Looking Back 16 Sept. 2012

While it sometimes seems that the 2012 presidential election will never get here, perhaps because campaigning never seems to cease, the time is now ticking away quickly leading up to Nov. 6. Here is a look back at a hodgepodge of information from presidential campaigns, individual presidents and more.

So close!

• In 1884, Grover Cleveland (D) defeated James Blaine (R) by 37 Electoral Votes and won the popular vote by 0.7 percent. On Nov. 4, New York Gov. Grover Cleveland narrowly defeated Republican U.S. Sen. James G. Blaine of Maine to become the first Democrat elected president of the United States since the election of 1856 — before the Civil War.

• In 1888, Benjamin Harrison (D) defeated Grover Cleveland (R) by 37 Electoral Votes but Cleveland took the popular vote by 0.8%. President Cleveland received the greatest number of popular votes, but Republican challenger Harrison’s 233 electoral votes topped Cleveland’s 168 to win the election. Just 12 years earlier, the president-elect had also failed to win the popular vote. It would not happen again until the election of 2000, 112 years later.

• In 1848, Zachary Taylor (Whig) defeated Lewis Cass (D) by 36 Electoral Votes and won the popular vote by 4.8 percent. With the exception of South Carolina, which left the selection of electors to its legislature, the election of 1848 marked the first time that every state in the union voted for president and vice president on the same day — Nov. 7, 1848.

• In 1960 John F. Kennedy (D) defeated Richard Nixon (R) by 84 Electoral Votes and won the popular vote by a mere 0.2%. As the early returns poured in, Kennedy opened a large lead in the popular and electoral vote and appeared headed for victory. However, as later returns came in from the Western states, Nixon began to steadily close the gap with Kennedy. It was not until the afternoon of Wednesday, Nov. 9 that Nixon finally conceded the election and Kennedy claimed victory. Kennedy carried 11 states by three percentage points or less, while Nixon won five states by the similar margins.

Write-in candidates

• In the past 45 years, Florida, Indiana, Delaware, and Ohio expanded their general election ballots to include write-ins.

• The granddaddy of write-in winners was South Carolina’s Sen. Strom Thurmond. In 1954, he bucked his own party, ran as a write-in against a party-anointed candidate and won with 63 percent of the vote. He was the first U.S. senator elected to office as a write-in candidate.

• More recently, Sen. Lisa Murkowski became the second. Murkowski, the incumbent, ran as a write-in in Alaska in 2010 when the state’s Republicans chose Tea Party candidate Joe Miller as their nominee in the party primary. Murkowski ran a surprisingly effective write-in campaign, convinced more than 100,000 voters to write in her not-easily spelled name and won the election by more than 10,000 votes.


• Thomas Jefferson and John Adams went toe-to-toe in 1800, the only election in which a vice president ran against the president he was currently serving under. Jefferson hired a writer to pen insults about his opponent. Adams’ Federalists asked voters, “Are you prepared to see your dwellings in flames ... female chastity violated ... children writhing on the pike?”

• Abraham Lincoln was dealt his share of mud, but slung his share, too. in 1860, it was considered a tacky to stump from town to town. Stephen Douglas, standing only 5 feet 4, chose this tactic anyway, but claimed that he was really just taking a leisurely train ride from D.C. to New York to visit his mother. Lincoln and his supporters took note of the fact that it took him over a month to get there and even put out a “Lost Child” handbill that read: “Left Washington, D.C., sometime in July, to go home to his mother ... who is very anxious about him. Seen in Philadelphia, New York City, Hartford, Conn., and at a clambake in Rhode Island. Answers to the name Little Giant.”

• Democrat Al Smith lost to Republican Herbert Hoover in 1928, largely due to his religion. The Holland Tunnel in New York was just being finished up and Republicans told everyone that Smith, a Catholic, had commissioned a secret tunnel 3,500 miles long from the Holland Tunnel to the Vatican in Rome, and that the Pope would have say in all presidential matters should Smith be elected.

• The opponents of Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876 spread a rumor that he had shot his own mother in a fit of rage.

•A Democratic newspaper told voters that Lincoln should not be elected president because he only changed his socks once every 10 days.

• An 1828, Republican pamphlet said Democrat Andrew Jackson was “a gambler, a cock fighter, a slave trader and the husband of a really fat wife,” an insult for which he never forgave his opponents.

• Congressman Davy Crockett accused candidate Martin Van Buren in 1836 of secretly wearing women’s clothing: “He is laced up in corsets!”

• When Republican operatives decided to nominate 55-year-old Ohio Sen. Warren G. Harding, they asked if he had anything hidden in his personal life that would “disqualify” him from winning the presidency. He admitted that he chewed tobacco, played poker, loved to drink and was having affairs with not only the wife of one of his friends, but also a woman 30 years his junior, with whom he had an illegitimate daughter. Then he said, nope, nothing to hide.

Presidential trivia

• Thomas Jefferson and John Adams once traveled to the birthplace of William Shakespeare. While there, they took a knife to one of Shakespeare’s chairs so they could take home wood chips as souvenirs.

• Jimmy Carter was the first president born in a hospital. He was born on Oct. 1, 1924 at Wise Sanitarium at Plains.

• When Martin Van Buren wrote his autobiography after serving as president 1837-41, he did not mention his wife of 12 years — not even once.

• James Buchanan quietly, but consistently, bought slaves into Washington, D.C., then set them free in Pennsylvania.

• Herbert Hoover was an orphan whose first job was picking bugs off potato plants, for which he was paid $1 per 100 bugs.

• Abraham Lincoln was the first president to be photographed at his inauguration. In the photo was John Wilkes Booth — his future assassin.

• Woodrow Wilson would paint his golf balls black in the winter so he could continue to play golf in the snow.

• Chester A. Arthur had over 80 pairs of pants and insisted on changing several times a day.

• Benjamin Harrison had the first electric lights in the White House, but was afraid to turn them on for fear of electrocution. Instead, he had the servants do it.

• As president, William Howard Taft weighed 326 pounds and got stuck in the White House bathtub. He had a larger one installed.

• Calvin Coolidge apparently thought it great fun to hit the buzzer to summon the servants ... then hide. He said he was seeing if everyone was working.

• Lyndon Johnson proposed to his wife, Lady Bird, on their first date, which was a breakfast. He then bought her a ring for $2.50.