Theo Lippman Jr.

September 14, 1992|By Theo Lippman Jr.

This is the 52nd presidential election.

The 16th was the first to be held on the same day everywhere in the nation. It came after a two-year war with Mexico in which Gen. Zachary Taylor became a national hero. Whigs nominated him to run for president. Democrats chose Sen. Lewis Cass of Michigan, a supporter of the war.

Cass had cast pro-slavery votes, and Taylor was a Louisiana slaveholder. Abolitionists had nowhere to go. Many voted for a new Free Soil Party, whose nominee was former Democratic President Van Buren.

Van Buren got 10 percent of the vote and, in a reprise of what happened in 1844, only this time the Whigs benefiting , third-party votes tipped the balance in New York. Taylor defeated Cass 163 to 127 in electoral votes. With New York's, where Van Buren ran second to Taylor, Cass would have been elected 163 to 127.

History had repeated itself and would shortly again. Like the last Whig president (Harrison), Taylor died in office.

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