1920 Republican National Convention

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1920 Republican National Convention
1920 Presidential Election
Warren G Harding-Harris & Ewing-crop.jpg Calvin Coolidge photo portrait head and shoulders.jpg
Harding and Coolidge
Date(s) June 8–12, 1920
City Chicago, Illinois
Venue Chicago Coliseum
Presidential nominee Warren G. Harding (OH)
Vice Presidential nominee Calvin Coolidge (MA)
1916  ·  1924

The 1920 National Convention of the Republican Party of the United States nominated Ohio Senator Warren G. Harding for President and Massachusetts Governor Calvin Coolidge for Vice President. The convention was held in Chicago, Illinois, at the Chicago Coliseum from June 8 to June 12, 1920.

Many other Republicans sought the nomination, including US Army general Leonard Wood, Illinois Governor Frank Lowden and California Governor Hiram Johnson. Dark horse Harding was nominated at the convention, however. Many wanted to nominate Wisconsin Senator Irvine Lenroot for Vice President, but Coolidge was nominated instead, because he was known for the Boston police strike in 1919.

The convention also adopted a platform opposed to the accession of the United States to the League of Nations.[1] The plank was carefully drawn up by Henry Cabot Lodge to appease opponent of the League such as Hiram Johnson, while still allowing for an eventual American entry into the League.[2]

Republican candidates[edit]

At the start of the convention, the race was wide open.[3] General Leonard Wood, Illinois Governor Frank Lowden, and California Senator Hiram Johnson were considered the three most likely, nominees.[4] Ohio Senator Warren G. Harding had been part of the group of frontrunners prior to the convention, but his star had faded by the time of the convention.[4] Many expected a dark horse such as Pennsylvania Governor William Cameron Sproul, Pennsylvania Senator Philander C. Knox, Kansas Governor Henry Justin Allen, Massachusetts Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, or 1916 nominee Charles Evan Hughes to win the nomination.[3] Sproul in particular had been gaining momentum at the expense of Lowden, the candidate of the conservative wing of the party.[4] The issue of the ratification of the League of Nations took center stage at the convention, with some speculating that Johnson would bolt the party if the platform endorsed the League.[4] The convention adjourned for the night after four ballots produced no clear leader, and many states stuck to favorite son candidates.[5]

As the balloting continued the next day, Wood, Lowden, and Johnson remained in the lead, and party leaders worked to find a candidate acceptable to the progressive and conservative wings of the party.[6] Conservatives strongly opposed Wood, while Lowden was opposed by the progressive wing of the party.[6] Harding emerged as a moderately conservative candidate acceptable to the progressive wing of the party, and as the convention remained deadlocked, Harding emerged as a strong compromise candidate.[6] After the eighth ballot, the convention recessed, at which point Harden's managers lobbied Lowden's supporters and others to join Harding's cause.[6] Harding was also helped by the fact that the Democrats had nominated James M. Cox of Ohio, and Republicans did not want to give the Democrats a home state advantage in the electorally critical Ohio.[7]

Harding jumped into the lead on the ninth ballot, and clinched the nomination on the tenth ballot. Many thought that the progressive Johnson could have stopped the Harding movement by throwing his support behind Knox, who could have displaced Harding as the compromise candidate. Johnson disliked Harding's policies and disliked Harding personally, and was friends with Knox. However, Johnson never released his supporters, and Harding took the nomination.[6][7]

Presidential Balloting, RNC 1920
Ballot 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Before shifts 10 After shifts
Warren G. Harding 65.5 (6.67%) 59 (6.00%) 58.5 (5.95%) 61.5 (6.25%) 78 (7.93%) 89 (9.04%) 105 (10.67%) 133 (13.52%) 374.5 (38.06%) 644.7 (65.52%) 692.2 (70.35%)
Leonard Wood 287.5 (29.22%) 289.5 (29.42%) 303 (30.79%) 314.5 (31.96%) 299 (30.39%) 311.5 (31.66%) 312 (31.7%) 299 (30.39%) 249 (25.3%) 181.5 (18.45%) 156 (15.85%)
Frank Lowden 211.5 259.5 282.5 289 303 311.5 311.5 307 121.5 28 11
Hiram Johnson 133.5 146 148 140.5 133.5 110 99.5 87 82 80.8 80.8
William C. Sproul 84 78.5 79.5 79.5 82.5 77 76 76 78 0 0
Nicholas Murray Butler 69.5 41 25 20 4 4 2 2 2 2 2
Calvin Coolidge 34 32 27 25 29 28 28 30 28 5 5
Robert M. La Follette 24 24 24 22 24 24 24 24 24 24 24
Jeter C. Pritchard 21 10 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Miles Poindexter 20 15 15 15 15 15 15 15 14 2 0
Howard Sutherland 17 15 9 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
Herbert C. Hoover 5.5 5.5 5.5 5 6 5 4 5 6 10.5 9.5
Scattering 11 9 7 9 9 9 6 6 5 5.5 3.5

Harding's nomination, said to have been secured in negotiations among party bosses in a "smoke-filled room," was engineered by Harry M. Daugherty, Harding's political manager who after Harding's election became United States Attorney General. Prior to the convention, Daugherty was quoted as saying, "I don't expect Senator Harding to be nominated on the first, second, or third ballots, but I think we can afford to take chances that about 11 minutes after two, Friday morning of the convention, when 15 or 12 weary men are sitting around a table, someone will say: 'Who will we nominate?' At that decisive time, the friends of Harding will suggest him and we can well afford to abide by the result." Daugherty's prediction described essentially what occurred, but historians Richard C. Bain and Judith H. Parris argue that Daugherty's prediction has been given too much weight in narratives of the convention.

Vice Presidential nomination[edit]

Prior to Harding clinching the presidential nomination, California Senator Hiram Johnson, Kansas Governor Henry Justin Allen, Massachusetts Governor Calvin Coolidge, Wisconsin Senator Irvine L. Lenroot, Kentucky Governor Edwin P. Morrow, and Harding himself were all seen as candidates for the vice presidency.[6] Once the presidential nomination was finally settled, Harding and the party bosses asked Johnson to join the ticket as a progressive balance to Harding's conservativism.[8] When Johnson turned down the offer, they approached Wisconsin Senator Irvine Lenroot, who agreed to take a place on the ticket.[8] However, when Illinois Senator Medill McCormick went to publicly nominate Lenroot, several delegates began to shout for Coolidge.[8] A groundswell of support built up for Coolidge, who won the nomination over Lenroot.[8] Coolidge, who was not at the convention during the vice presidential nomination, agreed to join the ticket.[8]

Vice Presidential Balloting, RNC 1920
Calvin Coolidge 674.5
Irvine L. Lenroot 146.5
Henry J. Allen 68.5
Henry W. Anderson 28
Asle J. Gronna 24
Hiram Johnson 22.5
Jeter C. Pritchard 11
Abstaining 9

Source for convention coverage: Richard C. Bain and Judith H. Parris, Convention Decisions and Voting Records (Washington DC: Brookings Institution, 1973), pp. 200–208.

See also[edit]


Preceded by
Chicago, Illinois
Republican National Conventions Succeeded by
Cleveland, Ohio