United States Presidential Election, 1920

The United States presidential election of 1920 was dominated by the aftermath of World War I and a hostile response to certain policies of Democratic president Woodrow Wilson, as well as the massive reaction against the reformist zeal of the Progressive Era. The wartime economic boom had collapsed. Politicians were arguing over peace treaties and the question of America's entry into the League of Nations, which was overturned because of the return to non-interventionist opinion, a continuation of the nation's opinion since the early 1800s. Overseas, there were wars and revolutions. At home, 1919 was marked by major strikes in the meatpacking and steel industries, and large-scale race riots in Chicago and other cities. Terrorist attacks on Wall Street produced fears of radicals and terrorists. The Irish Catholic and German communities were outraged at Wilson's foreign policy, and his political position was critically weakened after he suffered a severe stroke in 1919 that rendered him unable to speak on his own behalf.

Former President Theodore Roosevelt had been the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, but his health collapsed in 1918. He died in January 1919, leaving no obvious heir to his Progressive legacy. Both major parties ultimately turned to dark horse candidates from the electoral-vote-rich state of Ohio. The Republicans nominated newspaper publisher and Senator Warren G. Harding while the Democrats chose newspaper publisher and Governor James M. Cox. To help his campaign, Cox chose future president Franklin D. Roosevelt (a fifth cousin of Theodore) as his running mate. Harding virtually ignored Cox and essentially campaigned against Wilson, calling for a return to "normalcy".

With an almost 4-to-1 spending advantage, Harding won a landslide victory. His 26.2 percentage-point victory (60.3% to 34.1%) remains the largest popular-vote percentage margin in presidential elections after the so-called "Era of Good Feelings" ended with the unopposed election of James Monroe in 1820. Harding's 60.3 percent of the popular vote was also the most since 1820, but has since been exceeded by Franklin Roosevelt in 1936, Lyndon Johnson in 1964, and Richard Nixon in 1972.

This election was the first since the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment on August 18, 1920, and thus the first in which women had the right to vote in all 48 states (in the 1916 presidential election, about 30 states had permitted female participation). As a result, the total popular vote increased dramatically, from 18.5 million in 1916 to 26.8 million in 1920. This election is also notable for being the first of three occasions in which a sitting U.S. senator was elected president (others being 1960 and 2008).

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