|Delegates gather in Baltimore for the 1912 Democratic Convention. They would nominate Woodrow Wilson for President on the 46th ballot.|
In case you forgot, the five longest National Political Conventions in American history all were on the Democratic side. Democrats used to requires a two-thirds majority to pick a presidential nominee, a device designed in pre-Civil War days to assure slave-holding southern states a veto. Scrapped in 1936, this two-thirds rule actually changed the outcome in 1860 and 1912, and made the others way longer than needed.
The longest Republican convention by far was the 1880 epic (36 ballots) that produced winning candidate James A. Garfield (R-Oh). No other Republican convention went beyond ten ballots.
So here they are, the five longest, in order:
- 1924: New York, took 103 ballots to nominate New York lawyer John W. Davis, who lost in a landslide to incumbent Calvin Coolidge;
- 1860: Charleston, took 57 ballots to reach a deadlock. Illinois U.S. Senator Douglas had a majority of the delegates on several ballots but he could not reach two-thirds and stubborn Southerners refused to back down. The delegates decided to call it quits. Then, a few weeks later, the Party split, with Northerners meeting in Baltimore to nominate Illinois U.S. Senator Stephen A. Douglas as their candidate for president and Southerners choosing sitting Vice President John Breckinridge, a Kentucky slaveholder. Both lost to Republican Abraham Lincoln;
- 1852: Baltimore, took 49 ballots to nominate New Hampshire’s Franklin Pierce — elected;
- 1912: Baltimore, took 46 ballots to nominate New Jersey Governor Woodrow Wilson — elected. Wilson’s chief rival, House Speaker Champ Clark (D.-Mo.), actually won a majority of the delegate votes during the early ballots but failed to reach two-thirds;
- 1920: San Francisco, took 44 ballots to nominate Ohio Governor James M. Cox, who lost to Ohio Republican U.S. Senator Warren G. Harding
|Delegates at the 1924 New York 104-ballot epic demonstrating for losing candidate Alfred E. Smith. Smith would win the nomination the next time, in 1928, but lose the White House that year to Republican Herbert Hoover.|