10 months before the 1920 presidential election, there were three leading Democratic candidates. None would become that year’s nominee, but one would later be elected president… as a Republican.
The three leading contenders were Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, former Secretary of the Treasury William G. McAdoo, and former Federal Food Administrator Herbert Hoover.
Prior to the 22nd Amendment’s ratification in 1951, limiting the president to two terms, then-second term Democratic President Woodrow Wilson hoped to serve a third term. But party bosses were skeptical about nominating him following his debilitating stroke in October 1919, which left him immobile.
Ohio Governor James M. Cox ended up winning the Democratic nomination, on the party convention’s 44th ballot.
Hoover was seeking the Democratic nomination because of his lead role helping rebuild Europe after World War I under a Democratic president, although that position was relatively nonpartisan. Two months after this article, in March 1920, Hoover switched his allegiance to the Republicans and sought that party’s nomination instead. The strategy failed, with Hoover failing to even break the top 10 candidates at the Republican convention.
In early 1920, there were also three leading Republican candidates. One of them, Warren Harding, would win the nomination — and the presidency. Sunday Magazine recently covered the New York Times‘ similar article about the top three Republican contenders:
That certainly wasn’t the end for Hoover, but the beginning. He would serve as Harding’s Secretary of Commerce for all eight years, then won the presidency himself in 1928.
Democratic Candidates: Hoover, Without a Political Past, With Palmer and McAdoo in Forefront of Discussion
Published: Sunday, January 18, 1920