Past Campaigns: Eugene Debs Runs for President - From a Prison Cell

One of the most interesting and likeable third-party candidates for President was Eugene Victor Debs, a labor leader who ran for President four times under the banner of the American Social Democratic Party. Debs was one of the founders the party. He was the Socialist Party's candidate for president in 1904, 1908, 1912, and 1920. The final time he ran his campaign from a prison cell in Atlanta where he was known as Convict 9653.

Eugene Victor "Gene" Debs was born on November 5, 1855 in Terre Haute, Indiana. As a young man he worked in the railroad industry, first as a painter and car cleaner. In December 1871 he left the railroad yards for work on the railways as a locomotive fireman. In July 1875, he left to work at a wholesale grocery house, where he remained for the next four years, attending a local business school at night. Debs had joined the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen (BLF) in February 1875 and became active in this fraternal benefit organization. He rose through the ranks of the union and in 1880 he was appointed Grand Secretary and Treasurer of the BLF.

At the same time, he became a prominent figure in the community. He served two terms as Terre Haute's city clerk from September 1879 to September 1883. In the fall of 1884, he was elected to the Indiana General Assembly as a Democrat, serving for one term. Debs was instrumental in the founding of the American Railway Union (ARU), one of the nation's first industrial unions. After workers at the Pullman Palace Car Company organized a wildcat strike over pay cuts in the summer of 1894, Debs signed many into the union. He called for a boycott of the ARU against handling trains with Pullman cars, in what became the nationwide Pullman Strike, affecting most lines west of Detroit, and more than 250,000 workers in 27 states. To keep the mail running, President Grover Cleveland used the United States Army to break the strike. As a leader of the ARU, Debs was convicted of federal charges for defying a court injunction against the strike and served six months in prison.

Debs read the works of Karl Marx and learned about socialism in prison, emerging to launch his career as the nation's most prominent Socialist in the first decades of the 20th century.


Debs had a significant following in each of his elections. In his showing in the 1904 election, Debs received 402,810 votes, which was 2.98% of the popular vote. Debs received no electoral votes and finished third overall. In the 1908 election, Debs received a slightly higher number of votes in the popular vote, 420,852, but as lesser percentage (2.83%) of the popular vote. Again Debs received no electoral votes. In 1912, Debs received 5.99% of the popular vote (a total of 901,551 votes).

On April 4, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson received strong bipartisan support for a declaration of war by the United States against Germany. It was signed by Wilson on April 6, 1917. But the nation's entry into the war was not universally accepted. Antiwar groups, anarchists, communists, Industrial Workers of the World members, and other antiwar groups began to voice their opposition. Many of these groups were targeted by Wilson's Department of Justice. Wilson established the United States Committee on Public Information, headed by George Creel, (also known as the "Creel Commission"), which circulated patriotic anti-German appeals and conducted censorship of materials considered seditious.

To further combat disloyalty to the war effort at home, Wilson pressured Congress to pass the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918 to suppress anti-British, pro-German, or anti-war statements. He called for the arrest and deportment of foreign-born enemies. Many recent immigrants or resident aliens without U.S. citizenship, who opposed America's participation in the war, were deported to Russia or other nations under the powers granted in the Immigration Act of 1918. The Espionage Act of 1917 made it a crime to interfere with the war effort or with military recruitment or to attempt to aid a nation at war with the U.S.

The act was opposed in the Senate, almost entirely from Republicans, but from both wings of the party. Henry Cabot Lodge called the legislation an attack on free speech. Hiram Johnson criticized Wilson for failing to use the laws already in place. Former president Theodore Roosevelt voiced opposition as well. Despite the criticism from such notable figures, the final vote for passage was 48 to 26 in the Senate and 293 to 1 in the House of Representatives, with the sole dissenting vote in the House cast by Meyer London of New York. The legislation came late in the war, just a few months before Armistice Day, and prosecutions under the provisions of the Sedition Act were few.

The Sedition Act of 1918 extended the Espionage Act of 1917 to cover a broader range of offenses, notably speech and the expression of opinion that cast the government or the war effort in a negative light or interfered with the sale of government bonds. The Sedition Act of 1918 prohibited the use of "disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language" about the United States government, its flag, or its armed forces or that caused others to view the American government or its institutions with contempt. Those convicted under the act generally received sentences of imprisonment for five to 20 years. The act also allowed the Postmaster General to refuse to deliver mail that met those same standards for punishable speech or opinion. Though the legislation enacted in 1918 is commonly called the Sedition Act, it was actually a set of amendments to the Espionage Act.

One of the most famous prosecutions under this legislation concerned Debs, who was the Socialist Party leader and its prospective presidential candidate. In June of 1918, Debs was arrested for violating the Sedition Act by undermining the government's conscription efforts. He was sentenced to ten years in prison. He served his sentence in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary from April 13, 1919, until December 1921, when President Warren Harding commuted Debs' sentence to time served, effective on December 25, Christmas Day.

Debs and the Socialists opposed the war, and especially the draft. They saw the war in terms of class struggle, one in which poor men went off to die in wars so that rich men could prosper. Wilson and leading members of his cabinet were able to convince Congress to pass the Sedition Act, legislation that drastically limited what critics of the war were able to say. Government censors were able to shut down the socialist message using post office censorship and arrest of those advocating open resistance to the draft and other opposition to the war, often on questionable or spurious grounds. At first Debs was able to avoid arrest, but as public pressure mounted from supporters of the war, Debs was arrested following a speech he made in Cleveland. Author Ernest Freeburg in his book Democracy's Prisoner: Eugene V. Debs, The Great War and the Right to Dissent, (reviwed here in this community) argues that one must contort what Debs actually said to find it offensive to the law.

A remarkable aspect of the story of Eugene V. Debs is how the Socialist leader was able to win the respect of the wardens of both institutions that he was incarcerated in, as well as of the inmates, even though political dissenters were considered to be a lower caste in the prison system at the time. Debs was described in near-sainted terms and was allowed to work in the prison hospital and afforded liberties not offered to other inmates. Remarkably, he was even allowed to run for President as the nominee for the Socialist Party in the 1920 election, while still bearing the label "Convict 9653".

It was in 1920, when Debs was an inmate in an Atlanta federal prison, that Debs received his greatest number of votes, 913,693. He never won a single electoral vote in any of the elections, but was a very popular inmate, loved both by inmates and prison staff. According to historian David Pietrusza, in his wonderful book 1920: The Year of Six Presidents, Debs was a very kind man who organized a number of programs for the health and welfare of the other inmates. Pietrusza describes Debs in saint-like terms. The Warden appreciated how Debs was able to pacify and help the other inmates. He gratefully accommodated Debs' campaigning from his prison cell. When Debs was released from the Atlanta Penitentiary, the other prisoners sent him off with "a roar of cheers" and a crowd of 50,000 greeted his return to Terre Haute to the accompaniment of band music.

President Warren G. Harding commuted Debs sentence to one of time served so that Debs could be released in time for Christmas of 1921. Harding did not issue a pardon. The White House released a statement saying this about Debs' case:

"There is no question of his guilt....He was by no means as rabid and outspoken in his expressions as many others, and but for his prominence and the resulting far-reaching effect of his words, very probably might not have received the sentence he did. He is an old man, not strong physically. He is a man of much personal charm and impressive personality, which qualifications make him a dangerous man calculated to mislead the unthinking and affording excuse for those with criminal intent."

On the way home to Terre Haute, Debs was warmly received at the White House by President Harding, who greeted him by saying: "Well, I've heard so damned much about you, Mr. Debs, that I am now glad to meet you personally."


In 1924, Debs was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by the Finnish Socialist Karl H. Wiik on the grounds that "Debs started to work actively for peace during World War I, mainly because he considered the war to be in the interest of capitalism." But by the time of his release, Debs' health was not so good. In the fall of 1926, Debs was admitted to Lindlahr Sanitarium in Elmhurst, Illinois where he died of heart failure on October 20, 1926, at the age of 70.

Advocates of the right to free speech owe much to Eugene Victor Debs.

Potus Geeks Book Review: Washington's End by Jonathan Horn

For many of George Washington's biographers, the years between the end of Washington's presidency and his death are glossed over and seen as one of the least interesting times in the life of the great man. Author and former presidential speechwriter Jonathan Horn disagrees. He has devoted an entire volume to the last three years of Washington's life. In his 2020 book Washington's End: The Final Years and Forgotten Struggle, Horn picks up where many books about Washington leave off: the inauguration of John Adams, and more importantly, Washington's exit from the political stage and into what Washington had hoped would be a happy and relaxing retirement.


