Theo Lippman Jr.

September 10, 1992|By Theo Lippman Jr.

This is the 52nd presidential election.

The 14th was held in 1840. It was more like today's than the ones preceding it. There were campaign songs, paraphernalia, slogans, parades. The Whigs settled on a single nominee in 1840, one of their regional candidates of 1836, 67-year-old William Henry Harrison, a military hero from the War of 1812. He was presented, falsely, as a simple man who would like nothing better than sitting in a rude log cabin and drinking cider.

Meant to be an insult (it originated in a Baltimore newspaper), that characterization appealed to ordinary voters who thought of Democratic President Van Buren as an aristocratic New Yorker. Harrison also reassured Southerners that though he once had joined an anti-slavery society, he strongly supported States' Rights. But the big issue was the economy. Van Buren had presided over an 1837 recession whose effects lingered on.

Harrison swamped the president in every region, winning in the Electoral College by 234 votes to 60.

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