JAMES M. COX (D)
Winner: WARREN G. HARDING (R)
James M. Cox, then Governor of Ohio, was nominated by the Democrats for one reason only. He was from Ohio. The Democrats had won the election four years before because they carried Ohio. "Carry Ohio," the Republicans said at Chicago, "and we can win with what we had in 1916." "Without Ohio," the Cox boomers said at San Francisco, "the Democrats do not stand a chance at success." And so they nominated Cox on the 44th ballot. It was a prolonged struggle and showed how bitter was the contest for the honor of leading a great party to defeat.
History in time may be able to make something of the campaign of 1920, but from a close view there was nothing of real interest in it. The Democrats were doomed to defeat from the beginning, and for several reasons, any one of them sufficient. The most important was the League of Nations. The American people held true to their traditional policy of avoiding entangling alliances with Europe. Next in importance was the unpopularity of President Wilson and his Administration. And not an insignificant factor was the reaction against unwarranted waste and graft in the expenditure of public money. Millions of people, ground to the earth by taxation and the high prices of the necessaries of life, keenly resented the wanton extravagance, the profiteering under the cost-plus plan and many other devices for squandering money which had created millionaires almost overnight, and the careless waste that had characterized the disbursement of public funds.
From From Harrison to Harding, by Arthur Wallace Dunn, originally published by G.P. Putnam's Sons in 1922.