position himself as the leading candidate to succeed Polk as President and neglecting (in Polk’s mind) his duties in Polk’s Cabinet, personal diary entry, February 24, 1848.

From almost the beginning of his Administration, President Polk had pledged to only serve a single term and never had any intention to change his mind and seek reelection in 1848. However, Polk was almost universally dismissive — particularly in entries that he made in his White House diary — of nearly every person whose name was mentioned as a possible successor, regardless of whether they were fellow Democrats or members of the Whig Party. Polk was also adamant that members of his Cabinet refrain from partisan politics — even throughout 1848 as the Democrats were seeking a strong Presidential candidate who might be able to beat whichever former General fresh from military glory in the Mexican-American War — Zachary Taylor or Winfield Scott — was nominated by the Whigs.

Despite Polk’s efforts, Buchanan did seek the Democratic nomination in 1848, but lost to Lewis Cass, who was defeated by Zachary Taylor in the general election (Cass later served as Secretary of State when Buchanan was eventually elected President). Buchanan also unsuccessfully sought the 1852 Democratic nomination, losing out to dark horse Franklin Pierce who was suggested to the deadlocked Democratic National Convention as a compromise candidate and finally nominated after 49 ballots.

President Pierce nominated Buchanan to serve as U.S. Minister to Great Britain and being out of the country throughout the travails of the Pierce Administration and the worsening sectional crises over slavery was probably instrumental in Buchanan finally achieving his long-awaited goal of becoming President. In 1856, Pierce became the first President to be denied renomination by his own party as the Democrats turned to Buchanan instead. James K. Polk probably wouldn’t have been happy with his former Secretary of State’s election, but Polk had died just three months after leaving office in 1849. Although Buchanan had been mentioned as potential contender for the Presidency and was perhaps better qualified for the position than anyone else ever elected to the job, the nation’s troubles quickly worsened after he was sworn in and Buchanan never fulfilled the expectations many Americans had for a President with his experience. Today, he is considered one of the worst Presidents in American history.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Do you have an opinion on Hillary Clinton's recent interviews in regards to her responses to the questions she was asked about her wealth?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

No, not really.  If she’s going to run for President in 2016, she’s going to have to face questions about her wealth and her health.  I don’t see anything wrong with that, and I’m sure that Hillary and her team will put together the right answers to those questions as the campaign truly kicks into gear.

In 2008, and especially in 2012, Mitt Romney’s wealth was used by his opponents to portray him as out-of-touch with average Americans.  The Clintons are also very wealthy, and most of that wealth has been from speaking fees and things that they’ve done since leaving the White House in 2001.  There’s nothing wrong with that — and there was nothing wrong with Romney being wealthy — but they are fair game and they’ll have to deal with that.  

As for Hillary Clinton’s health, that’s also a valid concern, as it should be with any Presidential contender.  It’s important to remember that, if elected, Hillary Clinton will be the second oldest President on Inauguration Day in American history.  Ronald Reagan was 69 years, 349 days old when he was inaugurated; Hillary Clinton will be 69 years, 86 days old on Inauguration Day.  Reagan faced questions about his age and health in 1980 and 1984, Bob Dole’s age and health was a concern in 1996, John McCain’s age and health was an issue in 2008, and Hillary’s will be in 2016.  I’m not a doctor and I haven’t seen her medical records, but I imagine that Hillary Clinton wouldn’t run for President if she wasn’t healthy enough to do so.  In my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with voters wanting proof that her health — or any Presidential candidate’s health — isn’t an obstacle to the duties of a President.  

Asker Anonymous Asks:
if you were forced to make a prediction would you say hillary is or is not running for prez in 2016?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

She has a super PAC (“Ready For Hillary”) formed by some of her “former” top aides that is soliciting donations, building a supporter database, churning out e-mail blasts every other day, mailing bumper stickers, and snapping up endorsements from major Democratic figures.  A campaign-style “Ready For Hillary” bus just happens to be showing up everywhere that she is making an appearance on her book tour.  She’s in the midst of a media blitz that isn’t exactly the run-of-the-mill publicity tour for a book release — complete with town hall events for news networks and social media sites. She wrote a book that’s over 600 pages long but didn’t really say anything so as not to create a potential minefield during an eventual general election.  The book is carefully constructed to avoid touching upon anything inflammatory, controversial, or too revealing that she might have to walk back at a later date.  She has a full-fledged rapid response team that quickly goes after any attacks or mischaracterizations from her opposition and immediately clarifies any fuzzy statements or awkward quotes and cleans up any mistakes from her end.

