United States presidential election, 1924
|Presidential election results map. Red denotes states won by Coolidge/Dawes, Blue denotes those won by Davis/Bryan, Green denotes those won by La Follette/Wheeler. Numbers indicate the number of electoral votes allotted to each state.|
The United States presidential election of 1924 was the 35th quadrennial presidential election, held on Tuesday, November 4, 1924. Incumbent President Calvin Coolidge, the Republican candidate, was elected to a full second term.
Coolidge was vice-president under Warren G. Harding and became president in 1923 when Harding died in office. Coolidge was given credit for a booming economy at home and no visible crises abroad. His candidacy was aided by a split within the Democratic Party. The regular Democratic candidate was John W. Davis, a little-known former congressman and diplomat from West Virginia. Since Davis was a conservative, many liberal Democrats bolted the party and backed the third-party campaign of Senator Robert M. La Follette of Wisconsin, who ran as the candidate of the Progressive Party.
Garland S. Tucker, in a 2010 book, argues that the election marked the "high tide of American conservatism," as both major candidates campaigned for limited government, reduced taxes, and less regulation. The third place candidate, Robert La Follette, however, campaigned on a contrary platform.
Republican Party nomination
The Republican Convention was held in Cleveland, Ohio, from June 10 to June 12, with the easy choice of nominating incumbent President Coolidge for a full term of his own. Former Illinois Governor Frank Orren Lowden was nominated as Coolidge's running mate, but he declined the honor, a unique event in 20th-century American political history. Charles G. Dawes, a prominent Republican businessman, was nominated for vice-president instead.
|1924 RNC Presidential Ballot (1)||1924 RNC Vice Presidential Ballots (1-3)|
|Presidential ballot||1||Vice-presidential ballot||1||2 Before shifts||2 After shifts||3|
|Calvin Coolidge||1065||Charles G. Dawes||149||111||49||682.5|
|Robert M. La Follette||34||Frank Orren Lowden||222||413||766||0|
|Hiram Johnson||10||Theodore E. Burton||139||288||94||0|
|William S. Kenyon||172||95||68||75|
|George Scott Graham||81||0||0||0|
|James Eli Watson||79||55||7||45|
|Arthur M. Hyde||55||36||36||0|
|George W. Norris||35||0||0||0|
|Smith W. Brookhart||0||31||0||0|
|Frank T. Hines||28||1||0||0|
|Charles A. March||28||0||0||0|
|J. Will Taylor||21||20||27||27|
|William Purnell Jackson||23||0||0||10|
|Charles B. Warren||10||1||23||14|
|T. Coleman du Pont||0||0||3||11|
|Joseph M. Dixon||6||0||0||2|
|Albert J. Beveridge||0||0||0||2|
|John L. Coulter||1||0||0||1|
|John J. Pershing||0||0||0||0|
Democratic Party nomination
The 1924 Democratic National Convention was held in New York City from June 24 to July 9. The two leading candidates were William Gibbs McAdoo of California, former Secretary of the Treasury and son-in-law of former President Woodrow Wilson, and Governor Al Smith of New York. The balloting revealed a clear geographic and cultural split in the party, as McAdoo was supported mostly by rural, Protestant delegates from the South, West, and small-town Midwest who were supporters of Prohibition (called "drys"). In some cases, McAdoo's delegates were also supporters of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), which was at its peak of nationwide popularity in the 1920s, with chapters in all 48 states and 4 to 5 million members. Governor Smith was supported by the anti-Prohibition forces (called "wets"), many Roman Catholics and other ethnic minorities, big-city delegates in the Northeast and urban Midwest, and by liberal delegates opposed to the influence of the Ku Klux Klan.
An example of the deep split within the party came in a brutal floor fight over a proposal to publicly condemn the Klan. Most of McAdoo's delegates in the South and West opposed the motion, while most of Smith's big-city delegates supported it. In the end the motion failed to carry by a single vote. William Jennings Bryan, the three-time Democratic presidential candidate, argued against condemning the Klan for fear that it would permanently split the party. Wendell Willkie, who would go on to become the Republican Party's 1940 presidential candidate, was a Democratic delegate in 1924, and he supported the proposal to condemn the KKK. The bitter fight between the McAdoo and Smith delegates over the KKK set the stage for the nominating ballots to come.
Due to the two-thirds rule governing nominations, neither McAdoo, who briefly got a majority of the votes halfway through the balloting, nor Smith were able to get the two-thirds majority necessary to win. However, neither candidate would back down, and so the deadlock continued for days on end, as ballot after ballot was taken with neither McAdoo or Smith getting close to enough delegates to win the nomination. Eventually the convention would go to over 100 ballots, becoming the longest-running political convention in American history. Humorist Will Rogers joked that New York had invited the Democratic delegates to visit the city, not to live there.
