News Column

Think You Know Your Presidents? Time for a Pop Quiz

Feb. 17, 2012
Abe Lincoln

The backbiting, the negative ads, the public scandals ... yes, the campaign of 1824 wasn't at all pretty. The road to the presidency has long been littered with intrigue and suspense. Find out more by testing your knowledge of the high and low points of American politics.

1. Which presidential candidates faced off in the first televised debate?

Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter

John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon

Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey

2. Which newspaper prematurely reported Harry Truman's defeat in the 1948 election?

The Dallas Morning News

Chicago Tribune

The Indianapolis Star

3. Who was the first president to try to recapture the White House on a third-party ticket?

Martin Van Buren

Millard Fillmore

Theodore Roosevelt

4. What post did Dwight Eisenhower hold when he was nominated as the Republican candidate in 1952?

General Electric chairman

General Motors president

General of the Army

5. In 1980, which journalist helped coach Republican candidate Ronald Reagan for a debate with Democrat Jimmy Carter?

Columnist William Safire

Columnist George Will

TV reporter Sam Donaldson

6. Which candidate delivered a 50-minute speech to supporters with a bullet lodged in his chest?

Herbert Hoover

James Garfield

Theodore Roosevelt

7. Which Democratic candidate had to endure the taunts of "Ma! Ma! Where's my pa?" from the Republicans?

Andrew Jackson

Franklin Pierce

Grover Cleveland

8. In 1824, what accusation did supporters of John Quincy Adams make against Andrew Jackson's wife, Rachel?



Poor fashion sense

9. What famous quip helped former Vice President Walter Mondale win the 1984 Democratic nomination over Colorado Sen. Gary Hart?

"Are you finished yet?"

"Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy."

"Where's the beef?"

10. Which president sometimes campaigned in German?

James Garfield

Warren Harding

John F. Kennedy

11. Who was the first president of all 50 states?

Lyndon Johnson

Calvin Coolidge

Dwight Eisenhower

12. Who was the first president to live in the White House?

John Adams

John Quincy Adams

William Henry Harrison

13. Who was the first 20th century-born president in the White House?

Bill Clinton

John F. Kennedy

Ronald Reagan

14. Who was the first president to visit all 50 states?

Richard Nixon

Dwight Eisenhower

Theodore Roosevelt

15. Who was the first president to be born outside the 13 original states?

Abraham Lincoln

Andrew Jackson

Ronald Reagan

16. Who was the first president to hold a televised news conference?

Dwight Eisenhower

John F. Kennedy

Harry S. Truman

17. Who was the first president to be born a citizen of the United States?

Jimmy Carter

George Washington

Martin Van Buren


1. Answer: John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon

Democrat Kennedy and Republican Nixon met inside a Chicago studio Sept. 26, 1960. Kennedy scored high marks among television viewers for his delivery and style, while Nixon lost points for looking shifty-eyed and sweaty. But those who listened to the debate on radio thought the substance of Nixon's positions made him the winner.

2. Answer: Chicago Tribune

Democrat Truman defied the odds and apparent popular sentiment when he defeated Republican Thomas Dewey. At a postelection stop in St. Louis, the president-elect showed a group of photographers a copy of the Tribune bearing the headline "Dewey Defeats Truman."

3. Answer: Martin Van Buren

In 1848, former Democrat Van Buren sought to regain the presidency as a candidate for the anti-slavery Free Soil Party. Although his attempt fell short, he did earn 10 percent of the popular vote. Former Whig Millard Fillmore ran on the anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic American Party ticket in 1856, and Theodore Roosevelt changed from the Republican Party to the Progressive (Bull Moose) Party for the 1912 race.

4. Answer: General of the Army

On July 18, 1952, about a week after his nomination, Eisenhower resigned the post. By giving it up, Eisenhower forfeited his Army pension, an eight-member staff and government-paid office space.

5. Answer: Columnist George Will

After the debate, Will appeared on ABC's "Nightline" and praised Reagan's performance, neglecting to mention his role in Reagan's preparation. When his assistance was finally revealed, many in the journalistic community criticized Will.

6. Answer: Theodore Roosevelt

In 1912, Progressive Party candidate Roosevelt was on his way to an appearance in Milwaukee when a fanatic named John Schrank shot him in the chest. Rather than go to a hospital, Roosevelt kept his appointment. "I will deliver this speech or die," he said. After the speech, Roosevelt sought medical attention and took a few weeks off from campaigning.

7. Answer: Grover Cleveland

In 1884, a New York newspaper broke a story that Cleveland had fathered a child out of wedlock. After Cleveland's victory, his supporters answered the Republican jab: "Ma! Ma! Where's my pa? Gone to the White House. Ha Ha Ha."

8. Answer: Bigamy

The charge stemmed from the fact that Jackson had accidentally married his wife before her divorce to her first husband was finalized.

9. Answer: "Where's the beef?"

Mondale borrowed the line from a television commercial for Wendy's hamburgers. His effective use of it challenged the substance of Hart's new ideas for governing.

10. Answer: James A. Garfield

Garfield studied Latin, Greek and German in college. During his 1880 campaign, the Democratic candidate occasionally used German on the stump, especially when he appeared before voters of German descent.

11. Answer: Dwight Eisenhower

Hawaii, the 50th state, entered the union on Aug. 21, 1959, during Eisenhower's second term.

12. Answer: John Adams

Adams, who followed George Washington in to office, was the first president to live in the White House. Adams and his wife moved in Nov. 1, 1800. (The White House was under construction during Washington's administration.)

13. Answer: John F. Kennedy

Kennedy, born on May 29, 1917, won the presidency in 1960. But Americans later elected a president who was a few years older than Kennedy. Ronald Reagan, elected in 1980, was born in 1911. He holds the distinction of being the president born earliest in the 20th century.

14. Answer: Richard Nixon

Nixon was a world traveler, too. He was the first sitting president to visit China.

15. Answer: Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln was born in Hodgenville, Hardin County, Ky., on Feb. 12, 1809.

16. Answer: Dwight Eisenhower

Eisenhower's Jan. 19, 1955, news conference was the first recorded for television. It aired later. Coincidentally, Eisenhower also became the first president to appear in color on TV, when an address he delivered at West Point, N.Y., on June 6, 1955, was broadcast by NBC the following day.

17. Answer: Martin Van Buren

Van Buren was born on Dec. 5, 1782, in Kinderhook, N.Y. Previous presidents had been born before the American Revolution, and thus were born British subjects. Now all presidents must be born U.S. citizens, according to Article II, Section I of the U.S. Constitution, which was ratified in 1787.

SOURCES: "Facts About the Presidents," by Joseph Nathan Kane; "Presidential Campaigns," by Paul F. Boller Jr.; "Presidential Elections"; Chicago Tribune/MCT; The Plain Dealer (Cleveland); "Facts and Fun about the Presidents," by George Sullivan, Scholastic Inc.; World Book.

Source: (C) 2012 Mclatchy-Tribune News Service.. All Rights Reserved

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