As Horn points out, when one is as iconic and legendary as George Washington was, retirement was easier said than done. Although the revolution had been over for more than a decade, the times were still precarious. As much as we may think that politics are polarized today, things weren't all that different in the years following Washington's exit from the presidency. Political divisions continued between the Federalists led by Alexander Hamilton and the Republicans (also known in what now seems like schizophrenic terminology as Democrats) led by Thomas Jefferson. John Adams, though technically and ideologically a Federalist, faced disloyalty from his cabinet, and was despised by his both fellow Federalist Hamilton and his former friend Jefferson, as he tried to steer a middle course between those who wanted an alliance with France and those who wanted war with their former ally.

Horn provides wonderful insight into Washington's character: opinionated, but at the same time very reserved. Others were always trying to bring him into disputes and add his gravitas to their side, some like Hamilton more successfully than others. When John Adams decided to beef up the army in the midst of the "quasi-war", he reluctantly concluded that Washington must be its leader, and Horn tells the story of the behind-the-scenes battle to determine who would become the army's second in command (and de facto leader) the experienced Henry Knox, or the ambitious Hamilton. He also offers gives the reader a picture of who the others in Washington's household at Mount Vernon were: the dutiful, wise and likeable former first lady Martha Custis Washington, their grandchildren Eleanor Parke Custis (Nelly) and the unambitious George Washington Parke Custis (Wash), his troubled secretary Tobias Lear, and Eliza Powell, a favorite correspondent of Washington's, who liked to tease him in her letters.

One of the most interesting parts of the book is Horn's account of Washington's sudden and unexpected death, and especially the primitive medical practices that were used to try to "heal" Washington, including bleeding him of about five pints of blood. Even after Washington had passed away, one doctor claimed that a warm bath and an transfusion of lamb's blood might bring Washington back to life.

no title

This is a well researched and well written account of an overlooked period in the life of Washington, followed by an account of how the city that bore his name developed after his passing. Horn has a good style of writing, with vivid descriptions of events, giving the reader a strong sense of the mood of the times and the personalities of the players. He does so thoroughly, but without unnecessary verbiage, managing to give a complete picture of Washington's final years in just 225 pages. Even the hard to please first president would approve of what Horn has accomplished in this work. Tis well.

Past Campaigns: Mondale or Hart in '84?

When Ronald Reagan began his first term in office in 1981, he faced a sickly economy with the triple whammy of high rates of interest, inflation and unemployment. At first it looked as if things would get worse for the economy and that Reagan would be a one term president. Reagan's popularity increased after he survived an assassination attempt in March, just 69 days into his term, and established a reputation for toughness when he ended an air traffic controllers strike by threatening to fire any of the union members who refused to return to work. As the economy recovered, many credited Reagan's lowering of income tax rates and his supply side economics, though many were suspicious and doubtful that Reagan's policies were the reason for the recovery. When Reagan ran for re-election in 1984, his campaign spin doctors proclaimed that it was "morning in America" and that Americans were better off now than they had been four years earlier.

A number of candidates fought for the chance to win the Democratic Party's nomination for President and the chance to oppose Reagan. These included former Mercury astronaut and current Ohio Senator John Glenn, former U.S. senator and 1972 Democratic nominee George McGovern, Florida Governor, Reubin Askew, California Senator Alan Cranston and South Carolina Senator Ernest Hollings. But only three candidates actually won any state primaries: former Vice-President Walter Mondale, Colorado Senator Gary Hart, and Civil Rights leader Jesse Jackson.

Mondale was seen as the front runner for nomination. He had the greatest number of party leaders supporting him, and he had raised more money than any other candidate. But his road to the nomination would not be an easy one thanks to both Jackson and Hart. Jackson was the second African-American (after Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm) to mount a nationwide campaign for the presidency, and he was the first African-American candidate to be considered to be a serious contender. He received 3.5 million votes during the primaries, finishing third behind Hart and Mondale. He won primaries or caucuses in the District of Columbia, South Carolina, and Louisiana, and split Mississippi, where there were two separate contests for Democratic delegates.During the campaign, however, Jackson referred to Jews as "Hymies" and New York City as "Hymietown" in remarks he thought were off the record, but which apparently weren't. He later apologized for the remarks, but they were widely publicized, and derailed his campaign for the nomination. Jackson ended up winning 21% of the national primary vote but received only 8% of the delegates to the national convention. He was critical of Mondale, and said that Hubert Humphrey was the "last significant politician out of Minnesota.

Hart announced his run February 1983. He barely received above 1% in the polls, but he started campaigning early in New Hampshire. This strategy attracted national media attention to his campaign, and by late 1983, he had risen in the polls, mostly at the expense of John Glenn and Alan Cranston. Mondale easily won the Iowa caucus in late January, but Hart finished second, polling better than expected with 16%. Two weeks later, in the New Hampshire primary, he surprised everyone by defeating Mondale by ten percentage points.

Hart's victory in New Hampshire made him the main challenger to Mondale for the nomination. He criticized Mondale, stating that he symbolized the "failed policies" of the past. Hart portrayed himself as a younger, fresher, and more moderate Democrat and claimed that he could appeal to younger voters. He won the key contests in Ohio and California primaries. But Hart could not overcome Mondale when it came to fund-raising. Mondale had support among labor union leaders in the Midwest and industrial Northeast. Hart stumbled during a televised debate when Mondale mocked Hart's vague "New Ideas" that he campaigned on in his commercials. Turning to Hart on camera, Mondale said that whenever he heard Hart talk about his "New Ideas", he was reminded of the Wendy's fast-food slogan "Where's the beef?" The remark drew laughter and applause from the audience. More importantly, Mondale had established the idea in many voters' minds that Hart's "New Ideas" were shallow and lacked specifics.

In the same debate, Hart looked foolish when he was asked what he would do if an unidentified airplane flew over the Iron Curtain from a Warsaw Pact nation, and replied that he'd send up a United States Air Force plane and instruct them to determine whether or not it was an enemy plane by looking in the cockpit window to see if the pilots were wearing uniforms. John Glenn, a former Marine Corps fighter pilot, replied that this was physically impossible.

Mondale gradually pulled away from Hart in the delegate count. In June delegates from five states were on the line: South Dakota, New Mexico, West Virginia, California and New Jersey. The proportional nature of delegate selection meant that Mondale was likely to obtain enough delegates from these states to secure the stated support of an overall majority of delegates. Hart maintained that unpledged delegates that had previously said that they supported Mondale would shift to his side if he swept these primaries. Campaigning in California, Hart told his audience that while the "bad news" was that he and his wife Lee had to campaign separately, "the good news for her is that she campaigns in California while I campaign in New Jersey." His wife told the crowd that she "got to hold a koala bear," and Hart replied that "I won't tell you what I got to hold: samples from a toxic-waste dump." While Hart won California, but his remarks offended voters in New Jersey. He lost that state, squandering a 15 point lead in the polls.

When the Democratic Convention opened in San Francisco on July 16, Mondale had more than enough delegates to win the nomination. Mondale received 2,191 votes, while Hart received 1,200.5 and Jackson finished third with 465.5. When he made his acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention, Mondale told the crowd: "Let's tell the truth. Mr. Reagan will raise taxes, and so will I. He won't tell you. I just did." Mondale's goal was to expose Reagan as a hypocrite and portray himself as the honest candidate. The strategy may have backfired, because it let voters know that if they voted for him, their taxes would increase.

Mondale chose U.S. Rep. Geraldine A. Ferraro of New York as his running mate and she was confirmed by acclamation. Ferraro became the first woman nominated for that position by a major party.

Mondale ran a liberal campaign. He told voters that he supported a nuclear freeze and the Equal Rights Amendment. He criticized Reagan's economic policies and pledged to reduce federal budget deficits.

Ferraro's choice was popular within the Democratic party, but according to polls taken on the subject, only 22% of women were excited about her selection, while 18% said that it was a "bad idea". 60% of all voters thought that pressure from women's groups had led to Mondale's decision, while 22% who believed that he had chosen the best available candidate. Some in the Roman Catholic Church criticized Ferraro, a Catholic, for being pro-choice on abortion. In the middle of the campaign, Ferraro also allegations that her husband, John Zaccaro, was involved in organized crime, pornography distribution, and campaign contribution violations. Ferraro responded to these allegations against her husband by releasing her family tax-returns to the media on August 21, 1984.

