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 campaigns"

No American has ever had more success as a Presidential candidate than Franklin D. Roosevelt and, barring a change in the Constitution, no one ever will.  After unseating incumbent President Herbert Hoover in 1932, FDR won one of the largest landslides in American history in 1936 against Kansas Governor Alf Landon.  In 1940, Roosevelt broke the unwritten two-term tradition set forth by George Washington and followed by all of Roosevelt’s predecessors to win an unprecedented third term.  In 1944, with the nation in the middle of World War II, FDR shot down questions about his clearly deteriorating health to win his fourth Presidential election.  Roosevelt died 82 days into his fourth and final term.  In each of Roosevelt’s Presidential election victories, FDR won a significant majority of the popular vote and four clear-cut landslides in the Electoral College.

Ironically, FDR — the most successful Presidential candidate in American history — also happens to be the only President to have lost a campaign for the VICE Presidency.  Throughout President Woodrow Wilson’s Administration, which included World War I, Roosevelt served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, a position that Roosevelt’s famous distant cousin, Theodore Roosevelt, had used as one of the springboards for his career.

Loyalty to President Wilson and Roosevelt’s own unique charisma and appeal made FDR a rising star in the Democratic Party.  At the 1920 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco, Ohio Governor James M. Cox emerged as a compromise Presidential nominee to the deadlocked Convention and the Democrats nominated the 38-year-old Roosevelt as Vice President.

FDR was a workhorse and campaigned tirelessly throughout the nation as an advocate for Cox as well as for the previous eight years of Democratic rule under the Wilson Administration.  The country, however, was ready for a change and drifted towards Cox’s opponent and fellow Ohioan, Senator Warren G. Harding.  Harding and his Vice President, Calvin Coolidge, defeated Cox and Roosevelt in November, but FDR had made an impact on the Americans who heard him speak during the hours and hours of speeches that he had given during his tens of thousands of miles of travel throughout the 1920 campaign.  The next time FDR was on a national ticket, the results were different.  With his name on top of the ballot, Franklin Delano Roosevelt would never lose another campaign again.

To this day, not only has a losing Vice Presidential candidate never been elected President, but only one losing Vice Presidential candidate besides FDR — 1976 Republican Vice Presidential nominee Bob Dole — has come back to even won his or her party’s nomination as President.

As Election Day 1916 approached, former New York Governor and Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes appeared to be heavily favored to defeat incumbent President Woodrow Wilson.  Wilson was so certain of his impending defeat that he decided that he would resign after Hughes won the election. 

President Wilson — who held a doctorate in government — felt that the transition period from Election Day (in November) until Inauguration Day (in March) was too long to have a lame duck President, particularly while World War I was getting underway in Europe.  In what would have been an unprecedented act, Wilson had decided that, in the event of a Hughes victory, he would appoint Hughes as Secretary of State.  Then Wilson would resign the Presidency and Vice President Thomas R. Marshall would also resign so that Hughes could immediately assume the Presidency.

On Election night, it appeared that was exactly what would happen.  Early returns showed a solid lead for Hughes and some outlets called the election for the man Theodore Roosevelt called “the bearded iceberg”.  As the night dragged on, though, and it became clear that California would go for President Wilson, the extraordinary plan that Wilson had hatched to prevent a lame duck President was relegated to the what-could-have-been pile. 

When a reporter called the Hughes campaign’s headquarters to get a reaction to the rapidly changing circumstances, an aide to Hughes said that candidate had gone to sleep and somewhat presumptuously added, “The President cannot be disturbed”.  The reporter said, “Well, when he wakes up, tell the President he isn’t President anymore”. 

By the next morning, Wilson had won re-election with a narrow victory in the popular vote and the Electoral College. Hughes later became Secretary of State under Presidents Harding and Coolidge and was appointed Chief Justice of the United States by President Hoover following the death of William Howard Taft.

I'm more of a lefty as well and I agree with your analysis. I'm curious though, who do you see as a winnable GOPer if Hills doesn't take too much of a nosedive from Obama's second term shortcomings? My gut tells me that Portman would be an excellent challenger, though I think his marriage equality support bc of his son is a liability for him on the natl stage with his base. Beyond that, there's not really any mainstreamers that have the fire and centrism that I think they need
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I don’t think any Republican can win a national election against Hillary Clinton. I think Jon Huntsman could give her a run for her money, but that would require Huntsman wrapping up the GOP nomination extremely early and the rest of the country getting to know him really well before the general election season kicks into gear. But that’s not going to happen. The GOP’s best chance — and I know that it isn’t exciting and it isn’t what most people want to see — is Jeb Bush. Or, even less exciting — Mitt Romney. I can’t imagine Romney running again unless Bush decides not to and the GOP is dying for someone who could give them a shot, but Romney is relatively undamaged for a guy who lost a Presidential election.

Interestingly, if Mitt Romney ran again in 2016, that might remove the problems Hillary is going to face about her age. A lot of people don’t realize this because he doesn’t seem to age, but Mitt Romney is actually over 7 months older than Hillary. If it was Hillary vs. Mitt, no matter what the outcome, the next President would be the second-oldest to ever be elected.

I definitely understand that thinking, but the longer that primary campaigns are drawn out, the more damage the eventual nominee takes from their own side that can be used against them in the general election. And, sometimes, when someone from the fringe launches a campaign, they get that taste for the Presidency, and might decide to launch a third-party challenge, which would siphon votes from the eventual nominee and could possibly swing a national election that would otherwise be a definite victory. Presidential campaigns — whether it is a primary campaign or the general election — are not the time to score points, no matter how important the issue might be. It’s harmful for the process and, honestly, it doesn’t really work because the campaign is always the story, not the issues, as strange as that might sound.

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.

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
Asker Anonymous Asks:
If Jeb Bush doesn't get the GOP nomination in 16, who do you think is the most likely to get it?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I don’t have a clue.  None of the other Republicans frequently mentioned as possible contenders for the nomination in 2016 have a chance at winning a Presidential election and I can’t even fathom how some of them could even be nominated.  If Jeb Bush doesn’t run, I can imagine the other candidates diminishing each other because of the size of the field and the lack of any standouts and just battling each other to a stalemate that results in a brokered convention.  I have no idea who would emerge victorious from that scenario, but it most likely wouldn’t be one of the main candidates going into the convention.  Honestly, if that happened, the GOP seriously would be better off organizing a Draft Mitt Romney movement and nominating him again.  If Jeb Bush doesn’t run, the Republicans are going to have a very rough 2016.

Have you read Hunter Thompson's Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail? If so what did you think?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ‘72 (BOOK | KINDLE) is awesome.  It’s one of the better campaign books out there, which is high praise because there are some GREAT campaign books, and might be the most purely entertaining campaign book.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Who do you think would've been the best Democratic nominee for President in 1976?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Jimmy Carter wasn’t a bad nominee — I mean, he did win the election — he just ended up being a failure as President.  You can’t really fault the Democrats for nominating Carter especially since, like I said, he actually won.

Looking back, it does seem crazy that the field of Democrats running for President in 1976 was so unimpressive, especially since the Democrats were facing a President in Gerald Ford who had been appointed to the Vice Presidency and assumed the Presidency following Nixon’s resignation.  The Republican Party was in disarray because of Watergate and President Ford was challenged for the GOP nomination by Ronald Reagan, which really hurt his campaign against Carter in 1976 and might have been a bigger reason for Ford’s loss than anything else.  Yet, Carter wasn’t really seriously challenged during his bid for the Democratic nomination even though he was a dark horse candidate.  Carter’s major rivals only had strength in certain regions and no broad support, so Carter appealed to way more Americans than people like George Wallace, Morris Udall, and Henry Jackson (who weren’t all that appealing in the first place).  Other Democratic hopefuls were Hubert H. Humphrey, who was dying, and California Governor Jerry Brown, who was 38 years old and had only been in office for a year.  Brown might have caused Carter some trouble — in fact, he won the California primary — but he jumped into the campaign WAY too late and never had a chance to make a dent in the huge delegate lead that Carter had already accumulated. 

The 1976 election is a fascinating one for many reasons and it’s definitely surprising that the Democrats didn’t have a more impressive field of contenders battling for the nomination in an election that was so winnable that a largely unknown one-term Governor of Georgia ended up as President.  Quite frankly, the talent roster of top-level Democrats simply wasn’t very deep in the 1970s.  Ted Kennedy was probably the most appealing possible Democratic Presidential candidate in 1976, but he was still on the sidelines because of Chappaquiddick.

I had a dream the other night. I dreamed that Jimmy Carter came to me and asked why I wanted his job. I told him I didn’t want his job…I want to be President.
Ronald Reagan, taking a shot at President Jimmy Carter, prior to the 1980 Republican National Convention in Detroit
OK - hypothetical; do you think, if Todd Lincoln had accepted the Republican nomination, along with Philip Sheridan as his Running mate that he'd had had a chance at being President in 1880?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

The 1880 election was still pretty early — Robert Todd Lincoln was only 37 in 1880 and didn’t serve as Secretary of War until 1881-1885.  I think 1884 was probably the first time his name was seriously brought up (by other Republicans — Lincoln said he’d refuse the nomination every time it was suggested).

With that said, even at 37 and without much experience, his name probably would have carried him to a victory in 1880 if he had run for President — with or without General Sheridan, who was just as reluctant to accept a nomination as Lincoln was and General Sherman was.  Garfield was a dark horse candidate who surprisingly won the 1880 Republican nomination and still routed the Democratic nominee, Winfield Scott Hancock, in the Electoral College (Garfield’s actually only won the popular vote by about 2,000 votes.  The Lincoln name — that close to Lincoln’s assassination and with the chance of extending the Lincoln legacy — probably would have overcome any of Robert Todd Lincoln’s relative inexperience if he did run in 1880.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Do presidential candidates really get security while doing the campaign?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Yes, “major” Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates within a certain timeframe of the election.  There isn’t any specific “definition” of “major candidates”, but it’s usually the most visible candidates, or the leading candidates, and, of course, the nominees after the Convention.  Sometimes Secret Service protection of certain candidates will be ordered earlier if there are specific threats and it’s believed that protection should be provided.

The Secret Service began protecting candidates after the assassination of Bobby Kennedy in Los Angeles following his victory in California’s Democratic primary in 1968 and after Alabama Governor George Wallace was shot five times and nearly killed while campaigning for President in Maryland in 1972.