Warren Harding, a Republican, began his political career in 1898 by winning election to the Ohio senate, where he served until 1903. He was Ohio’s lieutenant governor from 1904 to 1906 but lost his bid for the governorship in 1910. Two years later, he stepped into the national spotlight at the Republican National Convention when he gave a speech nominating President William Taft (1857-1930) for a second term. In 1914, Harding was elected to the U.S. Senate, where he remained until his 1921 presidential inauguration. The congenial Harding had an undistinguished career in the Senate. While he supported high protective tariffs and opposed President Woodrow Wilson’s (1856-1924) plan for the League of Nations, Harding was generally a conciliator and took few strong stands on any issues.
At the 1920 Republican National Convention, delegates deadlocked over their choice for a presidential nominee and eventually chose Harding as a compromise candidate. Calvin Coolidge, the governor of Massachusetts, was selected as his vice presidential running mate. The Democrats named James Cox (1870-1957), the governor of Ohio, as their presidential candidate; Franklin Roosevelt (1882-1945), the former assistant secretary of the Navy (and future 32nd U.S. president), was picked as his running mate.
In the aftermath of World War I and the social changes of the Progressive Era, the pro-business Harding advocated a “return to normalcy.” He conducted a front-porch campaign from his home in Marion, and thousands of people travelled there to hear him speak. (Due to the high volume of visitors, Harding’s front lawn had to be replaced with gravel).
In the general election, the Harding-Coolidge ticket defeated the Democrats in the largest landslide up to that time, capturing some 60 percent of the popular vote and an electoral margin of 404-127. It was the first presidential election in which women across the United States could vote, having gained the right with the ratification of the 19th Amendment in August 1920.