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Election of 1928
In 1927, when President Coolidge declined to run for a second full term of office, Herbert Hoover became the leading Republican candidate for the 1928 election, despite the fact that Coolidge was lukewarm on Hoover (the President would often deride his ambitious and popular Commerce Secretary as ''Wonder Boy''). His only real challenger was Frank Lowden, but in the months leading up to the convention, Hoover received so much favorable press coverage, Lowden's campaign manager complained that the newspapers were full of ''nothing but advertisements for Herbert Hoover and Fletcher's Castoria.'' Hoover's reputation, experience, and public popularity coalesced to give him the nomination on the first ballot, with Senator Charles Curtis named as his running mate.
He campaigned against Democratic candidate Alfred E. Smith on the basis of efficiency and prosperity. Although Smith was the target of anti-Catholicism from some Protestant communities, Hoover avoided the religious issue and publicly repudiated those Republicans who attempted to exploit it. (Quakers were themselves often under attack as pacifists.) There was actually not much difference between the candidates on the issues, as both Hoover and Smith positioned themselves as pro-business, and each promised to improve conditions for farmers, reform immigration laws, and maintain America's isolationist foreign policy. Where they did differ was on the Volstead Act. Smith was a ''wet'' who called for its repeal, whereas Hoover gave public support for Prohibition, calling it a ''noble experiment''. What few voters knew, however, was that Hoover was much more tentative in his support for Volstead in private, and that for years he practiced a certain ritual: often after work at the Commerce Department, he would stop by the Belgian Embassy for a visit with friends. While there, as it was technically foreign soil, he was able to enjoy an alcoholic drink before heading for home. Hoover also used to grumble that all Prohibition successfully did was to force him to dispose of his celebrated wine cellar.
Historians agree that Hoover's national reputation and the booming economy, combined with the deep splits in the Democratic party over religion and prohibition, guaranteed his landslide victory of 58% of the vote. Hoover even managed to crack the so-called ''Solid South,'' winning such traditionally Democratic states as Virginia, Texas and Tennessee from Smith. As advertising executive Bruce Barton put it, ''Americans knew they may have more fun with Smith, but that they would make more money with Hoover.''
Herbert Hoover's wife, Lou Henry Hoover, came to the White House unlike her predecessors as First Ladies. She had already carved out a reputation of her own, having graduated from Stanford as the only woman in her class with a degree in geology. Although she had never practiced her profession formally, she remained very much a new woman of the post-World War I era: intelligent, robust, and possessed of a sense of female possibilities.
On poverty, Hoover promised: ''We in America today are nearer to the final triumph over poverty than ever before in the history of any land.'' Within months, the Stock Market Crash of 1929 occurred, and the nation's economy spiraled downward into what became known as the Great Depression.