James Monroe’s Presidential Campaigns

With the 2012 presidential campaign gearing up, we wondered how Monroe conducted his two campaigns for president in 1816 and 1820. As it turns out, he had quite an easy time of it!

When James Madison announced that he would only serve two terms, Monroe was virtually guaranteed to receive the Democratic-Republican party’s nomination as successor. He had only one main opponent within his own party, William Crawford, and even Crawford did not try very hard to run against him for fear of potentially losing a cabinet seat in a Monroe presidency. The opposition party, the Federalists, had lost most of its political clout by 1816, and their candidate, Rufus King, was not formally endorsed.

There was very little negative campaigning, as Monroe was popular throughout the country, revered as the last of the Revolutionary generation. He won the vast majority of the Electoral College votes, 183 to King’s 34.

And by 1820, the Federalist party had declined so greatly that it did not even endorse a candidate to run against President Monroe. It was the third and last time in American history that a presidential candidate would run unopposed.

Can you imagine such a thing happening today?

Read more about Monroe’s presidential campaigns or the election of 1820.