The Reagan campaign was produced a series of effective television ads, including one known as "Bear in the woods" (which left the impression that Reagan was better suited to deal with the Russian "bear") and "Morning in America" (which reminded Americans how they were better off under his presidency than they had been under the team of Jimmy Carter and Mondale.

At this point, the seventy-three year old Reagan was the oldest president to have ever served in that office and there were many questions about his capacity to endure the grueling demands of the presidency, particularly after Reagan had a poor showing in his first debate with Mondale on October 7. At one point he talked about going to church "here in Washington", although the debate was in Louisville, Kentucky, and he referred to military uniforms as "wardrobe". But in the next debate on October 21, Reagan looked more alert and better prepared. He joked "I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience." Mondale himself laughed at the remark and later admitted that Reagan had effectively neutralized the age issue. He candidly remarked, after the election, "If TV can tell the truth, as you say it can, you'll see that I was smiling. But I think if you come in close, you'll see some tears coming down because I knew he had gotten me there. That was really the end of my campaign that night, I think. I told my wife the campaign was over, and it was."

Reagan was re-elected in the November 6 election in an electoral and popular vote landslide. He won 49 states, all but Mondale's home state of Minnesota and the District of Columbia. Reagan won a record 525 electoral votes total (of 538 possible), and received 58.8 percent of the popular vote. Despite Ferraro's selection, 55% of women who voted did so for Reagan, according to exit polls, and he received over 54% of the Catholic vote, the highest for a Republican candidate in history.

Past Campaigns: Thomas Dewey's First Run for the White House

In 1944, as the Second World War was into its fifth year, many expected that Franklin Delano Roosevelt's presidency was coming to a close, as they hoped the war was. Although Roosevelt was only 62 years old, he looked much older. The war and the other pressures he was under had taken their toll on him physically. Many were shocked when four years earlier he had run for a third term as President, breaking an as yet unwritten rule set by George Washington to limit the office to a maximum of two terms. As he had been in 1940, Roosevelt was coy about his plans.

no title

Roosevelt had been a chain-smoker throughout his entire adult life, and signs of his declining physical health began to show as early as 1940. In March 1944, shortly after his 62nd birthday, he underwent testing at Bethesda Hospital and was found to have high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, coronary artery disease causing angina pectoris, and congestive heart failure. Hospital physicians and two outside specialists ordered Roosevelt to rest. His personal physician, Admiral Ross McIntire, set up a daily schedule for the President that banned business guests for lunch and scheduled two hours of rest each day.

A poll was taken by the father of political polling, George Gallup, in 1943 which suggested that if the war was over by the time the election came, the Republican candidate would command a strong lead, but if the war was still raging on, FDR would win. That seemed like a strange dynamic. But nevertheless Roosevelt let it be known that he would be running for re-election in November of 1944. Roosevelt faced no serious opposition for his party's nomination. With the country's active involvement in World War II and the resulting need for stable leadership, these concerns seemed to trump any issue about his remaining in office for four more years. Some Southern delegates who were opposed to Roosevelt's racial policies tried to draft Virginia senator Harry F. Byrd to run for the nomination, but Byrd decided against actively campaigning against the President. Roosevelt won the nomination easily.

The real issue at the Democratic convention was who FDR's running mate would be. Delegates realized that there was a good chance that Roosevelt would not live out another term in office, and that they weren't just choosing a Vice-Presidential candidate, but quite possibly the next President. Henry Wallace had been elected Vice President in 1940. He was very popular with rank and file Democratic voters, but conservative Party leaders, such as James F. Byrnes, strongly opposed his renomination. They regarded Wallace as being too far to the left, too "progressive" and too friendly to labor to be next in line for the Presidency. A number of party bosses wanted to keep Wallace off the ticket. They privately told Roosevelt that they would fight Wallace's renomination. One of the candidates who had the support of the bosses as well as Roosevelt himself was Missouri Senator Harry S. Truman. Truman had entered the Senate in January 1935 with a reputation as "the senator from Pendergast" (named for the Missouri political boss Tom Pendergast that many believed Truman was in the pocket of). Truman had rehabilitated his reputation when he became the chairman of a Senate investigating committee investigating waste and corruption in war costs. Roosevelt personally liked Wallace, but he agreed to accept Truman as his new running mate to preserve party unity.

Roosevelt traveled to the South Pacific in order to discuss military strategy with General Douglas MacArthur, and avoided attending the convention. At the convention, many delegates refused to abandon Wallace. In the first ballot, Wallace led with 429.5 votes and Truman got 319.5 votes. But Wallace was 159.5 votes short of a majority. The party leaders went to work on the delegates, and Truman won the second ballot by 1031 votes to 105. This would have tremendous historic consequences as FDR died in April 1945, and Truman, not Wallace, thus became the nation's 33rd President.

no title

As 1944 began, the front runners for the Republican nomination appeared to be Wendell Willkie, the party's 1940 nominee, Senator Robert A. Taft of Ohio, the leader of the party's conservative wing, and New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey, the leader of the party's moderate eastern establishment. General Douglas MacArthur, then serving as an Allied commander in the Pacific theater of the war, and former Minnesota Governor Harold Stassen, then serving as a U.S. naval officer in the Pacific were also considered for the nomination. Taft surprised many by announcing that he would not seek the nomination. He threw his support behind fellow conservative, Governor John W. Bricker of Ohio. Willkie also withdraw as a candidate after performing poorly in the primaries. He died suddenly in early October 1944, without endorsing anyone for president. At the 1944 Republican National Convention in Chicago, Illinois, Dewey was nominated for president on the first ballot and he chose the conservative Bricker as his running mate.

In the general election the Republicans campaigned against the New Deal. They called for a smaller government and a less-regulated economy, arguing that the end of the war was in sight. But Roosevelt's continuing popularity seemed to be an insurmountable obstacle to victory for the GOP. To counter this, the Republicans made an issue out of FDR's poor health. FDR was looking very run down and rumors of his poor health were spreading. His weight loss and haggard appearance was apparent to all, both within his party and among his opponents. His hands shook so badly that Harry Truman recalled that Roosevelt was unable to make his own coffee.

During the 1944 re-election campaign, FDR's physician, Admiral Ross McIntire, denied several times that Roosevelt's health was poor, even though he knew that this was not the case. On October 12, for example, he announced that "The President's health is perfectly OK. There are absolutely no organic difficulties at all." Roosevelt knew that his declining health could eventually make it impossible for him to continue as president, and he privately told a confidant that he might resign from the presidency following the end of the war. To avoid being seen in public, Roosevelt spoke on radio quite often. He used war planning as an excuse to avoid public appearances. While preparing to oversee a military exercise at San Diego’s Camp Pendleton in July 1944, FDR had a seizure. This happened just as the Democratic National Convention was taking place. Roosevelt delivered his acceptance speech to the convention over the radio and only a handful of his closest aides knew about his seizure.

To try to silence doubters on this issue and surprise his critics, Roosevelt insisted on making a vigorous campaign swing in October. He rode in an open car through city streets, including one memorable address on a very rainy night in New York City. A special ramp was constructed for Roosevelt's car to drive up so that he didn't have to get out of the vehicle to speak. One of his most memorable speeches during the campaign was made by Roosevelt to a group of labor union leaders. The speech was carried on national radio. In the speech he ridiculed Republican claims that his administration was corrupt and wasteful with tax money. He lampooned a Republican claim that he had sent a US Navy warship to pick up his Scottish Terrier Fala in Alaska, telling his audience. "Fala was furious" at such rumors. His audience reacted with loud laughter and applause.

Dewey gave a blistering partisan speech in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, a few days later on national radio, in which he accused Roosevelt of being "indispensable" to corrupt big-city Democratic organizations and American Communists. However, this was ineffective, as American battlefield successes in Europe and the Pacific during the campaign translated into support for Roosevelt. The liberation of Paris in August 1944 and the successful Battle of Leyte Gulf in the Philippines in October 1944, made Roosevelt unbeatable.