I don’t know if Hillary Clinton is running for President in 2016, but I imagine she probably will because, quite frankly, Hillary Clinton is running for President right now

Sure, she hasn’t declared that she’s running and she’s still saying that she’s “considering” it and will come to a decision sometime next year.  But that’s because it doesn’t make any sense to publicly declare that you’re running for President two years out and have to deal with all of the campaign finance disclosures and quarterly reports when a super PAC can do the dirty work in the meantime, raise an unlimited amount of money, and have “no connection” to the candidate.  Ready For Hillary is a proxy campaign; Hillary Clinton is undoubtedly running for President. 

Asker Anonymous Asks:
George W Bush considers himself a Texan even though he wasn't born there. Do presidents have to declare exactly what state that they are from when they are running? are there other presidents besides W who claimed a different state than where they were born?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Good question!

First of all, let me set the table a bit.  The Twelfth Amendment to the Constitution, which sets forth the process for the election of the President and Vice President (and attempts to explain the Electoral College), instructs Presidential Electors to cast a separate ballot for the President and Vice President and prohibits Electors from casting both votes for candidates who reside in the same state as the Elector.  To break that down, basically, that means that if I was an Elector, I couldn’t cast my ballot for a President and Vice President who, like me, live in California.  At least one of my votes would have to go to someone residing in a different state.

Some take that to mean that the President and Vice President can’t be elected if their official residency is the same state.  In actuality, they can reside in the same state, but Electoral votes are the ticket to the White House, so nobody wants to even risk the possibility of having even just one or two Electoral votes disqualified, which is what would happen if an Elector did cast ballots for a President and Vice President who both resided in the Electors state.  In 2000, Dick Cheney established Wyoming as his official residency once he was named as George W. Bush’s running mate. Although Bush and Cheney both lived in Texas at the time, Cheney had a home in Wyoming, had represented Wyoming in Congress, and establishing official residences in different states protected them from any possible complications in the Electoral College.

Anyway, back to the main point of your question, yes, Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates declare their official state of residency when they seek election.  I’m not positive when or how they do it — it could be when they file their paperwork to run, it could be as simple as it being where they are registered to vote.  I’m not sure about the particulars.  But there have been plenty of Presidents whose official state of residency was different from their state of birth.

And, since I’m here to give you as much information, as possible, whether you specifically ask for it or not, here are those Presidents:

Andrew Jackson: Born in South Carolina; Represented Tennessee throughout his political career and is buried there.
William Henry Harrison: Born in Virginia; Appointed to territorial government positions in the Northwest Territory and Indiana Territory early in his political career; Represented Ohio during the last half of his political career and at the time of his election as President; Buried in Ohio
James K. Polk: Born in North Carolina; Represented Tennessee throughout his political career; Buried in Tennessee
Zachary Taylor: Born in Virginia; Stationed throughout the country during his long military career; Officially resided in Louisiana at the time of his election as President; Buried in Kentucky
Abraham Lincoln: Born in Kentucky; Represented Illinois throughout his political career; Buried in Illinois
Jefferson Davis (Confederate President): Born in Kentucky; Represented Mississippi throughout his political career; Buried in Virginia 
Andrew Johnson: Born in North Carolina; Represented Tennessee throughout his political career; Buried in Tennessee
Ulysses S. Grant: Born in Ohio; Officially resided in Illinois at the time of his Presidential election; Buried in New York
Chester A. Arthur: Born in Vermont; Spent nearly his entire adult life working and living in New York which was his official state of residency when he was elected Vice President and succeeded to the Presidency upon Garfield’s assassination; Buried in New York
Grover Cleveland: Born in New Jersey; Represented New York throughout his political career; Buried in New Jersey
Benjamin Harrison: Born in Ohio; Represented Indiana throughout his political career; Buried in Indiana
Woodrow Wilson: Born in Virginia and raised in Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina; Represented New Jersey when elected to the only two political positions he ever campaigned for; Buried in Washington, D.C.
Calvin Coolidge: Born in Vermont; Represented Massachusetts throughout his political career; Buried in Vermont
Herbert Hoover: Born in Iowa and grew up there and in Oregon; Spent nearly a quarter-century working as a mining engineer and then relief organizer around the world; Officially resided in California at the time of his election as President; Buried in Iowa
Dwight D. Eisenhower: Born in Texas and raised in Kansas; Stationed all over the country and, later, around the world during his military career; Resident of New York at the time of his first election as President in 1952, but established Kansas as his official residence at the time of the 1956 Presidential election; Buried in Kansas
Richard Nixon: Born and raised in California; Represented California for the first half of his political career but moved to New York to join a law firm after losing the 1962 California gubernatorial campaign; New York was his official place of residence when elected President in 1968; Re-established California — the location of his “Western White House” — as his place of residency by the time of his re-election as President in 1972; Buried in California
Gerald Ford: Born in Nebraska and raised in Michigan; Represented Michigan throughout his political career; Buried in Michigan
Ronald Reagan: Born in Illinois; Represented California throughout his political career; Buried in California
George H.W. Bush: Born in Massachusetts; Represented Texas throughout his political career; Has arranged to be buried in Texas upon his death
George W. Bush: Born in Connecticut; Represented Texas throughout his political career; Planning to be buried in Texas upon his death
Barack Obama: Born in Hawaii; Represented Illinois throughout his political career

