Three months before 1920’s party conventions, General Leonard Wood and former Treasury Secretary William McAdoo were the Republican and Democratic frontrunners, respectively. Neither became the nominee.
For the Republicans, Wood actually earned the most votes on the convention’s first ballot, but at 29.2% didn’t claim a majority, so voting continued. He continued leading on the second through eighth ballots, but not enough to claim victory. As the other main contender Illinois Gov. Frank Lowden slowly lost much of his support, many gradually flocked to Ohio Sen. Warren Harding, who had only finished an astonishingly low sixth place initially. Harding finally took the lead on the ninth ballot, claiming an outright majority on the 10th and clinching the nomination.
For the Democrats, the process somehow took even longer… more than four times longer. McAdoo earned the most votes on the convention’s first ballot, but at 24.3% didn’t claim a majority, so voting continued. He continued leading on the second through 11th ballots, when the lead was taken by Ohio Gov. James M. Cox, who had finished third initially. McAdoo and Cox continued fighting back and forth, with McAdoo actually reclaiming the lead on the 30th through 38th ballots. But Cox finally clinched the nomination on the 44th ballot.
The two party’s conventions look to be much less down-to-the-wire in 2020. Actually, if social distancing guidelines still remain in effect by August, there might be no in-person conventions at all.
Candidates and Issues Still in Doubt: Open Question for Conventions — But Wood for Republicans and McAdoo for Democrats Now Seem to Have Best Chances
Published: Sunday, April 18, 1920