Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts




Like many of its predecessors, the campaign for the Presidency of the United States in 1928 began months before candidates were nominated and ballots were cast. The Republican Party found itself without a candidate when President Coolidge announced late in the summer of 1927 that he would not seek re-election in the following year. There was a slight scramble within Republican ranks for the nomination. Among those considered were Senator Charles G. Curtis of Kansas, majority floor leader, who subsequently was elected Vice-President; Senator William E. Borah, the Idaho Progressive whose role in the campaign is explored herein; Dr. Nicholas Murray Butler, President of Columbia University; the Coolidge Administration’s Vice-President, Charles G. Dawes; and the rugged individualist of considerable experience, Herbert C. Hoover, Secretary of Commerce since 1920. Hoover’s pre-convention campaign was evidently the most efficient, and by early spring of that election year, although there had been some sentiment to draft Coolidge, the Secretary's nomination was a certainty. Similarly, long before the Democrats met in Houston, Texas for their National Convention, the choice of Alfred E. Smith, Governor of New York, was a preclusion. Four years earlier, Smith and William G. McAdoo, contending for the nomination, had split the Democratic Party along Protestant and Catholic, Northern and Southern, and dry and wet lines, forcing the delegates to compromise by naming John W. Davis, a Wall street lawyer whose views were remarkably Republican in sentiment. The election of 1924 had left the Democratic organization in shambles, except in New York, where Smith had been re-elected Governor for a third term, amassing three million more votes than Davis.

With their nominees all but chosen in advance, it was therefore the primary function of the national party conventions to construct presidential platforms. The Prohibition question, seems to have been the campaign issue upon which the parties offered the only outstanding choice. The election of 1928 was therefore a referendum in this sense, and, in light of the evidence presented in this paper, made so through the tireless efforts of Senator William E. Borah.