Although he suffered a stroke in 1919, President Woodrow Wilson still entertained the idea of running for president in 1920. The American public, however, had become discontent with the war and the resultant loss of life, increased cost of living, and unemployment. Many wished for the country to return to isolationist policies, and the Senate opposed Wilson’s personal appeal for the country to join a postwar League of Nations. There were no leading contenders for the presidential nomination at the Democratic National Convention. The party chose not to nominate Wilson, and it took 46 ballots before a compromise candidate, Governor James M. Cox of Ohio, was selected. Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt was picked as Cox’s running mate. The Republicans also lacked a strong potential candidate at their convention, and they, too, settled on compromise candidate, Ohio senator Warren G. Harding, after early ballots failed to produce a clear cut leader. Senator Calvin Coolidge of Massachusetts was chosen as Harding’s running mate.

The major campaign issue was the debate over America’s joining the League of Nations. Cox was clearly in favor the idea; Harding was ambiguous. Following the passage of the 19th Amendment, 1920 marked the first presidential election in which women could vote.

The result of the election was a landslide victory for Harding, who received more than 60 percent of the popular vote and 404 electoral votes to 127 for Cox. The results probably reflected a public desire to return to the “normalcy” of pre–World War I America and dissatisfaction with the Wilson reforms and involvement in international affairs. Despite their first opportunity to vote for president, the turnout of female voters was low. Virginia cast its 12 electoral votes for James Cox.

Source: "Elections from 1876 to 1920." In Getting the Message Out: Presidential Campaign Memorabilia from the Collection of Allen A. Frey. The Virginia Historical Society. Accessed: May 23, 2016.


R.H. Sommer. 1920. "Warren G. Harding." Lithograph. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 

Anonymous. c. 1920. "Veterans Cox-Roosevelt Clubs."  Allied Printers Trade Council. Membership Card.