Throughout the campaign, Roosevelt led Dewey in all the polls by varying margins and the Roosevelt campaign always seemed to find a way to distract voters from any suggestion that Roosevelt was in too poor health to be president, or that he had served for too long. On election day, FDR won a comfortable victory over his Republican challenger. Roosevelt won 36 states for 432 electoral votes, while Dewey won 12 states and 99 electoral votes. In the popular vote Roosevelt won 25,612,916 (53.4%) votes to Dewey's 22,017,929 (45.9%)

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was inaugurated as president for the fourth and final time on January 20, 1945, just 10 days before his 63rd birthday. Less than three months later, he was dead.
Palin Russia

Past Campaigns: Victoria Woodhull for President

Apparently there is some disagreement about who the first woman to run for President of the United States was. As far as I can tell, I consider it to be Victoria Woodhull, who ran as the candidate for the Equal Rights Party in 1872 against Ulysses Grant. It must be kept in mind however that at the time time law did not recognize a woman's right to vote, let alone run as a candidate for President (even though today such a thing would be obvious under contemporary principles of Constitutional interpretation). She was also too young to be president at the time (she was 34 on the subsequent inauguration day, and then as now, the Constitution required a President to be at least 35). She ran on a ticket with the famed African-American civil rights leader Frederick Douglass, even though he never consented to be her running mate.


Victoria Clafin Woodhull was a fascinating character. She was a feminist, a free love advocate, a suffragette, a "magnetic healer" and a spiritualist. She probably had many other labels, many of which were unflattering, as she was despised by many of the men of her time who saw her as someone who did not know her place. One of her nicknames was Naughty Victoria. Born on September 23, 1838, she was the seventh of ten children (six of whom survived to maturity)/ She was born in the frontier town of Homer, Ohio. Her mother was Madame Roxanna "Roxy" Hummel Claflin, a follower of the Austrian mystic Franz Mesmer. Her father, Reuben "Buck" Buckman Claflin, is described as being "a con man, lawyer and snake oil salesman". (No, those terms are not synonymous.)

Woodhull grew up in an atmosphere of abuse. It is believed that she was both physically and sexually abused by her father. She managed to escape her horrific upbringing with the help of her younger sister Tennessee Celeste Claflin (called Tennie). The two would later start a stock brokerage and newspaper in New York City.

Victoria is described as being very intelligent, despite having only three years of formal education before being forced to leave school with her family. In a fraudulent scheme, her father insured the family's rotting gristmill before it burnt down. His arson was discovered and he was run out of town.

When she was 14, Victoria met a 28-year-old doctor who was either named Canning or Channing Woodhull. Dr. Woodhull practiced medicine in Ohio at a time when the state did not require formal medical education and licensing. According to some accounts, Woodhull abducted Victoria to marry her. The two were married in Cleveland on November 20, 1853 when Victoria was just 15. Dr. Woodhull was an alcoholic and a womanizer and Victoria had to work outside the home to support the family. She and Canning had two children, named Byron and Zulu (later called Zula). Byron was born with an intellectual disability in 1854, a condition Victoria believed was caused by her husband's alcoholism, possibly Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. After their children were born, Victoria divorced her husband, but kept his surname. In 1866, Victoria Woodhull married Colonel James Harvey Blood. It was also his second marriage. He had served in the Union Army in Missouri during the American Civil War, and had been elected as city auditor of St. Louis, Missouri.

Her experiences from her first marriage led Woodhull to believe that the 19th century norms surrounding marriage were senseless. Even if the marriage was loveless or abusive, women had few options to escape. Divorce was only available in limited circumstances and was considered socially scandalous. Divorced women were stigmatized and often ostracized by society. Victoria Woodhull believed that women should have the choice to leave unbearable marriages. While she believed at first that relationships between men and women should be monogamous, she believed that women should have an equal right to consent to sex in a relationship, a notion not universally held in her time.

She gave a speech, which became known as the "Steinway speech," delivered on Monday, November 20, 1871, in Steinway Hall, New York City, in which she said: "To woman, by nature, belongs the right of sexual determination. When the instinct is aroused in her, then and then only should commerce follow. When woman rises from sexual slavery to sexual freedom, into the ownership and control of her sexual organs, and man is obliged to respect this freedom, then will this instinct become pure and holy; then will woman be raised from the iniquity and morbidness in which she now wallows for existence, and the intensity and glory of her creative functions be increased a hundred-fold." She went on to say:

"Yes, I am a Free Lover. I have an inalienable, constitutional and natural right to love whom I may, to love as long or as short a period as I can; to change that love every day if I please, and with that right neither you nor any law you can frame have any right to interfere."

Woodhull's earlier radicalism was inspired by the Christian socialism movement of the 1850s. But for most of her life, she was involved in Spiritualism, which she had learned from her mother. She also had a good mind for business. In 1870 Victoria, along with sister Tennessee (Tennie) Claflin, became the first female stockbrokers when they opened a brokerage firm on Wall Street. Wall Street brokers were shocked. The New York Sun described the situation as "Petticoats Among the Bovine and Ursine Animals." The firm was called Woodhull, Claflin & Company. The company had some clout, as it was backed by wealthy financier. Cornelius Vanderbilt, an admirer of Woodhull's skills as a medium. Vanderbilt was also rumoured to be Tennie's lover, which would explain his taking such an unprecedented step.

Woodhull made a fortune on the New York Stock Exchange by advising clients to make the same moves that Vanderbilt did. The firm made millions for their clients, and newspapers such as the New York Herald called Woodhull and Claflin "the Queens of Finance" and "the Bewitching Brokers."

On May 14, 1870, Woodhull and Claflin used money they had made from their brokerage to found a newspaper, the Woodhull & Claflin's Weekly. At its height it had a national circulation of 20,000. The newspaper had a special agenda: to support Victoria Claflin Woodhull's bid for President of the United States. The paper continued to published for the next six years. It's principal theme was feminism, but it also became notorious for publishing controversial opinions on taboo topics. For example it advocated for sex education, free love, women's suffrage, short skirts, spiritualism, vegetarianism, and licensed prostitution. The paper also printed the first English version of Karl Marx's Communist Manifesto in its edition of December 30, 1871. It supported organized labor also.

One of the paper's editorial targets was the hypocrisy of society's tolerating married men who had mistresses. In 1872, Woodhull publicly criticized well-known clergyman Henry Ward Beecher for having an adulterous affair with his parishioner Elizabeth Tilton, who had confessed to it. Beecher, a famous preacher of Brooklyn's Plymouth Church, had condemned Woodhull's free love philosophy in his sermons. When a member of his church, Theodore Tilton, disclosed to Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a fellow suffragette, that his wife had confessed that Beecher was committing adultery with her, Woodhull decided to expose Beecher.

Beecher later ended up standing trial in 1875, for adultery in a proceeding that proved to be one of the most sensational legal episodes of the era. The trial ended with a hung jury, even though Beecher played the part of being the victim. On November 2, 1872, three dats before election day, Woodhull, Claflin and Col. Blood were arrested and charged with publishing an obscene newspaper and circulating it through the United States Postal Service. In the raid, 3,000 copies of the newspaper were found. Woodhull was later acquitted of the charge, but her incarceration following her arrest prevented her from attempting to vote in the election.

Woodhull used the publicity that followed her publication of the Beecher expose to gain publicity for her run for President. The previous year in 1871, she had used her connections to arranged to testify on women's suffrage before the House Judiciary Committee. There she advocated that that women already had the right to vote, all they had to do was use it. She said that the 14th and 15th Amendments guaranteed the protection of that right for all citizens, including women. Organizers of the 1871 National Woman Suffrage Association's third annual convention in Washington postponed the opening of the conference in order to attend the committee hearing. Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Isabella Beecher Hooker all applauded Woodhull's statement.

Her appearance before the committee led Woodhull to move into the leadership circle of the suffrage movement. Woodhull was the first woman to petition Congress in person for suffrage. Numerous newspapers reported her appearance before Congress. Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper printed a full-page engraving of Woodhull, surrounded by prominent suffragists. She joined the International Workingmen's Association, also known as the First International and supported its goals by articles in her newspaper, and by doing so, courted organized labor to her cause.

