We are now fully in Presidential election season, with constant focus on the candidates and the issues.
But when one looks back to Presidential election history, one discovers so called “quirks” in the 1872, 1912, and particularly the 1940 presidential election cycles.
In 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant, seeking a second term, faced Democratic and “Liberal Republican” Presidential nominee Horace Greeley, the editor of the famous New York Tribune newspaper, which had had such a dramatic effect on the issue of slavery and the evolution of the Republican Party. Greeley had also promoted Abraham Lincoln’s nomination in 1860.
Greeley, who was quirky in his personal life, seen by many as an “oddball”, became the candidate of so called “Liberal Republicans” who did not like the policies and actions of the Grant Presidency.
Of course, Grant defeated him, but only 24 days later, before the Electoral College could meet and cast its official votes, Greeley died, marking the only time that a Presidential candidate died during or after an election campaign, but before the inauguration. To top off the tragedy, Greeley’s wife had died a week before the election, and therefore, Greeley died only 30 days after his wife had passed away. Imagine if Greeley had won over Grant, which would have necessitated his Vice Presidential running mate, Benjamin Gratz Brown, to become the President-elect!
In 1912, President William Howard Taft was in a three way race with former President Theodore Roosevelt on the Progressive (Bull Moose) Party line, and with Democratic nominee Woodrow Wilson, who would win the three way contest.
But six days before the election, Vice President James Sherman died in office, so when the Electoral College met, it was agreed that Columbia University President Nicholas Murray Butler would be substituted on the Electoral College ballot to receive the 8 electoral votes for Vice President that Taft received for President. This is the only time a sitting Vice President or even Vice Presidential candidate died during the election campaign or before the inauguration.
And in 1940, Businessman Wendell Willkie was nominated for President by the Republican Party to run against Franklin D. Roosevelt, seeking a third term in the White House. Senator Charles McNary of Oregon was chosen as Willkie’s running mate for Vice President.
FDR went on to win, but meanwhile, in an oddity, it turned out that McNary died in February 1944, and Willkie died in October 1944, therefore marking the only time that an entire Presidential ticket, luckily the losing one, failed to survive the term that they were competing to serve in. Luckily so for the nation, as that would have required the Secretary of State for Willkie to have taken over just before the 1944 election, and at a crucial time in World War II!