Asker ultra-pop Asks:
Did the John McCain/Joe Lieberman ticket in 2000 (Independent) or 2008 (Republican) ever have a chance of going off the ground? Same for the Kerry/McCain 2004 Democratic revenge ticket?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

First of all, I have never, ever seen the appeal of Joe Lieberman.  I thought he was a crappy Vice Presidential pick for Al Gore in 2000, and I think the main reason why Lieberman was his choice was because Gore saw it as a way to deflect some of the heat off of him that he thought he faced from being connected to Clinton during the Lewisnky scandal.  Lieberman was one of the most vociferous detractors of Clinton from the Democratic side, and Gore wanted some of that moralistic rub.

As for a bipartisan ticket, there are always going to be difficulties with that. An independent run is going to be even more difficult because independent candidates have to be highly organized and get an early start in order to get ballot access in all states, which they need to have even a slight chance at winning.  In 2000, McCain would have needed to run as an independent almost from 1999 instead of seeking the GOP nomination (remember, he actually beat George W. Bush in the New Hampshire Primary in 2000) if he wanted a shot at being on the ballot in every state during the general election. Lieberman likely wouldn’t have been a consideration in 2000 as an independent candidate for anything since he actually was the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee that year.

As for 2008, I think that McCain/Lieberman is an interesting idea and, in hindsight, anything would have probably been better for the GOP than Sarah Palin on Election Day. I just can’t envision Lieberman getting nominated by the Republicans in 2008. Maybe he could have been nominated in 2012 after he had spent more time as an independent, but he in 2008, he was the key to a Democratic majority in the Senate. Since he was caucusing with the Democrats as an independent (as was Bernie Sanders), the Dems had a 51-49 majority. If Lieberman caucused with the Republicans, he would have lost his seniority and his chairmanships, but the Senate would have been tied and the Republican Vice President Dick Cheney would have been a tiebreaker. That probably would have been held against him if McCain put him forward as his choice for a running mate.

But 2004 is definitely a possibility. Listen, it’s no secret that John Kerry and John Edwards was an awful ticket, and yet, Kerry almost won the 2004 election because of the backlash against President Bush. It was well-known that McCain and Bush were not close, especially after the 2000 Republican primaries where McCain was Bush’s only serious challenger and Bush’s campaign used some dirty tricks against McCain (and McCain’s family) in the South Carolina Primary. I think McCain could have been nominated as a Vice Presidential candidate by the Democrats at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. I think the Kerry/McCain ticket would have picked up some appeal from the anti-war Republicans and some moderates, as well as some of those Nader voters. Although Nader didn’t win any Electoral votes, he did win over 400,000 popular votes and in an election as close as 2004 was, that could have shifted things enough in the really close battleground states to have been the difference in 2004 and swing the election to John Kerry.

McKinley has no more backbone than a chocolate eclair.

Theodore Roosevelt on new President William McKinley, 1897.

In 1900, Roosevelt was elected as McKinley’s running mate, replacing Vice President Garret A. Hobart who had died in office in 1899

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Do you think Secretary of State would be a good stepping stone to the presidency today, or that the offices are too distinct now?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

At the beginning of the 19th Century, being Secretary of State was almost a guarantee that you’d be elected President.  Five of the first eight Presidents had served as Secretary of State, including three (James Madison, James Monroe, and John Quincy Adams) who went directly to the White House from serving two terms as Secretary of State.  But it’s been nearly 160 years since the last Secretary of State — James Buchanan, who ran President Polk’s State Department from 1845 to 1849 — was elected President.  

