United States presidential election, 1928
The United States presidential election of 1928 was the 36th quadrennial presidential election, held on Tuesday, November 6, 1928. Herbert Hoover was nominated as the Republican candidate, as incumbent President Calvin Coolidge chose not to run for a second full term. Democrat Al Smith was pitted against Hoover. Hoover and Smith had been widely known as potential presidential candidates long before the campaign of 1928, and both were generally regarded as outstanding leaders quite apart from the office of president. Seldom has this been the case of both contenders in an election. As each candidate was a newcomer to the presidential race, each presented in his person and in his record appeals of unknown potency to widely distributed elements in the population. However, each candidate faced serious discontent within his party membership, and neither had the wholehearted support of the party organization.
In the end, the Republicans were identified with the booming economy of the 1920s, whereas Smith, a Roman Catholic, suffered politically from Anti-Catholic prejudice, his anti-prohibitionist stance, and the legacy of corruption of Tammany Hall, with which he was associated. The result was a third consecutive Republican landslide. Hoover narrowly failed to carry a majority of former Confederate states, but nonetheless made substantial inroads in the traditionally Democratic Solid South. This would be the last election until 24 years later in which a Republican won the White House.
- 1 Nominations
- 2 General election
- 3 Bibliography
- 4 See also
- 5 References
- 6 External links
- 7 Navigation
Republican Party nomination
With President Coolidge choosing not to enter the race, the race for the nomination was wide open. The leading candidates were Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover, former Illinois Governor Frank Orren Lowden and Senate Majority Leader Charles Curtis. A draft-Coolidge movement failed to gain traction with party insiders and failed to persuade Coolidge himself.
In the few primaries that mattered, Hoover did not perform as well as expected, and it was thought that the president or Vice-President Charles G. Dawes might accept a draft in case of a deadlock, but Lowden withdrew just as the convention was about to start, paving the way for a Hoover victory.
The Republican Convention, held in Kansas City, Missouri, from June 12 to 15, nominated Hoover on the first ballot. With Hoover disinclined to interfere in the selection of his running mate, the party leaders were at first partial to giving Dawes a shot at a second term, but when this information leaked, Coolidge sent an angry telegram saying that he would consider a second nomination for Dawes, whom he hated, a "personal affront." To attract votes from farmers concerned about Hoover's pro-business orientation, it was instead offered to Senator Curtis, who accepted. He was nominated overwhelmingly on the first ballot.
In his acceptance speech a week after the convention ended, Secretary Hoover said: "We in America today are nearer to the final triumph over poverty than ever before in the history of this land... We shall soon with the help of God be in sight of the day when poverty will be banished from this land." The phrase would eventually haunt Hoover during the Great Depression.
|Presidential Ballot||Vice Presidential Ballot|
|Herbert Hoover||837||Charles Curtis||1,052|
|Frank Orren Lowden||74||Herman Ekern||19|
|Charles Curtis||64||Charles G. Dawes||13|
|James Eli Watson||45||Hanford MacNider||2|
|George W. Norris||24|
|Guy D. Goff||18|
|Charles G. Dawes||4|
|Charles Evans Hughes||1|
Democratic Party nomination
With the memory of the Teapot Dome scandal rapidly fading, and the current state of prosperity making the party's prospects look dim, most of the major Democratic leaders, such as William Gibbs McAdoo, were content to sit this one out. One who did not was New York Governor Al Smith, who had tried twice before to secure the Democratic nomination.
The leadership asked the delegates to nominate Sen. Joseph Taylor Robinson of Arkansas, who was in many ways Smith's political polar opposite, to be his running mate, and he was nominated for vice-president.
