Theo Lippman Jr.

September 25, 1992|By Theo Lippman Jr

This is the 52nd presidential election. The 25th in 1884 saw the first Democratic victory in 28 years. New York Gov. Grover Cleveland, a sound-money conservative, led the party out of its wilderness.

This was the election in which war hero William Tecumseh Sherman told Republicans he would not accept the nomination, nor serve if elected. So the party turned to Maine Sen. James G. Blaine, a veteran of Congress and Cabinet for over 20 years. Cleveland had never even been to Washington.

The campaign turned on personal issues. That is, negative campaigning. Cleveland was hurt by the revelation that he fathered an illegitimate child. Blaine was hurt by the revelations that he urged a friend to destroy evidence implicating him in a fraud, that he seemingly agreed with a Protestant minister's attack on the Democrats as the party of ''rum, Romanism and rebellion,'' and by his hobnobbing with ultra-rich tycoons at a lavish party in the midst of a recession.

It was as close as in 1880. Cleveland beat Blaine by only 26,000 votes (of 10 million cast) and 219 electoral votes to 182.

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