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The Man Who Beat John W. Davis

July 21, 2016

John W. Davis was the Democratic nominee in 1924.  He was selected after 103 ballots in a convention that lasted 17 days.  He had been a U.S. Congressman, had held a high rank in the Justice Department of the Wilson Administration, and had diplomatic experience.  His opponent, Calvin Coolidge, had served only in local and state government in Massachusetts until 1921.  As Vice-President, Coolidge had failed to take advantage of the opportunities he had been given by President Harding.

Harding had asked Coolidge to attend Cabinet meetings, an unprecedented offer, but Coolidge rarely contributed anything to the discussion.  Harding had asked Coolidge, as President of the Senate, to champion a particular Administration policy, but Coolidge handed the gavel to a Senatorial stand-in just before the important vote.  There had been some talk that Coolidge would not be on the ticket in 1924, but then President Harding died suddenly on August 2, 1923.

No matter.  Surely Coolidge would not be nominated to a term of his own.  That had happened only once before when Theodore Roosevelt was nominated to succeed himself after completing President McKinley’s second term.  Coolidge was no Roosevelt!  Besides, Presidents Tyler, Fillmore, A. Johnson, and Arthur did not get their party’s nomination after they succeeded to the Presidency.  Coolidge was considered to be no better a prospect in 1924 than they had been in their day.

And one more thing: the scandals of the Harding Administration had come to light after Harding’s death.  Surely Coolidge would be tainted.  Coolidge the nominee?  No way.


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