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Old 06-08-2016, 11:18 AM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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Join Date: Mar 2002
Location: NY but not NYC
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Originally Posted by Northern Piper View Post
It took the convention 49 ballots to nominate Pierce. That doesn't sound like a smoke-filled room of a few people deciding who got the nomination.

Actually, I always had the impression that the smoke-filled room arose because the conventions were unruly and unpredictable?
Not really. Conventions had always been a meeting of state bosses and other fiefdoms, horse-trading votes in return for positions, policies, candidates, and other concessions. The average delegate had no say at all. His vote (much later, a few hers) was a mere number to be bargained away by a boss as part of the lump sum. The large number of votes indicated mostly how hard it was to get these concessions made.

Conventions were unruly, true. Many thousand men away from home drinking and having a good time, supporting their candidates the only possible way - sheer loudness? Chaos. The visitors sections were even worse. But all that had little meaning. It may have helped the bosses gauge which candidates would be best supported by the electorate, but it was always insiders who made the final choice.

That was true long before the "smoke-filled room" of 1920.
An early example of a smoke-filled room is the Boston Caucus. A report of a 1763 meeting of this group said, "selectmen, assessors, collectors, fire-wards and representatives are regularly chosen [there] before they are chosen in the town ... There they smoke tobacco till you cannot see from one end of the garret to the other."[2]

The origin of the term was in a report by Raymond Clapper of United Press, describing rumors of the process by which Warren G. Harding was nominated as Republican candidate for the 1920 Presidential Election. After many indecisive votes, Harding, a relatively minor candidate, was, legend has it, chosen as a compromise candidate by Republican power-brokers in a private meeting in room 404[3] at the Blackstone Hotel in Chicago after the convention had deadlocked.