The presidential election of 1920 took place shortly after the end of World War I. Incumbent President Woodrow Wilson had fallen out of favor and the Democratic Party lost its momentum. Republican candidate, Warren G. Harding defeated Democrat James M. Cox to become the twenty-ninth President of the United States.
After the U.S. entry into World War I in 1917, the United States began to feel the negative effects of being engaged in war. Political disagreements on dealing with the war, the League of Nations, a post-war recession, protests and strikes in cities and several industries, and growing fears of the future caused general discontent in the United States. After President Wilson’s stroke in 1919, he could no longer speak publicly, and became the target of the public’s dissatisfaction.
At the Democratic National Convention in 1920, President Wilson’s son-in-law William Gibbs McAdoo, fought for the nomination. McAdoo served as Secretary of the Treasury during Wilson’s administration, but in the 1920 election, Wilson wanted to block his nomination in hopes of receiving the nomination himself. Instead, the party nominated Governor of Ohio James M. Cox as their presidential candidate. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, future President of the United States and a distant cousin of Theodore Roosevelt, was selected to be his running mate.
The Republican Party’s leading choices at the outset of the 1920 election season were war hero, Leonard Wood and Frank Orren Lowden, Governor of Illinois. These two candidates received the highest number of votes in the first few ballots at the convention. Warren G. Harding of Ohio trailed by a few places until the ninth vote, when he took first place in the polls. He finally won the nomination with over 70 percent of the convention’s votes, leading to speculation about underhanded methods of gaining the votes, though nothing was ever proven. Governor of Massachusetts Calvin Coolidge was selected as the vice presidential candidate, rather than Harding’s pick, Senator Irvine Lenroot.
Five-time presidential nominee Eugene V. Debs represented the Socialist Party in the 1920 election, though his campaign was limited as he was serving time in prison for giving a speech against military recruitment, and was convicted under the Espionage Act of 1917. Though his sentence was commuted after five years, the 1920 election was his final attempt at the presidency.
Harding campaigned against the policies of the Wilson’s administration, rather than focusing on his current opponent, Cox. He called for a “return to normalcy,” meaning that post-war United States could revert back to its pre-war state. While Cox embarked on a campaign tour around the country, giving speeches and attending rallies, Harding took the classic front-porch approach, allowing his party to campaign on his behalf.
The 1920 presidential election was the first in which women were able to vote nationwide, after the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified in August of that year. The election resulted in a big win for Warren G. Harding, receiving 404 electoral votes and becoming the twenty-ninth President of the United States. Harding died in office on August 2, 1923, and was succeeded by Calvin Coolidge.
The electoral votes for the 1920 election were distributed as follows: