In 1899, Harding won a seat on the Ohio State Senate and his political career began. For the next several years, Harding remained active in both local and state politics. Harding was chosen to give the nomination speech for President Taft at the Republican National Convention in 1912. The exposure given to him at the convention allowed him to run for U.S. Senator. Harding won the race and served until his inauguration in 1921.
During the summer of 1920, Harding began to campaign in earnest. The campaign was run in a very modern fashion, with print ads, sound clips, news reels, anti-Democrat literature and celebrities all being used in an attempt to win voters. On November 2nd, 1920, Harding won the election with 60% of the popular vote and 404 electoral votes.
"Return To Normalcy" - 1920 Campaign Slogan
At the same time, Harding was making budget cuts in various other areas to make good on his campaign slogan, "Less government in business and more business in government." Over the course of his Presidency, tax rates were decreased across the board, and these slashes were felt by every income group. Even with the tax reductions, the Federal debt was reduced by one third in the 1920s, mostly due to policies started by Harding.
The Harding administration had many scandals brewing beneath the surface, though few of them came to light before the President passed away in August of 1923. Harding's biggest challenge by far was keeping the Ohio gang under control during his time in office. Unfortunately for him, many of the gang members were able to sweep their illicit activity under the rug. While he may have been dimly aware of the trouble his friends were causing, he was kept out of the loop for the most part, making it nearly impossible to put a stop to it. After Harding's death, many of his friends were sent to prison for the various crimes they committed while Harding was in office.
While Harding was running for office, "the Duchess" was very involved in his campaign, moreso than any other First Lady up to that point. After he was elected, Florence worked to make the country a more welcoming place for war veterans to come home to. The White House had been closed to the public during the Wilson Administration, and the First Lady opened it again, and restarted the annual Easter Egg Roll on the White House lawn.
Warren Harding, a Republican from Ohio, served as President from 1921 to 1923. Harding viewed the Presidency as a largely ceremonial role, and advocated for keeping the government out of businesses. He was an early proponent of civil rights.
Museum Intern, University of Minnesota Undergrad
This panel is part of our 2014 exhibit on U.S. Presidents Between the World Wars. For educational purposes, we have made the document available as a pdf. -->