With the 1928 presidential campaign rapidly approaching its climax, with the University political machines making frantic efforts to attract undergraduate adherents to their respective causes, and with the Hoover-Smith controversy being aired from every rostrum in the country the history of the past political drives at Harvard has a special significance in a prognostication of how University men will cast their votes coming November:
First Poll in 1908
If past CRIMSON straw ballot figures mean anything, Harvard politics are largely in the hands of the Republicans. In the CRIMSON poll of 1912, however, when 1608 votes were cast, Wilson obtained 735, Roosevelt 475, Taft 365, Debs 25 and Chafin 8. No candidate secured a majority vote.
Going back to the embryonic stage of the CRIMSON poll in 1908 when it was conducted in the form of a registration of all men in the respective parties at the CRIMSON building it was pointed out that: "During the registration today an opportunity will be given for everybody to obtain a ticket for the parade. The ticket will entitle the holder to a crimson cap and gown and a torch to be carried by each member of the club." This was in the days when an election meant a frantic torchlight procession around the Square, burnings in effigy, and collegiate ballyhoo.
Two hundred and twenty-three Republicans registered in the poll conducted on October 15, 1908. This was the campaign which William Howard Taft won so handily, and the canvassing proved he was indifferently supported by Harvard Republicans, 223 being at most a small registration.
Canvassing the University by the different parties goes back far beyond the 1908 election, but it never produced as good results as the poll which, being conducted successfully in 1912 as the figures already quoted show, was destined to reach even greater popularity and patronage in 1916, 1920, and 1924.
Hughes Defeats Wilson
In the 1916 poll, Hughes decisively defeated Wilson by a plurality of 513 votes in the straw ballot. Out of a total of 1802 votes cast; Hughes received 1140, or 62 per cent; Wilson, 627; Allan L. Benson, 24; J. Frank Hanley, 10; Underwood, 1. The large number of votes indicates the interest taken in the poll, and the Republican plurality shows the Harvard opposition to the rest of the country in one of the most closely contested elections the country has ever witnessed. For two days the states were in a frenzy of excitement, Hughes being first announced as the winner, but Wilson carrying the doubtful states at the last moment.
Hoover Nominated in 1920
Of the greatest interest in connection with the present election campaign is the fact that in the straw ballot conducted in the University on May 4, 1920 for the nominations for the respective parties, Hoover carried both Harvard and Princeton in the balloting. The figures follow:
Harding, the next president, was not even in this list, having obtained only 8 votes.
Small Harding Majority
In the fall poll, however, Harding scored an emphatic victory over Cox. 2030 votes were cast, which represented considerably more than 50 percent of the members of the University. Harding received 1075 votes, Cox 805, Debs, the Socialist, 110, Christensen 31, and Watkins 9.
Harding's majority was not a surprisingly large one," to quote the CRIMSON of October 21, 1920. "In the Medical School alone did the Republican decisively defeat Cox. In that department Harding polled 100 votes to the 51 of Cox. The Faculty vote, however, favored Cox by a slight majority. In the College Harding reaped the most telling vote, leading by over 100 ballots. Debs polled the remarkably large total of 110 votes, 60 of which came from the Socialist element in the College."