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U.S. presidential election, 1920

Presidential CandidateElectoral Vote Popular Vote Pct Party Running Mate
(Electoral Votes)
Warren G. Harding of Ohio (W) 404 16,152,200 60.6 Republican Calvin Coolidge of Massachusetts (404)
James M. Cox of Ohio 127 9,147,353 34.3 Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt of New York (127)
Total 100.0%
Other elections: 1908, 1912, 1916, 1920, 1924, 1928, 1932
Source: U.S. Office of the Federal Register

By 1920, World War I was over. The wartime boom had collapsed. Diplomats and politicians were arguing over peace treaties and the question of America's entry into the League of Nations. Overseas there were wars and revolutions; at home there were strikes, riots and a growing fear of radicals and terrorists. Disillusionment was in the air.

The giants who had dominated the political scene for a generation were gone -- Theodore Roosevelt died in 1919 and Woodrow Wilson was a broken invalid living in seclusion. Even so, the presidential election of 1920 continued the debate between the nationalistic activism of Roosevelt's presidency and the global idealism of Wilson's administration.

On June 8, 1920, the Republicans nominated Warren G. Harding, an Ohio newspaper editor and United States Senator, to run for president with Calvin Coolidge, governor of Massachusetts, as his running mate. Harding campaigned as advocating, in his own phrase, "A Return to Normalcy" after the trying times of the World War. The Democrats nominated another newspaper editor from Ohio, Governor James M. Cox, as their presidential candidate, and thirty-seven-year-old Franklin Delano Roosevelt for vice president.

On election night -- November 2, 1920 - for the first time commercial radio broadcast coverage of election returns. Announcers at KDKA, Pittsburgh, read telegraph ticker results over the air as they came in. This single station (with few competitors on the airwaves) could be heard over most of the Eastern United States by the small percentage of the population that had radio receivers.

This was the first election in which women were allowed to vote, following the passage of the 19th amendment to the Constitution.

Socialist Party candidate Eugene V. Debs received 913,664 popular votes (3.4%), despite the fact that he was in prison at the time (for advocating non-compliance with the draft in World War I).

P. P. Christensen of the Farmer-Labor Party took 265,229 votes (1.0%), while Prohibition Party candidate Aaron S. Watkins came in fifth with 189,339 votes (0.7%), the poorest showing for the Prohibition party since 1884; as the Eighteenth Amendment starting Prohibition had passed the previous year, this single-issue party seemed less relevant.

President Warren G. Harding died in office on August 2, 1923. He was succeeded by Calvin Coolidge.

Source: Library of Congress

See also: President of the United States, U.S. presidential election, 1920, History of the United States (1918-1945)