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4 Contested Conventions in Presidential Election History

February 26, 2020 in History

By Lesley Kennedy

Having a single candidate by the time of the convention has been a key stepping stone for a party’s victory. But it hasn’t always worked out that way.

For all the pomp and circumstance that once surrounded presidential party conventions, they’re rarely all that dramatic today. In fact, the last time Democrats faced a tight delegate race was in 1980, when reported. “By the time Mr. Davis was nominated, more than 100 delegates had already packed up and gone home, having run out of money, patience, or energy.”

Davis was a dark horse introduced as a compromise after neither New York Governor Alfred E. Smith, an anti-Prohibitionist, or William G. McAdoo, who had the support of the Ku Klux Klan, could wrangle a then-necessary two-thirds majority.

Davis lost the general election resoundingly to Republican President Calvin Coolidge.

Republican National Convention, 1964

Ku Klux Klan members supporting Barry Goldwater’s campaign for the presidential nomination at the Republican National Convention, San Francisco, California, as an African American man pushes signs back.

In a clash of Republican conservatives vs. moderates, Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, the former, had managed to fend off New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, the latter, during primary season. But the senator was still shy of the total delegates needed to clearly clinch the party’s nomination at the San Francisco-held convention on the first ballot.

With support from former President Dwight Eisenhower, as well as failed candidate Rockefeller, a last-minute bid from Pennsylvania Gov. William Scranton threw a wrench in Goldwater’s plan to secure the nomination.

Just a month before the convention, Goldwater was one of six Republicans to vote against the Civil Rights Act. A “Stop Goldwater” movement ensued, with moderates throwing their support to Scranton and massive anti-Goldwater protests taking place outside the convention hall.

“The 40,000-person demonstration in San Francisco was the largest protest since the March on Washington,” author and political correspondent John Dickerson writes in Slate. “Signs read, ‘Goldwater for Fuhrer, Freedom Is Dead, Hitler Was Sincere, Too. ‘Goldwater in ’64: Bread and water in ’65; hot water in ’66,’ ‘Vote for Barry, stamp out peace,’ ‘I’d rather have scurvy than Barry–Barry.’ ”

But while he may not have held the popular vote, he held the delegates’ votes and Goldwater ended up wresting the nomination from Scranton with a vote of 883 to 214. He went on to lose the national election to …read more


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