I think it’s more difficult now for a couple of reasons.  First of all, Secretaries of State aren’t nearly as powerful now.  The Vice Presidency is a far more influential position today than it was in the 18th, 19th, and first half of the 20th Century, the White House Chief of Staff handles the Administration’s COO-type responsibilities that many Secretaries previously took on, and as other Cabinet posts have increased their profile within the Executive Department it has diminished the power of the Secretary of State, especially when there are turf wars like the feud between Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld.  The Secretary of State used to be a Foreign Minister-type position that was basically just short of being equivalent to a Prime Minister; in many ways, the Secretary of State used to be (unofficially) the first-among-equals within the Cabinet.  That changed a bit early in the 20th Century, but especially in the latter part of the last century.  Basically since Nixon’s Presidency, American foreign policy is almost fully run by the White House through the National Security Staff (formerly known as the National Security Council).  The Secretary of State is a member of the National Security Staff and has a role in formulating that policy, of course, but they are more like Super Ambassadors who go where the President sends them and relays messages.  They have always been the top American diplomat, but the job now is much more political, domestically and internationally, than administrative.

Another reason why you don’t see more Secretaries of State running for President directly from the State Department is purely political.  If a President serves a single term, a Secretary of State isn’t going to be an ideal candidate because they’d have to challenge their boss.  If a President serves two terms, there is usually voter fatigue when it comes to the President and his Cabinet.  After two terms, the opposition party will have been sharpening their knives and getting ready for the Presidential election.  A Secretary of State who has either served two terms in office or wants to run for President directly from the State Department after one term in the Cabinet is an easy target.  All Presidents eventually become lame ducks and if someone is serving in their Cabinet as the President’s popularity starts to take a dive, they’ll usually be painted with that same brush.  It’s easy to run against them — whether you’re from the other party or challenging them in the primary.

Hillary Clinton would have a more difficult race in front of her if she were serving as Secretary of State in Obama’s Cabinet right now.  It would be easier to connect her with an unpopular President who is rapidly heading towards lame duck status if she were currently in the Cabinet.  Since she left after the first term, on her own terms, after Obama had been re-elected, she basically left at the perfect time — it’s like when an athlete retires after winning a championship.  If you go out on top, you control your destiny and shore up your legacy.  So, that’s why no Secretaries of State have been elected President since Buchanan in 1856 and few have even won their party’s nomination.  But, if things play out the way I think they will, Hillary will end that drought in 2016.      

Asker anna8910 Asks:
I was doing my reading for my US History Class (I'm going back to college) and they said that the 1888 election between Cleveland and Harrison was one of the most corrupt elections in American History. Do you agree and if not which do you think was the most corrupt?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

No, I definitely disagree.  There were, of course. low-level dirty tricks in the 1888 campaign as there always are, and they were especially prevalent in the 19th Century, but the 1888 election was pretty tame.  Cleveland and Harrison were personally honest almost to a fault, and while they certainly wanted to win the election, neither would have permitted a dirty campaign or anything unseemly on their behalf.  In fact, longtime journalist Alexander K. McClure wrote of the 1888 election, “I cannot recall another Presidential contest that was conducted on both sides with greater dignity and decency than that between Cleveland and Harrison in 1888.”

The most corrupt election was probably the 1876 contest between Rutherford B. Hayes and Samuel J. Tilden.  I don’t know where to begin with that election, but here’s quick overview:  

There were widespread allegations of voting irregularities, fraud, votes for sale, intimidation, and a bunch of other bad things alleged against both sides. Most of those allegations are almost certainly true.  
The results of the election were in dispute following Election Day, with three states still “counting” their votes: Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina.
•Those three states were controlled by the Republican Party as Reconstruction was still in effect in the South and the GOP was similar to an occupying force, with loyal Republicans installed in nearly every influential state, city, and county position.
•In what was either a major coincidence or an undoubtedly suspicious turn of events, the Republican-controlled states were having trouble counting their disputed votes at the exact moment when the Demcorat candidate, Samuel J. Tilden, not only led the Republican candidate (Hayes) in the popular vote, but also had a lead in the Electoral College.
•Tilden’s lead in the Electoral College was 184-166, and he was just one electoral vote away from clinching the Presidency.
•Of the three (Republican-controlled) states that were still in dispute, Tilden was leading in two of them.
•Again…Tilden just needed ONE more electoral vote to win the Presidency.  Hayes needed to win every single electoral vote still in dispute.
•Hayes caught a break in the two states where he was “trailing’ Tilden — Florida and Louisiana — when the Republican officials in charge of the process disqualified a significant amount of Tilden ballots.