Smith was the first Roman Catholic to gain a major party's nomination for president, and his religion became an issue during the campaign. Many Protestants feared that Smith would take orders from church leaders in Rome in making decisions affecting the country.
|Presidential Ballot||Vice Presidential Ballot|
|Al Smith||849.17||Joseph Taylor Robinson||1,035.17|
|Cordell Hull||71.84||Alben W. Barkley||77|
|Walter F. George||52.5||Nellie Tayloe Ross||31|
|James A. Reed||52||Henry Tureman Allen||28|
|Atlee Pomerene||47||George L. Berry||17.5|
|Jesse H. Jones||43||Dan Moody||9.33|
|Evans Woollen||32||Duncan U. Fletcher||7|
|Pat Harrison||20||John H. Taylor||6|
|William A. Ayres||20||Lewis Stevenson||4|
|Richard C. Watts||18||Evans Woollen||2|
|Gilbert Hitchcock||16||Joseph Patrick Tumulty||100|
|A. Victor Donahey||5|
|Theodore G. Bilbo||1|
Prohibition Party nomination
The Prohibition Party Convention was held in Chicago from July 10 through July 12. Smith openly opposed Prohibition. Some members of the Prohibition Party wanted to throw their support to Hoover, thinking that their candidate would not win and that they did not want their candidate to provide the margin by which Smith would win. Nonetheless, William F. Varney was nominated for president over Hoover by a margin of 68–45.
The fall campaign
Anti-Catholicism was a significant problem for Smith's campaign. Protestant ministers warned that he would take orders from the pope who, many Americans sincerely believed, would move to the United States to rule the country from a fortress in Washington, D.C., if Smith won. According to a popular joke, after the election he sent a one-word telegram advising Pope Pius XI to "Unpack". Beyond the conspiracy theories, a survey of 8,500 Southern Methodist Church ministers found only four who supported Smith, and the northern Methodists, Southern Baptists, and Disciples of Christ were similar in their opposition. Many Americans who sincerely rejected bigotry and the anti-Catholic Ku Klux Klan—which had declined during the 1920s until the 1928 campaign revived it—justified their opposition to Smith on their belief that the Catholic Church was an "un-American", "alien culture" that opposed freedom and democracy.
An example was a statement issued in September 1928 by the National Lutheran Editors' and Managers' Association that opposed Smith's election. The manifesto, written by Dr. Clarence Reinhold Tappert, warned about "the peculiar relation in which a faithful Catholic stands and the absolute allegiance he owes to a 'foreign sovereign' who does not only 'claim' supremacy also in secular affairs as a matter of principle and theory but who, time and again, has endeavored to put this claim into practical operation." The Catholic Church, the manifesto asserted, was hostile to American principles of separation of church and state and of religious toleration. Groups circulated a million copies of a counterfeit oath claiming that fourth degree Knights of Columbus members swore to exterminate Freemasons and Protestants and commit violence against anyone, if the church so ordered. Smith's opposition to Prohibition, a key reform promoted by Protestants, also lost him votes, as did his association with Tammany Hall. Because many anti-Catholics used these issues as a cover for their religious prejudices, Smith's campaign had difficulty denouncing anti-Catholicism as bigotry without offending others who favored Prohibition or disliked Tammany's corruption.
Due to these issues, Smith lost several states of the Solid South since Reconstruction. However, in many southern states with sizable African American populations (and where the vast majority of African Americans could not vote at the time), many believed that Hoover supported integration, or at least was not committed to maintaining segregation, which in turn overcame opposition to Smith's campaign. During the race, Mississippi Governor Theodore G. Bilbo claimed that Hoover had met with a black member of the Republican National Committee and danced with her. Hoover's campaign quickly denied the "untruthful and ignoble assertion".
Smith's religion helped him with Roman Catholic New England immigrants (especially Irish-Americans and Italian-Americans), which may explain his narrow victories in traditionally Republican Massachusetts and Rhode Island, as well as his narrow loss in New York (which previous Democratic presidential candidates lost by double digits, but which Smith only lost by 2%).
