Divorce is a recognized handicap in politics. Until Ronald Regan was elected President in 1980 no candidate who had been divorced was elected President. Ironically, he also signed California’s first no fault divorce law while governor. The stigma of divorce is not what is once was. The first Presidential elections I remember is Eisenhower and Stevenson in 1952. The fact that Stevenson had been divorced made his nomination for president on the democratic ticket initially doubtful in 1952. Even though damage to Stevenson's political standing was lessened by the fact that he had not remarried, polls indicated that his divorced status would cost him votes. Stevenson had a problem because he was divorced but running against the very popular World War II hero did not help either. More recently, Republicans have nominated divorced men in Bob Dole and John McCain. In four of the last eight presidential elections, the Republicans have nominated a divorced man. Neither won. Neither Bob Dole or Ronald Reagan’s divorces were tied to infidelity. And John McCain’s first wife, Carol refused to speak out. It looks like Romney will be the Republican nominee. It would have been interesting to hear more what Gingrich first wife has had to say. The six leading contenders for the 2008 Republican Nomination (McCain, Romney, Huckabee, Paul, Thompson, and Giuliani had been married a total of ten times. John Kerry is the only recent Democratic nominee to be divorced and remarried. In 2008, Chris Dodd had done so, and Dennis Kucinick, for whatever it's worth, was on wife number three. In 2004 Kerry, Kucinich, and Lieberman were divorce. Lieberman may be the only candidate to ever get a “get” (Jewish divorce). Ted Kennedy ran against Carter in 1980. In early 1978, he and his wife, Joan, separated. The couple remained together announcing plans to divorce in 1981; the divorce was finalized in 1982. Franklin D. Roosevelt had an affair with Lucy Mercer and contemplated a divorce from Eleanor but whether true or not it was said that his mother would not let him get divorced because she felt that it would keep him from being President. This seems to be a common thread because it has also been said the Roosevelt was born at Campobello in Canada but his mother said it was in the United States for the same reason. Who cannot forget that divorce and remarriage to a divorcee toppled Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller from the position of front-runner for the 1964 Republican Presidential nomination.
It does not seem to be as much as a problem for first ladies. Rachel Jackson was divorce and will be the subject of a future blog. So was Florence “Flossie” King DeWolfe, a divorcee with one son, who married Warren Harding, five years her junior in 1891 and Elizabeth Ann Bloomer who divorced her first husband, William Warren, in 1947 and married Gerald Ford a year later.
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