•In the midst of the the confusion, as the election was being disputed, Tilden remained the favorite to pull off the victory.  Rutherford B. Hayes was actually convinced that he had lost the election.

For those of us who remember the anxiety and frustration over the 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore, that was nothing compared to the 1876 election.  Election Day was on November 7, 1876, but the dispute dragged on so long that there were fears that the country might face violence or rebellion once a decision was finally made, especially since the country was only a dozen years removed from the Civil War.  Reconstruction was still taking place and Union troops continued to occupy the South.  Democratic candidates had been dominated by Republican candidates since the Civil War — many of whom were carpetbaggers from the North that native Southerners heavily resented.  The possibility of a Democrat seemingly being denied the Presidency easily could have sparked disturbances, especially since Samuel J. Tilden had won the popular vote and was denied an Electoral College majority through tactics which were questionable at best.  

Not only was the election in dispute, but when the Electoral College met, there were disputes about which Presidential electors could be certified. On top of all that, the Constitution requires Electoral College results to be counted before a joint session of Congress. The Senate was controlled by Democrats and the House was controlled by Republicans, so, of course, they couldn’t even come to an agreement about tallying the votes. Finally, Congress decided on an unprecedented alternative — the formation of a 15-member “Electoral Commission”. It was decided that there would be seven Democratic members, seven Republican members (including future President James Garfield), and one independent member — David Davis, an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court and close friend of Abraham Lincoln. Unsurprisingly, even that didn’t go as planned — Davis retired from the Court and his spot on the Electoral Commission was filled by another Supreme Court Justice, Joseph P. Bradley. Justice Bradley was a Republican appointed by the Republican President Grant and his presence on the Commission gave the GOP an 8-7 advantage.

The Electoral Commission began its work on February 1, 1877. Now, don’t forget that the election had taken place on November 7, 1876, and the next President’s inauguration was scheduled for March 4, 1877. Since March 4th was a Sunday, the public inauguration ceremony would take place on Monday, March 5th. As you might imagine, the Electoral Commission’s decided the election strictly along party lines — 8-7 in favor of Rutherford B. Hayes. Justice Bradley, the Republican replacement for the Commission’s only independent appointee, was the swing vote.

The 2000 election was decided when the Supreme Court (voting along strict party lines just like in 1876) ended the recount of disputed votes in Florida. That happened on December 8, 2000 and the 43rd President’s Inauguration Day was January 20, 2001, not an ideal amount of time for a transition, but still well over a month. The 1876 election was officially decided by the Electoral Commission on March 2, 1877 — TWO DAYS before the 19th President’s Inauguration Day. Many Americans didn’t know who the new President was until after he was sworn in.

Although Tilden won the popular vote and probably won the Electoral vote, he did not dispute the election. It was said that Tilden recognized there was widespread voting fraud within his own organization and didn’t figured it was best to move on a spare the country any further trouble, especially since there was a real possibility of rebellion by opponents of Hayes and the Republicans. Tilden took solace in the fact that he (and many other Americans) knew he actually won the election.

Threats of major disturbances on Inauguration Day resulted in precautions being taken — on Saturday, March 3, 1877, President Grant invited Hayes to the White House and had the President-elect privately sworn into office in the Red Room, just in case anything prevented the actual ceremony. Because of how the election was decided (not to mention the fact that it had only been decided a couple of days earlier), the inauguration was low-key with no parades or inaugural balls. Once in office, President Hayes had to placate the Democrats who felt robbed of the election with what became known as the “Compromise of 1877”. Hayes basically ended Reconstruction by withdrawing the Union troops that had occupied the South since the end of the Civil War, a move which resulted in the “black codes” and ensured that civil rights for African-Americans were denied for nearly another century.

In preparing my own acceptance speech notes [for the 1980 Democratic Presidential nomination], it’s become more and more obvious that Reagan and I have perhaps the sharpest divisions between us of any two Presidential candidates in my lifetime. Also, his policies are a radical departure from those of [Gerald] Ford and [Richard] Nixon.
Jimmy Carter, writing about the significant political differences he (and his immediate predecessors who were actually Republicans) had with Ronald Reagan in his personal White House diary during the 1980 Presidential campaign, July 31, 1980