Woodhull announced her candidacy for president in a letter to the editor of the New York Herald on April 2, 1870. She was nominated for President of the United States by the newly formed Equal Rights Party on May 10, 1872, at Apollo Hall, New York City. Her nomination was ratified at the convention on June 6, 1872. The convention nominated the former slave and abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass for Vice President. He did not attend the convention and he never acknowledged the nomination. Douglass took no part in it. His nomination stirred up controversy among critics about the mixing of the races and fears of miscegenation. The Equal Rights Party hoped to use the nominations to reunite suffragists with African-American civil rights activists

Woodhull's candidacy had led her opponents to comment in the media about her support of free love. This was among the reasons that Woodhull decided to devote an entire issue of Woodhull & Claflin's Weekly (November 2, 1872) to the adulterous affair between Elizabeth Tilton and Reverend Henry Ward Beecher. Beecher was a supporter of female suffrage, but he had also lectured against free love in his sermons. It is unclear whether Woodhull's arrest was a deliberate attempt to prevent her from voting, but on the same day that the edition was published, threedays before the presidential election, U.S. Federal Marshals arrested Woodhull; her second husband, Colonel James Blood; and her sister Tennie on charges of "publishing an obscene newspaper" because of the content of this issue. She and her sister were held in the Ludlow Street Jail for the next month. The arrest was arranged by Anthony Comstock, who considered himself to be a moral defender of the nation. Woodhull's supporters levelled accusations of censorship and government persecution. Nevertheless, the arrest prevented Woodhull from attempting to vote during the 1872 presidential election.

With the publication of the scandal, Theodore Tilton, Elizabeth's husband, sued Beecher for "alienation of affection." The later trial in 1875 was sensationalized across the nation and eventually resulted in a hung jury. Woodhull was later acquitted, though her defense was a technical one. The case was not decided on the merits.

As for her results at the polling booth, Woodhull received no electoral votes in the election of 1872, an election in which six different candidates received at least one electoral vote. Because any votes she received were considered to be spoiled ballots, it is unclear how many votes she may have received.

The lawsuit ruined Woodhull financially. She spent a fortune on her legal bills and lost her stock brokerage. The government confiscated her printing press, her personal papers, and her brokerage accounts. She received death threats and blackmail letters. She estimated her losses at half a million dollars but in a lawsuit for malicious prosecution, she offered to settle for $50,000. She never received anything and ended up bankrupt.

The whole affair seemed to bring about a change in Woodhull, perhaps in an effort to try to recoup her losses. In 1875, Woodhull began publicly espousing Christianity and changed her political stances. She kept publishing her periodical, using it to expose Spiritualist frauds. This alienated her Spiritualist followers. She wrote articles against promiscuity, calling it a "curse of society", and repudiated her earlier views on free love. Her writings now idealized purity, motherhood, marriage, and the Bible.

In October 1876, Woodhull divorced her second husband, Colonel Blood. After Cornelius Vanderbilt's death in 1877, William Henry Vanderbilt paid Woodhull and her sister Claflin $1,000 to leave the country because he was worried that would might testify in litigaton about the distribution of Cornelius Vanderbilt's estate. The sisters accepted the offer and moved to England in August 1877. There she gave her first public appearance at St. James's Hall in London on December 4, 1877. The lecture was called "The Human Body, the Temple of God." At one of her lectures she met banker John Biddulph Martin. They began to see each other and married on October 31, 1883. From then on, she was known as Victoria Woodhull Martin. Under that name, she published the magazine The Humanitarian from 1892 to 1901. After her husband died in 1901, Martin gave up publishing and retired to the country. She built a village school with Tennessee and her daughter Zula at Bredon's Norton school, and she became a champion for education reform in English village schools with the addition of kindergarten curriculum.

Victoria Woodhull Martin died on June 9, 1927 at Norton Park in Bredon's Norton, Worcestershire. In 2001, Victoria Woodhull was inducted posthumously into the National Women's Hall of Fame.In March 2017, Amazon Studios announced production of a movie based on her life, produced by and starring Brie Larson as Victoria Woodhull.

Past Campaigns: The Many Presidential Campaigns of Harold Stassen

Harold Stassen's name became synonymous with being the candidate who always ran for his party's nomination, but never won. According to author Michael Cohen in his 2016 book American Maelstrom: The 1968 Election and the Politics of Division, (reviewed here in this community), when Hubert Humphrey was considering breaking with his president on the subject of Vietnam, Johnson told Humphrey that he would become "another Harold Stassen" if he did so. Stassen is even referenced in an episode of the Simpsons. In the ninth episode of season 18, as the character Gil Gunderson makes breakfast for the Simpsons, he asks "Who wants some eggs a la Harold Stassen? They're always running!"

Harold Edward Stassen was not a man without notable accomplishment. He served as the 25th Governor of Minnesota from 1939 to 1943, before serving in World War II. He was also President of the University of Pennsylvania from 1948 to 1953, and at one time he was even considered to be the leading candidate for the Republican nomination for President. But it was his actions in regularly continuing to run for president that his name became most associated with.

Stassen was born on April 13, 1907 in West St. Paul, Minnesota. His father, William Andrew Stassen, served as mayor of West St. Paul. Stassen graduated from high school at age 14. At the University of Minnesota, Stassen made a name as an intercollegiate debater. He was also captain of the champion university rifle team in 1927. He received his law degree in 1929 and he opened a law office with Elmer J. Ryan in South St. Paul that year. Stassen was elected District Attorney of Dakota County in 1930 and 1934. This propelled his political career and in 1938 he was elected Governor of Minnesota as a Republican.

Stassen delivered a rousing keynote address at the 1940 Republican National Convention, elevating his profile within the party. He worked to help Wendell Willkie win the Republican Party (GOP) nomination for the presidency at that convention. Stassen, was reelected as governor of Minnesota in 1940 and 1942. He supported President Franklin Roosevelt's foreign policy and encouraged his state Republican Party to repudiate American isolationism. The subsequent Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor served to vindicate his position. During the 1942 campaign, he announced that, if reelected, he would resign to serve on active duty with the United States Naval Reserve. Stassen held the rank of Lieutenant Commander in the reserve.

Stassen was promoted to Commander and assigned to the staff of Admiral William F. Halsey, Commander of the South Pacific Force, where he served for two years. He left active duty at the rank of Captain in November 1945.

While serving overseas Stassen lost some of his political support within the Republican Party, while candidates like Thomas Dewey benefited from Stassen's absence. Stassen was a delegate at the San Francisco Conference that established the United Nations, and was also one of the US signatories of the United Nations Charter. He served as president of the University of Pennsylvania from 1948 to 1953. In that capacity he attempted to increase the prominence of the university football team, but these efforts met with little success. In 1963, he joined Martin Luther King in his march on Washington, D.C.

Stassen is best known for being a perennial candidate for the Republican Party nomination for President of the United States. In total, he was a candidate for President nine times (1944, 1948, 1952, 1964, 1968, 1980, 1984, 1988, and 1992), but he never won his party's nomination. In 1944 he won the Nebraska primary, but was unable to mount much of a campaign because of his being overseas. Dewey won the nomination in the first ballot. In 1948 Stassen performed much better, winning a stunning upset over Dewey and General Douglas MacArthur in the Wisconsin primary. Stassen's surprise victory ended MacArthur's candidacy. Stassen once again defeated Dewey in the Nebraska primary, making him the new front-runner in the race. But he made a strategic mistake by trying to beat Senator Robert Taft in Taft's home state of Ohio. This stalled Stassen's momentum and earned the hostility of the party's conservatives. In spite of this, Stassen was still leading Dewey in the polls. Dewey spent a large amount of money on campaign ads in Oregon and agreed to debate Stassen in Oregon on national radio. Held on May 17, 1948, it was the first-ever radio debate between presidential candidates. The sole issue of the debate was whether or not to outlaw the Communist Party of the United States. Despite his liberal reputation, Stassen argued in favor of outlawing the party, while the crime-busting Dewey argued against it. Dewey famously stated that "you can't shoot an idea with a gun." Most observers saw Dewey as the winner of the debate, and four days later Dewey defeated Stassen in Oregon. At the convention, Dewey led on every ballot, winning it on the third. Taft finished second each time and Stassen came in third.

This was followed by a number of electoral defeats for Stassen. Besides losing his subsequent bids for the presidency, he also lost elections for Governor of Minnesota in 1982, for the United States Senate in 1978 and 1994, for Governor of Pennsylvania twice (in 1958 and 1966), for Mayor of Philadelphia in 1959 and for the House of Representatives in 1986.

In the 1952 Republican contest, Stassen released his delegates (all 20 of them) to Dwight D. Eisenhower. His doing so helped Eisenhower to defeat Robert A. Taft on the first ballot. He served in the Eisenhower Administration, as the Director of the Mutual Security Administration (foreign aid) and Special Assistant to the President for Disarmament. At the 1956 Republican Convention, Stassen led an unsuccessful effort to dump Vice-President Richard Nixon from the ticket.