Hoover won the election by a wide margin on pledges to continue the economic boom of the Coolidge years. Hoover polled more votes than any candidate of the Republican Party had ever polled in every state except 5: Rhode Island, Iowa, North Dakota, South Carolina, and Tennessee. The Hoover vote was greater than the Coolidge vote in 2,932 counties; it was less in 143 of the comparable counties. The Hoover vote also touched the high-water mark for all votes for a presidential candidate up to that time; 21,400,000 votes cast was an increase of more than 5,500,000 over the Coolidge vote of four years before.
The total vote exceeded that of 1924 by nearly 8,000,000. It was nearly twice the vote cast in 1916 and nearly three times that of 1896. Every section in the Union increased its vote, the Mountain and East and West South Central sections least of all. The greatest increases were in the heavily populated (Northeastern) Mid-Atlantic and East North Central sections, where more than 4,250,000 more votes were cast, more than one-half of the increase of the nation. There was an increase of over 1,000,000 each in the states of New York and Pennsylvania.
Slightly less than 400,000 of this large vote was polled for "other" party candidates. Third-party protest had sunk to almost the vanishing-point, and the election of 1928 proved to be a two-party contest to a greater extent than any other in the Fourth Party System. All "other" votes totaled only 1.08% of the national popular vote. The Socialist vote sank to 267,478, and in 7 states there were no Socialist votes.
It is a matter of considerable importance that Smith polled more votes than any previous Democratic candidate in all but 18 states (Alabama, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Washington). In only 4 of these states (Tennessee, Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico) was his vote less than that of Davis in 1924.
Smith had nearly as many votes as Coolidge had polled in 1924, and his vote exceeded the Davis vote of 1924 by more than 6,500,000. The Democratic vote was greater than in 1924 in 2,080 counties while it fell off in 997 counties. In only one section did the Democratic vote drop below 38%, and that was the Pacific section, which was the only section in which the Republican percentage exceeded 60%.
But notwithstanding the great Democratic loss in number of counties for the nation, there was actually a greater number in 5 of the sections. Of these counties, 14 had never been Democratic and 7 had been Democratic only once. The size and the nature of the distribution of the Democratic vote shows, as nothing else so clearly, the strength and the weakness of the appeal of the Smith candidacy.
But, despite this evidence of a great Democratic vote, the overwhelming defeat of Smith in the electoral college and the retention of so few Democratic counties truly reflected the greater appeal of the Republican candidate. Smith only won the electoral votes of the Deep Southern States of the Democratic Solid South (plus Robinson's home state of Arkansas) and two New England states with a large proportion of Catholic voters (Massachusetts and Rhode Island). Hoover even triumphed in Smith's home state of New York by a narrow margin. Smith only carried 914 counties, the lowest in the Fourth Party System. The Republican total leaped to 2,174 counties, a greater number than in the great overturn in 1920.
The heavy Democratic losses were in the three Southern sections (South Atlantic, East South Central, West South Central). The inroads made by the Republican ticket in the South were rather stunning. Of these losses, 215 counties had never before given support to a Republican presidential candidate. The results are as follows: Alabama (14), Arkansas (5), Florida (22), Georgia (4), Kentucky (28), Maryland (3), Mississippi (1), Missouri (10), North Carolina (16), Tennessee (3), Texas (64), Virginia (26), West Virginia (4). In Georgia, 8 counties recorded more votes cast for "Anti-Smith" electors than either of the two-party candidates.
The electoral votes of North Carolina and Virginia had not been awarded to a Republican since 1872, while Florida had not been carried by a Republican since the heavily disputed election of 1876. The state of Texas was carried by a Republican for the first time in its history, leaving Georgia as the only remaining state never to be carried by a Republican presidential candidate. Georgia was eventually won by Barry Goldwater in 1964. In all, Smith carried only six of the eleven states of the former Confederacy (the lowest number carried by a Democratic candidate since the end of Reconstruction) in 1877.
