This is one of those history essays that I occasionally write. It concerns a primary and a convention....where the least likely guy came to be the convention winner, and eventually President.
In the summer of 1918....most people were seriously disenchanted with President Wilson. A fair number of Republicans felt that Teddy Roosevelt would actually attempt to run again. Never mind the fact that Roosevelt's ill-fated 1912 election against President Taft (a personal friend prior to the election) and Wilson....resulted in Wilson winning the election in a fairly easy manner. Among the big VIPs of the Republican Party....more than a few had a dislike of Roosevelt and what he'd done to the Party.
But, in January of 1919....Roosevelt passed away at age 60. Chief cause? It probably goes back to the 1913-1914 Amazon trip where he ended up with Malaria, and got fairly weak. There is some suggestion that he reached a point where he didn't think he'd survive. After he came back from this trip....he never really gained 100-percent health like he had prior to this. When the war started in early 1917....Roosevelt was given permission by Congress to form four divisions, and was going to get some military title. Wilson realized the impact of a US military operation successfully returning from France in the future, with a hero-like figure like Roosevelt.....so that idea got tossed, and Pershing was put in charge.
With Roosevelt out of the picture.....Warren G. Harding decided to run. He'd had a successful term as Senator from Ohio and thought he might be able to get picked up.
The entire primary season? One single state victory (Ohio). Five other GOP figures did better, with General Pershing himself as the seventh-man in this primary season.
You would have approached the Republican Convention and thought that Hiram Johnson, Gen Leonard Wood, and Frank Lowden were fixed and this was a convention about them, not a sixth-place runner.
Neither Johnson or Wood had enough votes going into the Convention to avoid the open debate.
Harding's speech theme? "America's present need is not heroics, but healing; not nostrums, but normalcy......not revolution, but restoration.....not agitation, but adjustment......not surgery, but serenity......not the dramatic, but the dispassionate......not experiment, but equipoise......not submergence in internationality, but sustainment in triumphant nationality".
It should be noted that Harding delivered a number of speeches which sounded good on paper, but after getting to the Presidency....a number of folks commented that nothing about the speeches made much sense other than having a catchy rhyme.
After a week of bickering and discussions....at some point around 2AM on a Friday morning....Harding's name came up. When people talk about smoke-filled rooms where crazy ideas are thrown around, and alcohol might be present to influence one's mind.....this is one of those situations.
Oddly, the insider guys at the top of the GOP knew about the one single extramarital affair, and worked this out with a payment to the 'lady' and her husband.
So by late afternoon, it was a done deal..
I suspect that Harding fond hope back in 1919 was that he might be the VP or get some cabinet post out of this deal. He was a newspaper publisher-turned-GOP enthusiast.
Anger and hostility about the outcome? Few talk about it but you have to imagine that at least three candidates out of the primary period just shook their heads after the smoke cleared and Harding had passed all three.
The curious end to this story? Harding was lousy at picking cabinet officers and brought some of the most corrupt individuals in US history into the administration. Taking office in 1921.....it barely took two years for him to figure out how bad the situation was, and added to it.....his health was lousy. He passed away in August of 1923....2.5 years into the administration. Had he lived on? There would have been a likely impeachment process, or he would have been voted out by the Republicans in the 1924 election.
If you used this measure for 2016? Jeb Bush or Carly Fiorina might be picked. That's how crazy this open convention business might go. For Cruz to think he'll get the pick in such a convention.....it'll never happen unless he's got the enough votes to win in the first round.