Due to the great divide in the Democratic Party, the convention could have gone on for a great deal longer. However, with some state delegations running low on money and unable to stay in the city any longer, on the 100th ballot both Smith and McAdoo mutually withdrew as candidates. This allowed the convention's delegates to search for a compromise candidate acceptable to both Smith and McAdoo supporters. Finally, on the 103rd ballot, the exhausted convention turned to John W. Davis, an obscure former Congressman from West Virginia who later became a name partner at the firm Davis Polk & Wardwell, as the presidential nominee. The Democrats' disarray prompted Will Rogers's famous quip: "I'm not a member of any organized political party, I'm a Democrat!"
Governor of Nebraska Charles W. Bryan, William Jennings Bryan's brother, was nominated for vice-president in order to gain the support of the party's rural voters, many of whom still saw Bryan as their leader.
Senator Robert M. La Follette, who had left the Republican Party and formed his own political party, the Progressive Party, in Wisconsin, was so upset over both political parties choosing conservative candidates that he decided to run as a third-party candidate to give liberals from both parties an alternative. He thus accepted the presidential nomination of the Progressive Party. A longtime champion of labor unions, and an ardent foe of Big Business, La Follette was a fiery orator who had dominated Wisconsin's political scene for more than two decades. Backed by radical farmers, the American Federation of Labor (AFL) labor unions, and Socialists, La Follette ran on a platform of nationalizing cigarette factories and other large industries. He also strongly supported increased taxation on the wealthy and the right of collective bargaining for factory workers. Despite a strong showing in labor strongholds and winning over 16% of the national popular vote, he carried only his home state of Wisconsin in the electoral college.
The Fall Campaign
With the disastrous Democratic Convention having badly divided the Democrats, and with the economy booming, there was little doubt that Coolidge would win the election. His campaign slogan, "Keep Cool with Coolidge", was highly popular. Davis carried only the traditionally Democratic Solid South and Oklahoma; due to liberal Democrats voting for La Follette, Davis lost the popular vote to Coolidge by 25.2 percentage points. Only Warren Harding, who finished 26.2 points ahead of his nearest competitor in the previous election, did better in this category in competition between multiple candidates (incumbent James Monroe was the only candidate in 1820 and thus took every vote). The Republicans did so well that they carried New York City, a feat they have not repeated since then.
The total vote increased 2,300,000 but, because of the great drawing power of the La Follette candidacy, both Republican and Democratic totals were less. Largely because of the deep inroads made by La Follette in the Democratic vote, Davis polled 750,000 fewer votes than were cast for Cox in 1920. Coolidge polled 425,000 votes less than Harding had in 1920. Nonetheless, La Follette's appeal among liberal Democrats allowed Coolidge to achieve a 25.2% margin of victory over Davis in the popular vote (the second largest since 1824).
The "other" vote mounted to nearly 5,000,000, owing in largest part to the 4,832,614 votes cast for La Follette. This candidacy, like that of Roosevelt in 1912, altered the distribution of the vote throughout the country and particularly in 18 states in the Middle and Far West. Unlike the Roosevelt vote of 1912, the La Follette vote included most of the Socialist strength.
The La Follette vote was distributed over the nation, and in every state, but its greatest strength lay in the East North Central and West North Central sections. But La Follette carried no section, and he was second in only 2 sections, the Mountain and Pacific areas. In 12 states, the La Follette vote was greater than that cast for Davis. In one of these states, Wisconsin, La Follette defeated the Republican ticket also, thus winning one state in the electoral college. The "other" vote led the poll in 235 counties, and practically all of these (225) gave La Follette a plurality.
On the basis of number of counties carried, the Republican Party was weaker than in 1920, and the Democratic Party, despite its heavy losses in numerous states, was stronger than in 1920. Davis led the poll in 1,279 counties. This was a gain of 183. Republican strength in the Middle West and Far West was undermined by La Follette. It is important to note that La Follette ran second in 566 counties.
The result of a three-party contest is also reflected in party majorities. Coolidge had a majority in 1,217 counties and Davis in 1,193 counties while La Follette had a majority in 137 counties. The fact that in this election only 540 counties gave no party a majority clearly shows that it was not the kind of division of sentiment which was brought to light in the election of 1912.
The relative position of the Democratic Party may be seen by glancing at the maps for 1904, 1920, and 1924. The similarities in the distribution are striking. The inroads of the La Follette candidacy upon the Democratic Party were in areas where Democratic county majorities had been infrequent in the Fourth Party System. At the same time, the inroads of La Follette's candidacy upon the Republican Party were in areas where in this national contest their candidate could afford to be second or third in the poll.