After leaving the Eisenhower Administration, Stassen campaigned unsuccessfully for governor of Pennsylvania (1958 and 1966) and for mayor of Philadelphia (1959). In 1978, Stassen moved back to Minnesota and ran a senatorial campaign for the U.S. Congress. In 1982, he campaigned for the Minnesota governorship and in 1986 for the fourth-district congressional seat. His subsequent campaigns for the Republican Party presidential nomination did not amount to much. In 1964 he received less than 2% of the popular vote in the primaries and was part of an unsuccessful move to try to prevent the nomination of Barry Goldwater. In 1968 he fared even worse, receiving 0.71% of the popular vote in the primaries and only two votes at the convention. In 1980 he received 0.20% of the popular vote in the primaries and no votes at the convention, and in 1984 he had virtually the same results (0.19% of the popular votes in the primaries and no votes at the convention). In 1988 he received 0.01% of the popular votes in the primaries and once again no votes at the convention. Finally, in 1992 he received 0.06% of the popular votes in the primaries and once again no votes at the convention.

Stassen died in 2001 in Bloomington, Minnesota, at the age of 93. He is buried at the Acacia Park Cemetery in Mendota Heights, Minnesota. When Stassen died, Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura, another political maverick, said of Stassen, "As Minnesotans, we can be proud of a statesman who never gave up his fight for a better state, a better country, and a peaceful world."

Past Campaigns: FDR's First Run for the Presidency

Franklin Roosevelt's rise to the presidency is truly a remarkable one. It is not remarkable that a man who was governor of what was then the largest state in the nation should be considered a leading contender for his party's presidential nomination. The fascinating aspect of this story begins eleven years earlier, on an island in Canada.


While Franklin Roosevelt and his family were vacationing in August of 1921 at Campobello Island (part of the Canadian province of New Brunswick, north of Maine), he fell ill. His major symptoms were a very bad fever, paralysis along his sides and limbs, facial paralysis, bowel and bladder dysfunction, and numbness. He was left permanently paralyzed from the waist down. He was diagnosed with poliomyelitis at the time, but his symptoms are now thought to be more consistent with Guillain–Barré syndrome, an autoimmune disorder.

Roosevelt was encouraged by his mother Sarah to retire from public life. But his wife Eleanor, his close friend and adviser Louis Howe, and Roosevelt himself were all determined for Roosevelt to continue his political career. Roosevelt left people with the false impression that his health was improving, realizing how important this perception was to and future run for public office that he might make. He taught himself how to walk short distances while wearing iron braces on his hips and legs by swiveling his torso, and by supporting himself with a cane. It took a significant amount of his strength to be able to do this. Roosevelt was careful never to be seen using his wheelchair in public. Efforts were made to prevent any portrayal of him in the media that would display his physical disability. He usually appeared in public standing upright, supported on one side by an aide or one of his sons.

In 1925, Roosevelt began to spent a lot of time in the southern United States. He was convinced that there were potential benefits for persons like him by using hydrotherapy. Roosevelt established a rehabilitation center at Warm Springs, Georgia, in 1926. He assembled a staff of physical therapists and purchase the Merriweather Inn as the location for the center. In 1938, Roosevelt founded the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, leading to the development of polio vaccines.

Roosevelt remained politically active with the Democratic Party and he remained active in New York politics even while he was in Georgia. Roosevelt issued an open letter endorsing Al Smith's successful campaign in New York's 1922 gubernatorial election. Although he and Smith never fully trusted one another, Roosevelt supported Smith's progressive policies and Smith was happy to have Roosevelt's endorsement. Roosevelt gave presidential nominating speeches for Smith at the 1924 and 1928 Democratic National Conventions. His speech at the 1924 convention marked his return to public life following his illness.


After he became the Democratic Party presidential nominee in 1928, Smith asked Roosevelt to run for governor in the state election. Roosevelt initially was afraid of a Republican landslide in 1928, but he agreed to run when party leaders urged him that he was the only person who could defeat the Republican gubernatorial nominee, New York Attorney General Albert Ottinger. Roosevelt won the party's gubernatorial nomination by acclamation. He turned to Louis Howe to lead his campaign. Smith lost the presidency in a landslide, and was even defeated in his home state. But Roosevelt was elected governor by a 1% margin. Roosevelt's election as governor of the most populous state immediately made him a contender in the next presidential election.

Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor established a strong political partnership, even though their marital relationship was injured by his infidelity. Eleanor agreed that she would dutifully serve as the governor's wife, while pursuing her own interests. It was as Governor of New York that Roosevelt began his practice of having "fireside chats", radio addresses in which he directly addressed his constituents, in order to advance his legislative agenda.

In October 1929, the Wall Street Crash occurred, and the country began its descent into the Great Depression. While President Hoover and many state governors initially believed that the economic crisis would be brief, Roosevelt believed that the problem was much more serious. He established a state employment commission. He also became the first governor to publicly endorse the idea of unemployment insurance. In seeking re-election in 1930, Roosevelt ran on a platform that called for aid to farmers, full employment, unemployment insurance, and old-age pensions. His Republican opponent had the millstone of public criticism of the Republican Party during the economic downturn, and Roosevelt was elected to a second term by a 14% margin. As the Hoover administration resisted proposals to directly address the economic crisis, Roosevelt proposed and economic relief package and the establishment of the Temporary Emergency Relief Administration to distribute those funds. This agency assisted over one-third of New York's population between 1932 and 1938.

As the 1932 presidential election approached, Roosevelt turned his attention to national politics. He established a campaign team led by Louis Howe and James Farley. With the economy in rough shape, Democrats hoped that the 1932 elections would result in the election of the first Democratic president since Woodrow Wilson. Roosevelt's re-election as governor had established him as the front-runner for the 1932 Democratic presidential nomination.

A savvy politician, Roosevelt drew support from progressive supporters of the Wilson administration, as well as many conservatives. He had made political connections while in the south and he soon became the leading candidate. His main in the South and West. The chief opposition came from he former ally Al Smith. Smith hoped to prevent Roosevelt from winning the two-thirds support necessary for the party's presidential nomination at the 1932 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

Roosevelt entered the convention with a delegate lead due to his success in the 1932 Democratic primaries. Sixteen states had held primaries that year and Roosevelt had won eleven of these and finished second in the rest. Smith had only won two state primaries and two state caucuses. He had also finished first in 18 of the state caucuses. While this established Roosevelt's popularity, most delegates entered the convention unbound to any particular candidate. On the first presidential ballot of the convention, Roosevelt received the votes of more than half of the delegates, but did not reach the two-thirds threshold required for the nomination. Smith finished in a distant second place. The tally was 666.25 for Roosevelt, 201.75 for Smith and 90.25 for Speaker of the House John Nance Garner of Texas. 197.75 votes were spread among remaining candidates.

Garner had support from two powerful individuals, California newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst and Senator William Gibbs McAdoo. His support came primarily from two states: his home state of Texas and from California. Although he could not win the nomination, he had enough support to push Roosevelt over the top if he wished. After three ballots, Roosevelt had not secured the 770 votes needed to win the nomination. His campaign worried that this would be as good as it got. But Roosevelt's campaign was able to persuade Garner to release his delegates to vote for Roosevelt. Hearst disliked Roosevelt but hated Smith even more. McAdoo, who himself had been denied nomination by the two thirds rule at the 1924 convention, announced that California would back Roosevelt. Roosevelt received 945 votes on the fourth ballot. Smith finished second with 190. Garner was chosen as the vice-presidential candidate. McAdoo had hoped to be on the ticket, but this was opposed by Hearst.

Roosevelt flew in from New York after learning that he had won the nomination, becoming the first major-party presidential nominee to accept the nomination in person. In his acceptance speech, Roosevelt told the crowd, "I pledge you, I pledge myself to a new deal for the American people. This is more than a political campaign. It is a call to arms."


Roosevelt promised securities regulation, tariff reduction, farm relief, government-funded public works, and other government actions to address the Great Depression. The Democratic platform also included a call for the repeal of Prohibition, an issue that Roosevelt himself had not taken a public stand on.

After the convention, Roosevelt won endorsements from several progressive Republicans, including George W. Norris, Hiram Johnson, and Robert La Follette Jr. Al Smith reluctantly agreed to support FDR. Roosevelt's chances to win the election got a boost when President Hoover was criticized for his handling of the Bonus Army march on Washington, despite the fact that his orders against the use of force towards the protesters was ignored by General Douglas MacArthur.

