What the GOP Should Know NOW About Warren G. Harding’s Presidential Win in 1920

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tags: election 2016, Warren G Harding



Ronald Radosh is an Adjunct Fellow at the Hudson Institute and a columnist for PJ Media. He and Allis Radosh are the co-authors of A Safe Haven: Harry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel. They are currently working on a book about the presidency of Warren G. Harding.

There is a good chance the GOP will hold a contested convention in July. If that happens and no candidate obtains the necessary 1,237 votes on the first ballot, the delegates will be released and will be free to vote as they please on subsequent ones. As the balloting continues, if neither Ted Cruz nor Donald Trump is able to reach the magic number, a deadlock could result prompting the delegates to turn to John Kasich, or to draft someone else.

Scott Sipprelle has made the case in Observer for Mr. Kasich to win along these lines, pointing out that contested conventions have happened before, with the eventual victory going to a candidate other than the frontrunner. He gives as his example the nomination of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, whom he writes was “a long-shot Republican presidential contender,” but who won on the third ballot.

An even better example, analogous to the situation facing the GOP today, was the contested Republican Convention of 1920, which nominated Ohio Senator Warren G. Harding on the tenth ballot. Ten Republicans were seeking the prize. Leading the pack were two prominent figures: General Leonard Wood and Frank O. Lowden of Illinois. Mr. Wood rode with Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders in Cuba and had been Governor General of the Philippines and Military Governor of Cuba. He also was a physician who took care of both President Grover Cleveland and President William McKinley. Mr. Lowden had been Governor of Illinois, and was considered by many to be the strongest candidate. The two were evenly matched going into the convention.

Among those running were prominent men including mining engineer and head of European war relief during the Wilson administration, Herbert Hoover; the president of Columbia University, Nicholas Murray Butler; Gov. Calvin Coolidge of Massachusetts, and Senator Miles Poindexter of Washington. Teddy Roosevelt, who had been expected to be the Party’s nominee, suddenly died in January of 1919, prompting aspiring candidates to claim his mantle. General Wood was one of them but so was the progressive Senator from California, Hiram Johnson, who claimed he was the only candidate who would carry on T.R.’s fight. Observers considered Mr. Johnson a more than likely victor if the frontrunners were deadlocked. Mr. Johnson, however, was far on the left of the political spectrum, and many Republicans attacked him as virtually a Red.

When Warren Harding declared his candidacy on December 19, 1919, few paid attention, considering Mr. Harding to be more than a long shot. But Mr. Harding had an advantage. Then, as now, Ohio was considered the one state which the presidential candidate had to win if he was to become president. By 1920, Ohio, already nicknamed the “mother of presidents,” had given the nation seven presidents, most recently William McKinley and William Howard Taft. ...




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