The combined vote for Davis and La Follette over the nation was exceeded by Coolidge by 2,500,000. But in 13 states (4 border and 9 western), Coolidge had only a plurality. The Coolidge vote topped the poll, however, in 35 states, leaving the electoral vote for Davis in only 12 states. All the states of the former Confederacy voted for Davis (plus Oklahoma), while all of the Union states (except Wisconsin) voted for Coolidge.
|Presidential candidate||Party||Home state||Popular vote||Electoral
|Count||Pct||Vice-presidential candidate||Home state||Elect. vote|
|Calvin Coolidge||Republican||Massachusetts||15,723,789||54.04%||382||Charles G. Dawes||Illinois||382|
|John W. Davis||Democratic||West Virginia||8,386,242||28.82%||136||Charles W. Bryan||Nebraska||136|
|Robert M. La Follette||Progressive||Wisconsin||4,831,706||16.61%||13||Burton K. Wheeler||Montana||13|
|Herman P. Faris||Prohibition||Missouri||55,951||0.19%||0||Marie C. Brehm||California||0|
|William Z. Foster||Communist||Massachusetts||38,669||0.13%||0||Benjamin Gitlow||New York||0|
|Frank T. Johns||Socialist Labor||Oregon||28,633||0.10%||0||Verne L. Reynolds||New York||0|
|Gilbert Nations||American||District of Columbia||24,325||0.08%||0||Charles Hiram Randall||California||0|
|Needed to win||266||266|
Results by state
|States won by Coolidge/Dawes|
|States won by Davis/Bryan|
|States won by La Follette/Wheeler|
|John W. Davis
|Robert La Follette
Margin of victory less than 5% (30 electoral votes):
- North Dakota, 2.52%
- Kentucky, 2.96%
- Maryland, 4.00%
- Montana, 4.60%
Margin of victory between 5% and 10% (69 electoral votes):
- West Virginia, 5.38%
- Nevada, 5.48%
- New Mexico, 5.50%
- Oklahoma, 5.59%
- Arizona, 5.79%
- Missouri, 5.79%
- Tennessee, 9.21%
- Minnesota, 9.92%
Geography of Results
Cartogram of presidential election results by county.
Counties with Highest Percent of Vote (Republican)
- Johnson County, Tennessee 91.32%
- Keweenaw County, Michigan 91.15%
- Shannon County, South Dakota 88.89%
- Leslie County, Kentucky 88.83%
- Windsor County, Vermont 88.43%
Counties with Highest Percent of Vote (Democratic)
- Edgefield County, South Carolina 100.00%
- Marlboro County, South Carolina 100.00%
- Kershaw County, South Carolina 99.86%
- Horry County, South Carolina 99.70%
- Marion County, South Carolina 99.68%
Counties with Highest Percent of Vote (Other)
- Comal County, Texas 73.96%
- Shawano County, Wisconsin 71.73%
- Mercer County, North Dakota 71.62%
- Hutchinson County, South Dakota 70.38%
- Calumet County, Wisconsin 70.13%
- History of the United States (1918-1945)
- Progressive Era
- United States Senate election, 1924
- United States House of Representatives elections, 1924
- Garland S. Tucker III, The High Tide of American Conservatism: Davis, Coolidge and the 1924 Election (Emerald, 2010)
- Prude, James (1972). "William Gibbs McAdoo and the Democratic National Convention of 1924". The Journal of Southern History (Southern Historical Association) 38 (4): 621–628. doi:10.2307/2206152. JSTOR 2206152.
- The Presidential Vote, 1896-1932, Edgar E. Robinson, pg. 24
- The Presidential Vote, 1896–1932, Edgar E. Robinson, pg. 23
- "1924 Presidential General Election Data - National". Retrieved March 18, 2013.
- Hicks, John Donald (1955). Republican Ascendancy 1921-1933. New York: Harper and Row. ISBN 0-06-011885-7.
- MacKay, K. C. (1947). The Progressive Movement of 1924. New York: Octagon Books. ISBN 0-374-95244-2.
- McCoy, Donald R. (1967). Calvin Coolidge: The Quiet President. New York: Macmillan. ISBN 0-7006-0350-6.
- Murray, Robert K. (1976). The 103rd Ballot: Democrats and Disaster in Madison Square Garden. New York: Harper and Row. ISBN 0-06-013124-1.
- Ranson, Edward. The Role of Radio in the American Presidential Election of 1924: How a New Communications Technology Shapes the Political Process (Edwin Mellen Press; 2010) 165 pages. Looks at Coolidge as a radio personality, and how radio figured in the campaign, the national conventions, and the election result.
- Unger, Nancy C. (2000). Fighting Bob La Follette: The Righteous Reformer. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 0-8078-2545-X.
- 1924 popular vote by counties
- How close was the 1924 election? — Michael Sheppard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology