Calvin Coolidge - The election of 1924



Coolidge would reap an abundant political harvest from the way in which he met the charges of scandal. He emerged not only as a man of probity but also of coolness under fire. This explains much of the attractiveness of his chief campaign slogan in 1924, "Keep Cool with Coolidge." He apparently had decided soon after he succeeded to the presidency to run for election to the office in his own right. This seemed confirmed by his appointment of C. Bascom Slemp, a professional politician and former Virginia congressman, as his chief White House secretary. Although Coolidge had no significant power base outside Massachusetts, he quickly acquired a team of supporters who worked effectively in raising campaign funds and enlisting convention delegates for him. Moreover, it was his good fortune that by January 1924, Senator Hiram Johnson of California was the only prominent Republican who was striving to contest with him their party's presidential nomination. The crucial showdown between Coolidge and Johnson came in May 1924. Then the president defeated the senator in his home state in the primary election, thanks largely to the efforts of another Californian, Commerce Secretary Herbert C. Hoover. Coolidge was easily nominated by the Republican National Convention in June.

The only mistake of the president's supporters was that they got their wires crossed as to who should be nominated for vice president. The convention delegates took advantage of this to choose a former Illinois governor, Frank O. Lowden, who refused the nomination. The delegates then selected another Illinois figure, the banker Charles G. Dawes, who had recently returned from a highly publicized mission to resuscitate the economy of Germany.

The Democrats in 1924 had a seemingly perfect campaign issue in Teapot Dome, but they managed to carry it too far in both their logic and language. Moreover, their national convention was bitterly divided over issues such as oil-tainted Democrats (of whom there were not supposed to be any), Prohibition, and the Ku Klux Klan. During the record-setting 103 ballots it took the Democratic delegates to agree on a presidential nominee, they laid bare every weakness in their party and knocked out of contention every well-known candidate for the nomination. Their nominee was a relatively obscure Wall Street lawyer from West Virginia, a "dry," John W. Davis, whose running mate, Governor Charles Bryan of Nebraska, seemed to contradict much that Davis stood for. Republican Senator Robert M. La Follette of Wisconsin also ran for president, on the Progressive ticket, with Democratic Senator Burton K. Wheeler of Montana as his vice presidential nominee.

Coolidge's strategy in the 1924 campaign was to stick to presidential business and to ride the rising economic trend. He let Dawes, a colorful and energetic speaker, point up the flaws in their opponents. The conservative Davis was unable either to present much of a contrast to Coolidge or to pull his party together; the aging La Follette succeeded in attracting votes from the Democrats as well as the Republicans, but not in matching the strength of the major parties. The president won election handily, polling 15,718,211 votes to 8,385,283 for Davis and 4,831,289 for La Follette. The electoral vote was divided 382–136–13.




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