Long Branch’s Almost President
A heartbeat away from the most-powerful office on Earth.
Long Branch can’t claim that a native was ever President of the United States of America. Plenty of presidential visits, for sure; but never one born here. Close though.
Garret Augustus Hobart — born in Long Branch on a farm — was Vice President of the United States under President William McKinley, serving from 1897 until his death in 1899. Students of history know that Hobart was replaced as VP on the 1900 Republican ticket by Theodore Roosevelt who went on to become the nation’s Chief Executive (indeed, a great one) when McKinley was assassinated in September 1901.
There’s little doubt that had Hobart survived he would have remained on the Republican ticket in 1900 for a second term (McKinley greatly respected and trusted him, calling him the “Assistant President”) and would have become the President after McKinley’s death.
A Rutgers College graduate and self-taught lawyer, Hobart was a powerfully-connected New Jersey politician and banker. He rose quickly in the ranks of Garden State politics — serving as Speaker of the NJ State Assembly and President of the NJ State Senate. He was chairman of the state Republican Party when he was nominated for Vice President in St. Louis in June 1896.
“I’m a businessman; I engage in politics for recreation.”
Born in Long Branch in June 1844, Hobart grew up in the Marlboro Twp. area. He and his wife, Jennie Tuttle Hobart, had 4 children. He also owned several homes in Monmouth Beach and the West Long Branch area.
It was Hobart’s strong fundraising connections with Eastern big business and his ability to help carry New Jersey’s electoral votes that secured his place as the nation’s 24th vice president. Back then — as today — New Jersey was inhospitable to Republicans. In fact, Abraham Lincoln didn’t carry the state in either of his two successful presidential races. The McKinley-Hobart ticket won with 51% of the national vote against Democrat William Bryan and the Republicans carried New Jersey (then with 10 electoral votes) for the first time in 24 years (with nearly 60% of the vote).
In November 1899, he was the incumbent Vice President of the US when he died of a heart attack at the age of 55 in Patterson, NJ. Wealthy industrialists George F. Baker, E.A. Walton and William Barbour served as his pallbearers. The only other NJ native to be elected a US Vice President (from 1801–1805) was Aaron Burr. Hobart would be the sixth US vice president to die in office.