Roosevelt won the election in a landslide, winning 57% of the popular vote and carrying all but six states. Roosevelt's victory was the product of a new alliance, dubbed the New Deal coalition, composed of support from farmers, the Southern whites, Catholics, big city political machines, labor unions, northern African Americans (those in the south were still disfranchised), Jews, intellectuals, and political liberals.

Past Campaigns: Nelson Rockefeller's 1968 Presidential Campaign

Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller was the grandson of the famous oil magnate and industrialist John D. Rockefeller, and the son of John D. Rockefeller Jr. He would go on to serve as the 41st Vice President of the United States from 1974 to 1977, the second person to hold that office without being elected to it. He had also served as the 49th Governor of New York from 1959 to 1973 and had previously been Assistant Secretary of State for American Republic Affairs for Democratic Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman as well as Under-Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare under Dwight D. Eisenhower. He was rich and was a noted art collector and served as administrator of Rockefeller Center in Manhattan, New York.

no title

Even by the standards of his day, Rockefeller was often seen as too liberal to be a Republican. He was usually described by one of three adjectives: liberal, progressive, or moderate. In his day, liberals in the Republican Party were called "Rockefeller Republicans". As Governor of New York from 1959 to 1973, Rockefeller's achievements included the expansion of the State University of New York, increased facilities and personnel for medical care, and the creation of the New York State Council on the Arts.

He ran unsuccessfully for the Republican presidential nomination in 1960, 1964, and 1968. Even a half a century ago, it was tough for a liberal to lead the Republican Party. Biographers have written that Rockefeller took a pragmatic approach to governing, and did not give a damn about ideology. According to the authors of the book Rockefeller of New York: Executive Power in the State House, by Robert Connery and Gerald Benjamin, "Rockefeller was not committed to any ideology. Rather, he considered himself a practical problem solver, much more interested in defining problems and finding solutions around which he could unite support sufficient to ensure their enactment in legislation than in following either a strictly liberal or strictly conservative course. Rockefeller's programs did not consistently follow either liberal or conservative ideology."

Rockefeller was opposed by conservatives in the his party, such as Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, who believed that his political views were too liberal. As governor, Rockefeller spent more than his predecessors. Rockefeller expanded the state's infrastructure, increased spending on education including a massive expansion of the State University of New York, and increased the state's involvement in environmental issues. Rockefeller had good relations with unions, especially the construction trades, which benefited from his extensive building programs.

His bid in the 1960 primary ended early when then-Vice President Richard Nixon surged ahead in the polls. After quitting the campaign, Rockefeller backed Nixon and concentrated his efforts on introducing more moderate planks into Nixon's platform. Rockefeller made his most serious bid for the nomination in 1964 as the leader of the Republicans' "Eastern Establishment". He began as the front-runner for the nomination against conservative Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona, who led the right wing of the Republican Party. But in 1963, a year after Rockefeller's divorce from his first wife, he married Margaretta "Happy" Murphy, a divorcee with four children. This is cited as a reason for his downfall in an era when politicians did not get divorced. The divorce was widely condemned by politicians, even by other liberal Republicans like Senator Prescott Bush of Connecticut, who condemned Rockefeller for his infidelity, divorce, and remarriage. Rockefeller finished third in the New Hampshire primary in March, behind write-in Henry Cabot Lodge from Massachusetts, and Goldwater. He did poorly in several more of the party primaries before winning an upset in Oregon in May. Rockefeller took a strong lead in the California primary, and his campaign was so confident of victory that it cut advertising funds in the last days of his campaign. However, the birth of Rockefeller's child three days before the California primary put the divorce and remarriage issue back front and center in the news cycle and inn the minds of voters. On primary election day, Rockefeller narrowly lost the California primary and dropped out of the race.

At the Republican National Convention in San Francisco in July, Rockefeller was given five minutes to speak before the convention in defense of five amendments to the party platform put forth by the moderate wing of the Republican Party. He was booed and heckled for sixteen minutes while he stood firmly at the podium insisting on his right to speak. As a result, Rockefeller was reluctant to support Goldwater in the general election. Their animosity would endure, as Goldwater would subsequently vote against Rockefeller's confirmation for the Vice Presidency in 1974 and was also a key player in blocking Rockefeller from being on the 1976 presidential ticket.

Rockefeller once again sought the presidential nomination in the 1968 primaries. His opponents were Nixon and Governor Ronald Reagan of California. In the contest, Rockefeller again represented the liberals, Reagan represented the conservatives, and Nixon representing moderates and liberals also. At first Rockefeller was reluctant to run and looked for another moderate to support. Initially, that was Michigan Governor George Romney. When Romney officially announced his decision to run for President on November 18, 1967, at the Veteran's Memorial Building in Detroit, Michigan, all of Nelson Rockefeller's top political aides from the 1964 Presidential campaign went to work for Romney. At first, Romney looked presidential and he enjoyed the support of most of the other Republican governors, who were determined not to repeat the 1964 Barry Goldwater disaster. Rockefeller supported Romney and a Harris Poll showed Romney besting President Lyndon Johnson among all voters by 54 percent to 46 percent. Then Romney stumbled.

Romney's campaign floundered after he made a statement on an ABC news show alleging that he had changed his mind about supporting the government's prosecution of the Vietnam War because he had been "brainwashed" by the US Generals about the war. Suddenly Romney's poll numbers plummeted. Two weeks before the March 12 primary, an internal poll showed Romney losing to Nixon by a six-to-one margin in New Hampshire. Rockefeller, reading the writing on the wall and seeing the poll results, publicly maintained his support for Romney but also said he would be available for a draft. The statement drew national media coverage and embittered Romney. Now believing that his candidacy was hopeless, Romney announced his withdrawal as a presidential candidate on February 28, 1968. This surprised political observers, who thought that Romney would at least stay in through the New Hampshire and Wisconsin primaries.

Anti-war Republicans wrote in Rockefeller's name in the New Hampshire Primary and he received 11% of the vote and became Nixon's new challenger. Nixon led Rockefeller in the polls throughout the primary campaign. Rockefeller defeated Nixon and Governor John Volpe in the Massachusetts primary on April 30, but he otherwise fared poorly in state primaries and conventions because he had declared his candidacy too late to get his name on many state ballots. He hadn't formally announced his candidacy and enter the state primaries, and had spent the first half of 1968, alternating between hints that he would run and pronouncements that he would not be a candidate. It wasn't until shortly before the Republican convention, when Rockefeller finally let it be known that he was available to be the nominee of his party.

Rockefeller had hoped that he would round up enough uncommitted delegates and woo reluctant Nixon delegates to his cause on a second ballet. He touted public opinion polls that showed him doing better among voters than either Nixon or conservative Ronald Reagan against Democrat Hubert Humphrey. But it was too little, too late. Rockefeller's plan required that there would be a second ballot so that disaffected Nixon supporters could defect to his cause. Despite Rockefeller's efforts, Nixon won the nomination on the first ballot. Nixon narrowly secured the nomination on the first ballot, with help from segregationist South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond, who had switched parties in 1964.


Rockefeller never made it to the Oval Office as President, but he did become Vice-President following Nixon's resignation in the wake of the Watergate scandal. Rockefeller served as Vice President of the United States under President Gerald Ford, who was the first Vice President to be appointed under the provisions of the 25th Amendment, and he ascended to the presidency following the August 1974 resignation of Richard Nixon over the Watergate Scandal. Rockefeller accepted Ford's invitation to be his Vice President. Rockefeller decided not to join the 1976 Republican national ticket with Ford following opposition to his selection by Goldwater and other conservatives in the party. He retired from politics in 1977. Rockefeller died on January 26, 1979, at age 70 from a heart attack.

Past Campaigns: Charles Evans Hughes 1916 Presidential Campaign

104 years ago, Woodrow Wilson was running for re-election. He had won the presidential election in 1912, benefiting from a schism in the Republican Party and in the friendship of incumbent President William Howard Taft and his predecessor and former mentor Theodore Roosevelt. Wilson might have been able to defeat a united opponent, but it was much easier for him to gain victory when the other major party was badly divided between its conservative wing (for Taft) and its progressive wing (for Roosevelt).

