As the current crop of presidential contenders… battle a salacious media digging for skeletons in all the respective closets–Let’s take a look back at the history of campaign scandals.
Grover Cleveland was campaigning to be… the first Democratic President in 25 years in 1884. Cleveland faced many electoral obstacles, but an unusually large number of personal troubles plagued his campaign. Cleveland was a bachelor which brought more scrutiny on his private life. In July, rumors began to spread of Cleveland fathering a child out-of-wedlock with a widow from Buffalo. Republican nominee, James G. Blaine ran an active campaign delivering over 400 speeches in 1884. Things looked rosy for Blaine as election day approached, he needed to mark time and wait for the results.
The election of 1884… provided one of the earliest examples of the “October surprise.” Blaine was all but elected in late October until one week before the election. Blaine attended a rally at a protestant church in New York City that got a little out of hand. The minister was castigating Republicans who supported (Mugwumps) Cleveland when he shouted Democrats lived for “Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion!” Blaine sat in silence, but the damage had been done. News of the indiscretion spread like wildfire among Catholics, Irish, and working class voters. Cleveland was propelled to the Presidency. Blaine is now a footnote.
Cleveland survived what seemed to be… an insurmountable scandal. His strategy was simple; tell the truth. He admitted to paying the widow child support, though at least two other men could have been the child’s father. Cleveland ran an open campaign and never evaded questions about the issue. In the end, he appeared truthful and Blaine looked like the dishonest scandal-monger. Do today’s candidates have the same courage Cleveland possessed?