Republican Party: Calvin Coolidge (Massachusetts) and Charles Dawes (Illinois)
Democratic Party: John Davis (West Virginia) and Charles Bryan (Nebraska)
Progressive Party: Robert La Follette (Wisconsin) and Burton Wheeler (Montana)
Coolidge and Dawes: 15.71 million popular votes, 382 electoral votes.
Davis and Bryan: 8.38 million popular votes, 136 electoral votes.
La Follette and Wheeler: 4.83 million popular votes, 13 electoral votes.
The Republican Party was able to weather the storm of controversies from the partial term of Warren Harding, including the Teapot Dome/Interior Department scandal and alleged indiscretions between Harding and women in his Ohio hometown. The main reason for this was Calvin Coolidge’s steady leadership in the remaining years of the term, including the firing and prosecution of many Coolidge associates and his ability to stay off the front page of the newspaper. In the first political convention covered on radio, the Republicans chose Coolidge on the first ballot with Coolidge’s budget chief Charles Dawes to run as his vice president. The Republican platform included conservative elements such as lower taxes, opposing the League of Nations, and collecting the full amount of international debt accrued during the World War.
A group of progressive Republicans combined with the outcast elements of the populist movement to run a Progressive ticket, because of the decline of populism within the disorganized Democratic Party and the Republican leadership’s breaking of ties with progressives such as William Borah and Robert La Follette. La Follette, the former governor and current senator from Wisconsin, headlined the ticket with his dynamic campaigning style and laundry list of progressive causes. The Progressive ticket was unique in that it held firm on progressive issues that were not touched by either major party’s agenda, including the destruction of monopolies, public ownership of waterways and shipping, increased inheritance taxes, debt relief, and the abolition of labor injunctions. LaFollette was certainly helped among his progressive base by getting the endorsement of the Socialist Party and the American Civil Liberties Union, but also alienated moderates and conservatives throughout the United States.
The Democratic Party was in disarray before and during its nominating convention in 1924. The two major candidates for the Democrats were William MacAdoo, who was a former Secretary of Treasury and an in-law of Woodrow Wilson, and Governor Al Smith of New York. The problem that confronted the party was that both candidates represented the divisions of the party, including stands on Prohibition, civil rights, and taxes. While MacAdoo had the support of the Southern elements and Protestants within the party, the anti-prohibitionists and Catholics were on the side of Smith. After a protracted balloting process (involving over one hundred ballots) the beleaguered delegates chose obscure West Virginian lawyer John Davis, a former ambassador to Great Britain, solicitor general, and a corporate lawyer. To appease the MacAdoo element of the party (including party mainstay William Jennings Bryan), the Democrats chose Nebraska governor Charles Bryan as their vice presidential candidate. The Democratic platform included decreasing tariffs, holding a national referendum on entrance to the League of Nations, and a graduated income tax.
The Coolidge campaign was nearly non-existent, relying on the prosperity of the last four years to guide him back to another term. The Democrats were far more active, promoting their platform in radio addresses and speeches across the country. However, Davis and Bryan were not compelling figures and the Republicans focused on the defection of the Progressives far more than the weakened Democratic Party. The Republicans painted the Progressives as traitors and promoters of a socialist agenda, while the Progressives used grassroots campaigning to get to as many people as possible. In one of the lowest turnouts in American history, the Republican Party defeated the Democrats and Progressives handily to give Coolidge the mandate that he needed to continue America’s prosperity.