“Hughes Jumps In Lead”
That was the headline at the top of the San Diego Union’s front page on November 9, 1916. The Hughes in question was Charles Evans Hughes, Republican candidate for president, running against incumbent President Woodrow Wilson.
The vote had taken place two days before on November 7, but the results were still not complete at that point. The Union’s banner headline derived from the fact that Hughes had taken a slight lead over Wilson in the national electoral vote total, 239 to 232, as reported on the left column on that page. But the right-hand column on the same page noted that Wilson had pulled ahead of Hughes in the popular vote in California, with totals from western states still coming in.
The Union’s preference in the race may have been given away by another headline on a short article further down on that page: “Hughes Confident; Election Assured.”
Two days later, on Saturday November 11, the race still hadn’t been decided, and the Union ran this curious little item on page 4: “Pay no election bets until after the inauguration, is the advice that is freely given by our office boy.” Keep in mind that in those days, presidential inaugurations didn’t take place until March!
It didn’t take quite that long. In the end, Hughes lost California by just 4,000 votes. Nationwide, Wilson beat Hughes 9.1 million to 8.5 million.
Hughes did win San Diego County, but by just 163 votes out of almost 37,000 votes cast. Here are the 1916 county totals as a snapshot of the county’s population and political sentiments then:
Hughes (Republican):16, 978
Wilson (Democrat) : 16, 815
Benson (Socialist): 1, 612
Hanley (Prohibition): 1, 132
Sources for this post included historic San Diego newspapers, the U. S. National Archives and Dave Leip’s U. S. Election Atlas.
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