|Presidential candidate||Party||Home state||Popular vote|| Electoral
|Count||Pct||Vice-presidential candidate||Home state||Elect. vote|
|Herbert Hoover||Republican||California||21,427,123||58.21%||444||Charles Curtis||Kansas||444|
|Al Smith||Democratic||New York||15,015,464||40.80%||87||Joseph Taylor Robinson||Arkansas||87|
|Norman Thomas||Socialist||New York||267,478||0.73%||0||James H. Maurer||Pennsylvania||0|
|William Z. Foster||Communist||Illinois||48,551||0.13%||0||Benjamin Gitlow||New York||0|
|Verne L. Reynolds||Socialist Labor||Michigan||21,590||0.06%||0||Jeremiah D. Crowley||New York||0|
|William F. Varney||Prohibition||New York||20,095||0.05%||0||James Edgerton||Virginia||0|
|Frank Webb||Farmer-Labor||California||6,390||0.02%||0||LeRoy R. Tillman||Georgia||0|
|Needed to win||266||266|
Results by county, shaded according to winning candidate's percentage of the vote
Results by state
|States won by Hoover/Curtis|
|States won by Smith/Robinson|
|I|| Herbert Hoover
| Alfred E. Smith
| Norman Thomas
| William Foster
| Verne Reynolds
Margin of victory less than 5% (100 electoral votes):
- Rhode Island, 0.61%
- Massachusetts, 1.09%
- New York, 2.35%
- Alabama, 2.84%
- Texas, 3.67%
Margin of victory between 5% and 10% (60 electoral votes):
- Utah, 7.72%
- Tennessee, 7.72%
- Virginia, 8.01%
- Connecticut, 8.06%
- Wisconsin, 9.24%
- North Carolina, 9.87%
Geography of results
Map of presidential election results by county.
Map of Republican presidential election results by county.
Map of Democratic presidential election results by county.
Map of "other" presidential election results by county.
Cartogram of presidential election results by county.
Cartogram of Republican presidential election results by county.
Cartogram of Democratic presidential election results by county.
Cartogram of "other" presidential election results by county.
Counties with Highest Percent of Vote (Republican)
- Jackson County, Kentucky 96.52%
- Leslie County, Kentucky 94.51%
- Alpine County, California 94.23%
- Johnson County, Tennessee 93.74%
- Sevier County, Tennessee 92.57%
Counties with Highest Percent of Vote (Democratic)
- Jackson Parish, Louisiana 100.00%
- Armstrong County, South Dakota 100.00%
- Humphreys County, Mississippi 99.90%
- Edgefield County, South Carolina 99.67%
- Bamberg County, South Carolina 99.49%
Counties with Highest Percent of Vote (Other)
- Alachua County, Florida 62.63%
- Appling County, Georgia 58.25%
- Long County, Georgia 57.32%
- Decatur County, Georgia 46.03%
- Jefferson County, Georgia 43.67%
- Kristi Andersen, The Creation of a Democratic Majority: 1928-1936. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997.
- Vaughn Davis Bornet, "The Communist Party in the Presidential Election of 1928," Western Political Quarterly, vol. 11, no. 3 (Sept. 1958), pp. 514-538. In JSTOR
- Vaughn Davis Bornet, Labor Politics in a Democratic Republic: Moderation, Division, and Disruption in the Presidential Election of 1928 (1964)
- Douglas B. Craig, After Wilson: The Struggle for Control of the Democratic Party, 1920-1934. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1993.
- Christopher M. Finan, Alfred E. Smith: The Happy Warrior. New York: Hill and Wang, 2002.
- Goldberg, David Joseph. Discontented America: The United States in the 1920s. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.
- Michael J. Hostetler; "Gov. Al Smith Confronts the Catholic Question: The Rhetorical Legacy of the 1928 Campaign" Communication Quarterly, Vol. 46, 1998.
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- Hoover, Herbert. The Memoirs of Herbert Hoover: The Cabinet and the Presidency, 1920-1933 (1952),
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- Inauguration of Herbert Hoover
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- 1928 popular vote by counties
- How close was the 1928 election? — Michael Sheppard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Election of 1928 in Counting the Votes