United States Elections: Presidential Elections (1928)


Figure 1.--Secretsary of Commerce Herbert Hoover on the back of economic properity scored an overwealming electoral victory in 1928. Protestant attitudes toward Catholics made it a landslide. Secretary Hoover received 21.4 million (58 percent) popular votes and a commanding 444 electoral votes. Here we see President-elect Hoover and Mrs. Hoover. Mr. Hoover became a tenderfoot among the ranks of Boy Scouts of America pictured on the lawn of their vacation home at Belle Isle, Florida. The press photo was taken February 20, 1929. At the times there were over 5 months between election day and a new president's inaguration. It did not make much different at the time. The 5 month gap after the 1932 election proved to be a matter of considerable concern.

President Coolidge was very popular and could have easily secured the Republican nomination. He decided, however, not to run. This threw the Republican nomination wide open. The Republicas at Kansas City nominated Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover. The Democrats with little optimism nominated long-time candidate Governor Al Smith of New York. He was thec first Catholic nominated by a major party and this became a major issue in the Democratic stringhold of the South. The Republicans in the early 20th century were the najority party. Ans short of asplit in the Party or a major scandal, the Republicans were the odds on favorite. Economic prosperity made a Republican victory a virtual foregone conclussion. Secretary Hoover set the tone of the campaign in his acceptance speech, "We in America today are nearer to the final triumph over poverty than ever before in the history of this land... We shall soon with the help of God be in sight of the day when poverty will be banished from this land." In the end it was the economic properity that led to Hoover's victory. Protestant attitudes toward Catholics made it a landslide. Secretary Hoover received 21.4 million (58 percent) popular votes and a commanding 444 electoral votes. Governor Smith received only 15 million popular votes (41 percent) and 87 electoral votes. Smith managed to carry only Rhode Island and Massachsetts and the Deep South. Several Southern states like Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina for the first time since Reconstruction went Republican. Here Smith's Catholcism hurt him badly. And his home state of New York went Republican. Desguised in the landslide was the fact that the Democrats carried most large northern industrial cities. One of the few Democratic bright spots was thec election of Franklin Roosevelt to replace Govenor Smith in New York.

President Coolidge Decides Not to Run (August 1927)

President Coolidge proved to be a very popular president. The Republican nomination was his for the asking. Very few presidenbts have been denied the nomintionof their party for a second term. And Coolidge was a popular president. The President was perhaps best known for a dry Yankee wit. Unlike msny presidents, he was not verbose. His short, terse statements became legendary. Mrs. Coolidge delighted in telling a story about a bubbly young woman sitting next to the President at a dinner party. She explined to the President that she had made a bet that she could get at least three words out of him in conversation. He didn't blink an eye and replied, "You lose." Few presidents had turned down a sure second term. It is unclear when and why Collidge decided aginst a second term. Coolidge never explained his decesion. Historians speculate about why he decided not to run. Some have posited that economists had warned him that there were potential economic problems developing and he did not want to have to be the president to deal with them. That sounds far fethched, but it is possible. A more plausible explnation is personal issues. Coolidge had known personal tragedy as youth. Some relatives died while he was quite young. This included his mother and sister. And his younger son, Calvin, died of blood poisoning at the White House (1924). Although given his laconic personality, it was difficvult to tell, his son's death had a deep impact on him. One author write,'part of him seemed to die at the same time'. Some believed it was at this time that he decided not to seek a second term, although he did not announce his decesion at that time. While vacationing in the Black Hills of South Dakota, he issued the most famous of his famous laconic statements (August 2, 1927). It read simply, "I do not choose to run for President in 1928." Most Republicans were startled. They were sure that he was going to run. This suddenly threw the Republican nomination wide open. Some authors believe that he secretly hoped that the Party would demand that he would run again. Most Republicans, however, accepted his announcement and the race was on. Some organized a draft Coolidge effort and because of the President's populrity, he had to acytively discourage it.

