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Jul 19, 2004 5:49 am

Have Two Johns Ever Run on the Same Presidential Ticket Before?

Patrick Lyons, in the NYT (July 18, 2004):

TWO prominent lawyer-politicians named John, one from Massachusetts and the other from the Carolinas, seek their party's backing for president in a crowded field. The Southerner proves unexpectedly popular in other parts of the country, but when he fails to sweep the board in his own region, he drops out and runs for vice president instead.

Sound familiar? The year is 1824.

There are more parallels between the country's first John-John combination -- John Quincy Adams and John C. Calhoun -- and this year's Kerry-Edwards ticket. Both Calhoun and Edwards were born in small South Carolina towns and built reputations as persuasive orators; both Kerry and Adams accompanied their diplomat fathers to Europe as children, and struck their contemporaries as cool and cerebral.

Beyond such coincidences, though, the presidential race of 1824 bears little resemblance to today's. To start, the two Johns were not a party's ticket, selected to win over the public. In fact, there was only one national party, the Democratic-Republicans, and all four major presidential candidates were members, three of them sitting cabinet secretaries. Candidates were nominated state by state - by the legislatures or by caucuses of Congressmen - not nationally. The vice president was elected separately; after dropping out of the presidential race, Calhoun ran for vice president almost unopposed.

Of the 122 people who have ever received an electoral vote for vice president, 14 have been named John, more than any other -- 15 if you count Jack Kemp. Four have won, most recently John Garner in 1932 and 1936. Three Johns have been president -- the two Adamses and Kennedy -- but there have also been three Williams, and Jameses outnumber them both.

The track record for namesakes, though, augurs less well for this year's pair of Johns. National parties have run only two other same-name tickets, in 1864 (Georges) and 1916 (Charleses). Both challenged incumbents in years when war policy was a chief issue, and both went down to defeat.

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