Nomination BackgroundEditFollowing the surprise upset of 1816, where the Whigs did far better than expected and their candidate, Pennsylvania Governor Hunter DeRensis, the Duke of Winterfell, had been appointed Viceroy, their hopes were high for victory. The Crown Party had of course renominated Henry Clay, who remained popular throughout the country. Despite this, many Whigs thought they had a good chance to unseat Clay if they renominated the Duke. But then the unbelieveable happened; the Duke announced that he would not seek the nomination, and that he would remain as Clay's Viceroy. This was made official by the actual Crown nomination of DeRensis for Viceroy, orchestrated by Clay himself. This came as a hard blow to the Whig Party when they convened in New York City.
With the Duke announcing that he would not run, the field of candidates once again dwindled. All observers saw 1820 as a surefire Whig defeat. This year, the only candidates openingly seeking the nomination were:
- Governor Dewitt Clinton (51) of New York
- Congressman Harrison Gray Otis (55) of Massachusetts
- Congressman Rufus King (64) of New York
Having denied the Duke his support in 1816, Clinton had continued to alienate himself from the Whig leadership. The prime of life had left him since his start in politics, and he threw all the power he had at gaining the 1820 nomination. New York remained to support their governor of a decade, but many at the convention thought it was about time that Clinton recieved what he'd always wanted.
Harrison Gray Otis was a surprising nominee to most politicians; one of the wealthiest merchants in the country, a senior Whig (though not publically) and running for a second term in the House of Congress, most didn't understand why he was trying to recieve a nomination in a worthless year. But to the politically astute, many could see what he was doing; name recognition. A nomination by a major party and a traditional front porch campaign would gain him national attention, while doing minimal damage on his career. Many saw this as testing the waters politically for a move in 1824.
Rufus King once again attended the convention. Although he never officially announced he was seeking the Whig nomination, he also said he would accept the nomination if offered it. Still a faithful Congressman, he had added to his political portfolio by earning the Viceroy nomination in 1816, but still had little faith in his capacity as a candidate. And at 64, King was aging out of consideration.
Nominating Convention EditFor the first time, the Whigs were convening outside of Boston, and in New York City. Many saw this as the political manuevering of Clinton, who wanted a home state advantage. As the convention started, King remained on the outskirts, while it instantly came down to Clinton and Otis. Many saw Otis as the best candidate, being wealthy, and having the experience; not to mention the hatred and vitriol most felt towards Clinton. But for some reason, the top tier Whigs began talking of a Clinton candidacy, and Otis did little to convince others during the talks. And when it was announced in the middle of the convention that DeRensis himself had endorsed Clinton (despite still being the Crown Viceroy nominee), it was a stampede. Dewitt Clinton had finally achieved the Whig nomination, and felt on top of world. He asked fellow New Yorker Rufus King to be his Viceroy, which, on the advice of his collegues, he politely refused. And on that note, the convention nominated Harrison Gray Otis as Viceroy.
Clinton campaigned hard (since it was finally him who he was campaigning for), while most of the other Whigs, remained at home; even Otis contributed very little of his money to the campaign. Clay continued to run a frontporch campaign, to which Clinton mocked. DeRensis himself rarely left his estate at Winterfell. But when it came time for supporters, Clinton was crushed; outside of New York, he had very little support, with many Whigs even supporting Clay; some say he even performed worse than Elbridge Gerry in 1812. DeRensis and the other top Whigs had performed political murder; nominating a hated party member, so that they'd meet certain defeat. It seemed that out of 1820, only Clinton's reputation had been damaged; from this point on, he became severly depressed with his condition in life, and left the Governorship of New York in 1822 after 12 years in office.