Republican Nomination

The Republican's main theme since The Wilson years and World War I was economic prosperity and the 1920s had been one of the most prosperous decades in American history, except on the farm belt. Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover could legitimately claim a role in achieving that prosperity. He was well known to the American public as a result of his World War I relief work. Hoover did not, however, prove to be a very effective campigner. He achieved lackluster results in the primaries (California, Oregon, New Jersey, and Michigan). It was The Convention, however, that selected the candidate as only a few states had primaries. Hoover encountered relatively little opposition, although former Illinois Governor Frank O. Lowden and Senate Majority Leader Charles Curtis were hopeful. The divisions of the 1910s had created adesire in the party to seek consensus. Influetial Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon endorsed him. This brought along the Pennsylvania delegation and the nomination. Secretary Hoover was nominated on the first ballot at the Kansas City Convention. Hoover threw the vice presidential nomination to the Convention. After President Coolidge prevented the renomination of Vice President Dawes who he despised, the Conventiin nominated Senator Curtis of Kansas.

Democratic Nomination

The Democratic Party on the other hand was deeply divided. The basic division was the progressive northern Democrats and the conservative southern Democrats. The leading figure in the Party at the time was New York Govenor Al Smith. He had been a leading contender in 1920 and 1924, but was defeated by the southern wing of the party. The Democrats assembled in Houston, Texas, but with the roaring economy few Democrats were optimistic about their chances. The Ku Klux Klan, an important force in the South, distributed literature charging that Smith would turn over America to the Pope. This time Smith won the nomination on the second ballot. The early victory was a measure of the Party's assessment that the Republicans would almost certainly win the election. He thus became the first Roman Catholic nominated by a major party. To placate the southern delegates, Senate Minority Leader Joseph Robinson of Arkansas was nominated for vice president. This was one of the most awkward tickets since the earky years of the Republic. Governor Smith was a big city Catholic progressive who opposed Prohibition. Senator Robinson was a conservative Protestant who was commited to temperance.

Campaign

The Republicans in the early 20th century were the najority party. Ans short of asplit in the Party or a major scandal, the Republicans were the odds on favorite. Economic prosperity made a Republican victory a virtual foregone conclussion. Secretary Hoover set the tone of the campaign in his acceptance speech, "We in America today are nearer to the final triumph over poverty than ever before in the history of this land... We shall soon with the help of God be in sight of the day when poverty will be banished from this land." Hoover campaigned primarily on economic issues. Hoover's most mmorable slogan was "A chicken in every pot and a car in every garage." The major issues in the campaign, howver, became religion and prohibition. Hoover did not take up the religion issues. The Klan and Protestant groups did. They charged that Smith was going to make Catholocism the national religion. This was widely believed throughout the Bible belt. Smith did not openly oppose prohibition, but he was widely seen as not supporting it. He argued against it and Hoover wanted it continued. The campaign was notable for the role of radio, For the first time radio was an important force. Radio existed earlier, but by 1928 most Americans had radio sets and radio had reached the big time. Radio and movie newsreels in many ways made this the first truly modern campaign. Smith was gennerally viewed as an excellent campaigner in person. He was known in the Party as the "Happy Warrior". He did not, however, have a good radio voice. Here Hoover did better.

Election Results

In the end it was the economic properity that led to Hoover's victory. Protestant attitudes toward Catholics made it a landslide. Secretary Hoover received 21.4 million (58 percent) popular votes and a commanding 444 electoral votes. Governor Smith received only 15 million popular votes (41 percent) and 87 electoral votes. Smith managed to carry only Rhode Island and Massachsetts and the Deep South. Several Southern states like Virginia, Tennessee, and North Carolina for the first time since Reconstruction went Republican. Here Smith's Catholcism hurt him badly. And his home state of New York went Republican. Desguised in the landslide was the fact that the Democrats carried most large northern industrial cities. One of the few Democratic bright spots was thec election of Franklin Roosevelt to replace Govenor Smith in New York.









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Created: 2:51 AM 6/3/2007
Last updated: 7:14 AM 3/5/2010