In their respective races for the presidency, neither Martin Van Buren nor George Bush won by a landslide, but they enjoyed comfortable victories over disorganized opponents. Their victories were not certain months prior to the elections. Problems for both men caused some to doubt their ultimate victory. This chapter looks at their respective campaigns and shows how Van Buren and Bush were able to overcome the vice-presidential curse that has haunted other vice presidents with presidential aspirations.
Political problems for Van Buren were prevalent during his campaign. It is extremely difficult to run a campaign against one candidate, let alone three. The Whig party did not unify behind Henry Clay but ran three regional campaigns. Van Buren’s managers changed the campaign’s focus to White as each contender dropped out. Toward the end of the campaign, Van Buren was aware of possible Whig efforts to bypass the people and throw the election into the House of Representatives. The possibility also remained for an ingenious plot to get a Whig vice presidential candidate from New York elected by the Senate prior to Van Buren’s election and make him constitutionally ineligible for the presidency. (If the presidential election was a stalemate, the Whigs that had control of the Senate would select the vice president.)
Van Buren also had to contend with problems from within his campaign. His running mate, Richard Johnson, was not accepted in many areas, especially in Virginia, where the people nominated and supported another candidate in November. No one directly explained the opposition to Johnson, but this study will look at his personal life in an effort to understand