The election took place against a backdrop of a world in turmoil. Close to home, Mexico was going through the Mexican Revolution, while in Europe World War I was in its third year. Public sentiment at home was split between those who wanted their nation to remain neutral in the European conflict, and those who leaned towards the British and French (Allied) forces, due to the harsh treatment of civilians by the German Army in large parts of Belgium and northern France. It appeared that the majority of American voters wanted to avoid involvement in the war, and preferred the policy of neutrality. Wilson's campaign used the popular slogan "He kept us out of war" to appeal to those voters who wanted to avoid a war in Europe or with Mexico.

For the Republicans, the first order of the day was reuniting their party and heal the bitter split that had occurred in the 1912 presidential campaign. Several candidates were openly competing for the 1916 nomination as the Republican convention approached. Two of the most prominent candidates were conservative Senator Elihu Root of New York and liberal Senator John W. Weeks of Massachusetts.

Root had an impressive resume. He had served as the Secretary of War from 1899 to 1904 under Presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. He was elected by the state legislature as a U.S. Senator from New York and served one term, 1909–1915. During that time Root was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1912. Root had been a supporter of William Howard Taft during the previous election. Although he was considered by many as a Washington "wise man", Root was 71 years of age at the time of the convention, and his age and his ties to one faction were both seen as impediments to his nomination.

Weeks had been the the Mayor of Newton, Massachusetts from 1902 to 1903, a United States Representative for Massachusetts from 1905 to 1913, as a United States Senator since 1913. Like Root, the knock on Weeks was that he was acceptable only to one faction of the party and could not unite the Republicans in their fight against Wilson. Party bosses wanted a moderate who would be acceptable to both factions of the party.

The one name the party bosses could agree on was Supreme Court Justice Charles Evan Hughes. He was widely seen having the ability to unite the party. He had served as the 36th Governor of New York from 1907 to 1910, when he was appointed as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States by Taft. Other potential dark horse candidates included Massachusetts Senator Henry Cabot Lodge or General Leonard Wood, though both men had close ties to Roosevelt. Many Republicans saw this as a good strategy because they believed that if they could nominate a candidate acceptable to Roosevelt, this would averting another third party run by progressive Republicans. Former Vice President Charles Fairbanks also saw himself as a viable candidate and he attempted to curry Roosevelt's support, but Roosevelt refused to support Fairbanks.

When the convention met in Chicago from June 7 to 10 of 1916, Hughes led on every ballot. On the first ballot he led by 253.5 votes, with Weeks in second with 105, Root in third with 103, Roosevelt in fourth with 85, Congressman Theodore Burton of Ohio in fifth with 77.5 and Fairbanks in sixth with 74.5. Hughes gained votes on the second ballot and on the third he won the nomination, receiving 949.5 votes.

Fairbanks, who had served as Vice-President under Roosevelt, claimed he was not interested in holding the office again, but when the party nominated him as Hughes' running mate, he accepted the position.

The Progressive Party re-nominated former President Theodore Roosevelt and nominated John Parker of Louisiana as his running-mate. However, Roosevelt telegraphed the convention and declared that he could not accept their nomination and would be endorsing Hughes for the Presidency. When the Progressive Party National Committee met in Chicago on June 26, those in attendance reluctantly endorsed Hughes.

During the election campaign that followed, the Democrats used the pro-Wilson slogan, "He Kept Us out of War," and told voters that a Republican victory would mean war with both Mexico and Germany. Hughes opted to downplay the war as an issue. He advocated a program of greater preparedness. Wilson was believed to have successfully pressured the Germans to suspend unrestricted submarine warfare, making it difficult for Hughes to attack Wilson's peace platform. Instead, Hughes attacked Wilson for his support of various "pro-labor" laws, such as limiting the workday to eight hours, on the grounds that they were harmful to business interests. His criticisms gained little support, especially among factory workers who supported such laws.

Hughes was helped by the vigorous support of popular former President Theodore Roosevelt, but he made a key mistake in California when, just before the election, Hughes made a campaign swing through the state, but never met with the powerful Republican Governor Hiram Johnson to seek his support. Johnson took this as a snub and did not campaign for Hughes. Wilson ended up winning the state, which made all the difference in the final result.

The result was exceptionally close and the outcome remained in doubt for several days, partially because of the wait for returns from California. The electoral vote was one of the closest in history. 266 votes were needed to win. In the end Wilson won 30 states for 277 electoral votes, while Hughes won 18 states and 254 electoral votes.

Happy Birthday Grover Cleveland

On March 18, 1837 (183 years ago today) Grover Cleveland was born in Caldwell, New Jersey. He is the only President to serve non-consecutive terms, and is counted as both the 22nd and 24th President of the United States. Although Donald Trump is considered to be the 45th President, only 44 men have served as President and our old pal Grover is the reason why the numbering system is out of whack.

no title

Stephen Grover Cleveland actually ran for president three times—in 1884, 1888, and 1892—and he won the popular vote every time even though Benjamin Harrison and the Republicans captured more of the electoral vote in 1888. Cleveland was also the only Democrat elected to the presidency in the era of Republican political domination that lasted from 1861 to 1913 (between James Buchanan and Woodrow Wilson.) Cleveland was considered to be a fiscal conservative. He is also renowned for his honesty as he fought political corruption, patronage, and the power of the political bosses. There was a reform wing of the Republican Party, called "Mugwumps"that supported Cleveland in 1884 (they were the Reagan Democrats of their day.)

Disaster hit the nation in Cleveland's second term began when the Panic of 1893 produced a severe national depression that Cleveland was unable to reverse. It ruined his Democratic party, opening the way for a Republican landslide in 1894. Cleveland took strong positions and was heavily criticized. His intervention in the Pullman Strike of 1894 to keep the railroads moving angered labor unions. His support of the gold standard alienated many of his fellow Democrats.

One other thing that Cleveland is remembered for is allegations that he fathered a child out of wedlock. Cleveland was accused of being the father of an illegitimate child while he was a lawyer in Buffalo. Cleveland never admitted doing the deed, but he supported the child financially. Some believe he did so to protect the reputation of the real baby daddy, his law partner and best friend Oscar Folsom. During the election of 1884, his Republican opponents chanted "Ma, Ma, where's my Pa?" (After Cleveland won the election, there was a second line to this rhyme which went "gone to the White House, ha ha ha!") When confronted with the scandal, Cleveland's instructions to his campaign staff were: "Tell the truth."Cleveland admitted to paying child support in 1874 to Maria Crofts Halpin, the woman who claimed he fathered her child, which coincidentally she had named Oscar Folsom Cleveland.

People also questioned his choice of bride. Cleveland entered the White House as a bachelor. His friend Oscar Folsom had a young daughter named Frances, and when Oscar Folsom died, Cleveland was the executor of Oscar Folsom's estate. He was responsible for supervising Frances' upbringing. Frances was only 11 when her father died. She later became a student at Wells College and when she returned to school, Cleveland received her mother's permission to correspond with her. They were soon engaged to be married and on June 2, 1886, Cleveland married Frances Folsom in the Blue Room at the White House. At 21 years of age, Frances Folsom Cleveland remains the youngest First Lady. Her groom was 49.


During the 1892 election campaign, Caroline Harrison, the wife of Cleveland's opponent Benjamin Harrison, died after a lengthy illness. Her grief-stricken husband ceased campaigning. Out of respect, and in a very classy move, Cleveland did likewise.

In 1893, Cleveland sought medical advice about soreness on the roof of his mouth. A growth was discovered and Cleveland decided to have surgery secretly, to avoid further panic that might worsen the financial depression. The surgery occurred on the yacht Oneida as it sailed off Long Island. The surgeons successfully removed parts of his upper left jaw and palate. The operation left Cleveland's mouth disfigured. Cleveland was fitted with a hard rubber dental prosthesis that corrected his speech and restored his appearance. A press release about the removal of two bad teeth kept the press placated. Even when a newspaper story appeared giving details of the actual operation, the participating surgeons discounted the severity of what transpired during Cleveland's vacation.

After leaving the White House on March 4, 1897, Cleveland lived in retirement at his estate, Westland Mansion, in Princeton, New Jersey. He still ventured opinions on issues of the day, such as when, in a 1905 article in The Ladies Home Journal, Cleveland wrote that "sensible and responsible women do not want to vote. The relative positions to be assumed by men and women in the working out of our civilization were assigned long ago by a higher intelligence."

Cleveland's health had been declining for several years, and in the fall of 1907 he fell seriously ill. In 1908, he suffered a heart attack and died on June 24, 1908 at the age of 71. His last words were said to be "I have tried so hard to do right."

The high-rollers who read this will recognize Cleveland from one other place. His mug is on the $1000 bill.