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 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.
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.
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. Smith was the foremost urban politician in America. While no longer a majority, the rural population was still very important. He was the leader of the Efficiency Movement in the United States. The was noted for the wide range of progressive reforms he had achieved during the 1920s. He was the son of an Irish-American mother and a Civil War veteran father. He was born in a tenament and grew up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. e 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.
The Republicans in the early-20th century were the majority party. And short of a split in the Party or a major scandal, the Republicans were the odds on favorite to win the election. 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 memorable slogan was "A chicken in every pot [chicken at the time was more expensive than beef] and a car in every garage." The major issues in the campaign, however, became religion and prohibition which is interesting because the United states and the world were on the precupise of economic disaster. Hoover to his credit did not take up the religion issues. The Klan. Protestant. and pro-Prohibition groups did. They charged through tracts and pamphlets that Smith was a drunk and labeled him the 'cocktail president'. And they denounced his Catholic faith as 'the Mother of ignorance, superstition, intolerance and sin. They charged that Gov. Smith was going to make Catholocism the national religion. Fake news is not a new phenomenon. And this was widely believed throughout the Bible belt--the hard core center of the Democratic Party. Littlke duittues like, "When the Catholics rule the United States, And the Jew grows a Christian nose on his face, When the Pope is the head of the Ku Klux Klan In the land of Uncle Sam Then Al Smith will be our President And the country not worth a damn," were par for the course. Smith did not make a major issue out of prohibition, but it was widely known as opposing it. Hoover wanted it to continue, but argued that there needed to be changes. Smith had achieved progressive reforms in New York, but his conservtive econonmic views mean that even among progessives he did not generate much enthusiasm. And his opposition to oprohibition and his Catholcism hurt him badly in the South. Smoth campaign strategy was to win his home state and put together the solid south with enough othr states to win. To ensure a victory in New York he wanted Franklin Roosevelt to run for govenor. Roosevelt was reluctant, seeing 1928 as a Reoublican year, but eventually persuaded him. 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 who was a less effective campaigner in person did better.
In the end it was the economic properity that led to Hoover's victory. The resuklt was no suroprise, the enormity of Hoover;s vicory was. 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 even his home state of New York went Republican. Smith was stunned not only by the enormjity of his loss, but the bitterness of the campaign. 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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