Warren Gamaliel Harding (November 2, 1865 – August 2, 1923) was the 29th President of the United States, serving from March 4, 1921, until his death in 1923. At the time of his death, he was one of the most popular presidents, but the subsequent exposure of scandals that took place under his administration, such as Teapot Dome, eroded his popular regard, as did revelations of an affair by Nan Britton, one of his mistresses. In historical rankings of the U.S. presidents, Harding is often rated among the worst.
Harding was born in Blooming Grove, Ohio. He lived in rural Ohio all his life, except when political service took him elsewhere. He settled in Marion when not yet 20 years old and bought The Marion Star, building it into a successful newspaper. In 1899, he was elected to the Ohio State Senate and, after four years there, successfully ran for lieutenant governor. He was defeated for governor in 1910, but was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1914.
Harding ran for the Republican nomination for president in 1920, but he was considered an also-ran with little chance of success. The leading candidates, such as General Leonard Wood, could not gain a majority to secure the nomination, and the convention deadlocked. Harding's support gradually grew until he was nominated on the 10th ballot. He conducted a front porch campaign, remaining for the most part in Marion and allowing the people to come to him. He won in a landslide over Democrat James M. Cox and Socialist Party candidate Eugene Debs, running on a theme of return to normalcy and becoming the first sitting senator to be elected president.
Harding appointed a number of well-regarded figures, including Andrew Mellon at the Treasury, Herbert Hoover at Commerce and Charles Evans Hughes at the State Department. A major foreign policy achievement came with the Washington Naval Conference of 1921–1922, in which the world's major naval powers agreed on a naval limitations program that lasted a decade. Two members of his cabinet were implicated in corruption: Interior Secretary Albert Fall and Attorney General Harry Daugherty. The resulting scandals did not fully emerge until after Harding's death, nor did word of his extramarital affairs, but both greatly damaged his reputation. Harding died of a heart attack in San Francisco while on a western speaking tour; he was succeeded by his vice president, Calvin Coolidge.