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Jockeying for the American Presidency: The Political Opportunism of Aspirants By Lara ...

Chapter :  Introduction: Presidential Aspirant James K. Polk
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Jockeying for the American Presidency:


Presidential Aspirant
James K. Polk1

‘Fortuna is in a frolic’, occasionally and in the midst of the confusion which prevails, there is no telling what may happen.

—James K. Polk, May 15, 18442

On May 29, 1844, a message from Baltimore raced across Samuel Morse's newly strung telegraph wire to Capitol Hill, spreading word that James K. Polk of Tennessee had captured the Democratic Party's presidential nomination on the ninth ballot. Neither the front-runner, former president Martin “The Little Magician” Van Buren, nor his strongest challenger, former secretary of war Lewis Cass, had been able to garner the necessary support from two-thirds of the convention delegates. When the news reached Whig Party presidential nominee Henry Clay in Lexington, Kentucky, he wrote confidently to Representative John P. Kennedy, a fellow Whig from Maryland: “The Democratic nomination could not have been better for our cause. The only regret attending them is that persons more worthy of a contest with us had not been selected.”3