PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN & ELECTIONS
OVERVIEWS & CHRONOLOGIES: 1912
By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS
Election Year: 1912
Election Day Date: November 5, 1912
Winning Ticket: Woodrow Wilson, Thomas Marshall, Democratic 6,296,284 41.84% 435 81.9%
- Theodore Roosevelt, Hiram Johnson, Progressive 4,122,721 27.40% 88 16.6%
- William Taft, Nicholas Butler, Republican 3,486,242 23.17% 8 1.5%
- Eugene Debs, Emil Seidel, Socialist 901,551 5.99% 0 0.0%
- Eugene Chafin, Aaron Watkins, Prohibition 208,156 1.38% 0 0.0%
- Other (+) – – 33,880 0.23% 0 0.0%
Voter Turnout: 58.8%
Central Forums/Campaign Methods for Addressing Voters:
Stumping; whistle-stop tour; speeches; rallies; pamphlets; leaflets
Election Law/Campaign Finance Changes:
Incumbent President and Vice President on Election Day:
William Howard Taft, James S. Sherman, Republican 1909-1913
Population: 1904: 95,335,000
GDP: 139 Nominal GDP (billions of dollars): $37.4 Real GDP (billions of 2005 dollars): $576.9 GDP Deflator (index 2005=100%) 6.48 Population (in thousands): 95,335 Nominal GDP per capita (current dollars): $392 Real GDP per capita (year 2005 dollars): $6,051
Number of Daily Newspapers: 2,600
Average Daily Circulation: 24,211,977
Households with: Radio, Television and Computer/Internet:
Method of Choosing Electors: Popular vote, direct election
Method of Choosing Nominees: Presidential preference primaries; National party conventions
- Increased support for progressive reforms: income tax, initiative, recall, direct election of senators
- Strong economy
Leading Candidates (Nomination/Primaries):
Democratic Party candidates:
- Woodrow Wilson, Governor of New Jersey
- Champ Clark, Speaker of the House (Missouri)
- Judson Harmon, Governor of Ohio
- Oscar W. Underwood, House Majority Leader (Alabama)
- Thomas R. Marshall, Governor of Indiana
Republican Party candidates:
- William H. Taft, President of the United States (Ohio)
- Theodore Roosevelt, former President (New York)
- Robert M. La Follette, Senator (Wisconsin)
Main Controversies (Nomination/Primaries):
- Democrats won a majority in the House of Representatives in the midterm election of 1910
- Finding Taft too conservative, Theodore Roosevelt opposed him for the Republican nomination.
Campaign Innovations (Nomination/Primaries):
- First time significant numbers of delegates to the national convention were elected in presidential preference primaries (362 Republican delegates from 14 states).
- Presidential preference primary: The “beauty contest” allowed voters to choose one candidate for the nomination, in addition to voting for specific convention delegates.
- Oregon, first state to adopt the presidential preference primary (voted on in 1910)
- First time an incumbent President, Republican William Howard Taft, stumped for the nomination
Major Personalities (Nomination/Primaries):
- William Jennings Bryan;
Turning Points (Nomination/Primaries):
- Robert M. La Follette, Sr first challenged William Howard Taft for the Republican nomination, maintained some momentum and early wins in North Dakota and his home state Wisconsin.
- When Theodore Roosevelt entered the race, progressives abandoned La Follette to support Roosevelt.
- Theodore Roosevelt won the most delegates and elections in the new Presidential preference primaries
- “My position on the third term is perfectly simple. I said I would not accept a nomination for a third term under any circumstances, meaning of course a third consecutive term. . . .” Theodore Roosevelt
- “My hat is in the ring! The fight is on and I am stripped to the buff!” Theodore Roosevelt announcing his candidacy in February 1912
- “Whether I win or lose is not the important thing,” he t”But,” he added, eyes blazing, “I am in this fight to perform a great public duty the duty of keeping Theodore Roosevelt out of the White House.” William Howard Taft to journalist Charles Thompson about his unprecedented decision to take to the stump to gain the Republican nomination
Fourteen states held Republican primaries
- North Dakota: Robert M. La Follette, Sr
- Wisconsin: Robert M. La Follette, Sr
- New York: Howard Taft
- Nevada: Howard Taft
- Illinois, April 9, 1912: Theodore Roosevelt
- Pennsylvania, Nebraska, Oregon, Maryland, California, Ohio, New Jersey, South Dakota: Theodore Roosevelt
- Massachusetts: Howard Taft
Democratic Party (Jul 01, 1912)
- Woodrow Wilson 527,296, 43.18%
- James Beauchamp “Champ” Clark 427,938, 35.05%
- Judson Harmon, 128,633, 10.53%
- Oscar Wilder Underwood, 114,947, 9.41%
- John Burke, 9,357, 0.77%
- Unpledged, 4,275, 0.35%
- Others, 3,113, 0.25%
Republican Party (Jun 04, 1912)
- Theodore Roosevelt 1,183,238, 51.14%
- William Howard Taft(I) 800,441, 34.59%
- Robert M. La Follette 327,357, 14.15%
- Others, 2,193 0.09%
- Robert G. Ross 605 0.03%
- Charles Evans Hughes 13, 0.00%
Conventions (Dates & Locations):
- Democratic National Convention: June 25-July 2, 1912, 5th Maryland Regiment Armory; Baltimore, Ollie M. James (Kentucky) 46th ballot, Woodrow Wilson (New Jersey), Thomas R. Marshall (Indiana)
- Republican National Convention: June 18-22, 1912, Chicago Coliseum; Chicago, 1st ballot, William Howard Taft (Ohio), James S. Sherman (New York)
Convention Turning Points:
Republican National Convention:
- Although Theodore Roosevelt won 9 Republican Presidential primaries 278 delegates to 36 for La Follette and 48 for Taft, the pledges were not binding at the convention.
- With “Old Guard” support William Howard Taft gathered enough delegates to secure the nomination and shut out Roosevelt.
- At the convention, Roosevelt challenged the delegates’ credentials. Southern delegates supported Taft by a margin of 5-1. Taft secured the Alabama, Arizona, and California delegates even though Roosevelt won the states by close margins.
- On June 22, 1912 Roosevelt asked his supporters to abstain from voting and leave the convention.
- Convention chairman Elihu Root, Roosevelt’s former ally, proposed the convention re-nominate President Taft and Vice President James S. Sherman
Democratic National Convention:
- Crowded field of 10.
- House Speaker Champ Clark became the front-runner with the endorsement of New York’s Tammany Hall and Wall Street
- William Jennings Bryan, still influential, blocked Clark’s nomination after hearing of the Tammy Hall endorsement.
- On the 14th ballot, Bryan switched to Woodrow Wilson, Governor of New Jersey.
- Wilson was nominated on the 46th ballot
- Thomas R. Marshall shifted Indiana’s votes to Wilson; later designated Wilson’s running mate
Number of Ballots to Choose Nominees:
Republican Party nomination
Presidential 1st ballot
- William Howard Taft, 556
- TR delegates not voting 349
- Roosevelt 107
- Robert S. La Follette, Sr. 41
- Others 26
Vice Presidential 1st ballot
- James S. Sherman 596
- TR delegates not voting 352
- Absent 72
- William Borah 21
- Charles Merriam 20
- Herbert Hadley 14
- Albert J. Beveridge 2 (others 58)
Sherman: first Vice President re-nominated since 1828
Democratic National Convention
President nominated 46th ballot
1st & 15th ballot
- Champ Clark 440.5 552
- Woodrow Wilson 324 362.5
- Judson Harmon 148 29
- Oscar W. Underwood 117.5 110.5
- Thomas R. Marshall 31 30
- Simeon Baldwin 22 –
- Others 1 4
- Champ Clark 455
- Woodrow Wilson 460
- Oscar W. Underwood 121.5
- Eugene Foss –
- Judson Harmon 19
- Others 2
31st, 45th, 46th ballot
- Woodrow Wilson 475.5 633 990
- Champ Clark 446.5 306 84
- Oscar W. Underwood 116.5 97 –
- Eugene Foss 30 27 –
- Judson Harmon 17 25 12
- Others 2.5 6 8
Vice Presidential 2nd ballot
- Thomas R. Marshall 389 644.5
- John Burke 304.67 386.33
- George E. Chamberlain 157 12.5
- Elmore W. Hurst 78 0
- James H. Preston 58 0
- Martin J. Wade 26 0
- William F. McCombs 18 0
- John E. Osborne 8 0
- William Sulzer 3 0
Third Party Candidates & Nomination:
- Presidential, Theodore Roosevelt; Vice Presidential, Senator Hiram Johnson of California
- Formed when Roosevelt and his supporters split from the Republican party after re-nominating William Howard Taft;
- Supporters included social workers, reformers, intellectuals, feminists, Republican insurgents, disgruntled politicians, businessmen
- “New Nationalism.” Radical progressive platform “Covenant with the People”
- Popularly known as the “Bull Moose Party”
- Presidential: Eugene Debs
- Factionalized local parties, elected officials in 33 states, 160 cities
- The conservatives: Victor Berger, (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) progressive causes, efficiency, end to corruption, “gas and water socialism”
- Radical opponents: overthrow capitalism, infiltrate labor unions, and cooperate with the Industrial Workers of the World (“the Wobblies”)
- largest percentage of the popular vote
- Republican Party: Temporary & Permanent Chairman: Elihu Root
Convention Keynote Speaker:
- Progressive Party: Albert J. Beveridge IN (one of the most famous keynote speeches, standard for subsequent conventions)
Nominating Speech Speakers (President): Progressive Party: Warren G. Harding
- “As proof of our fidelity to the people, we hereby declare ourselves opposed to the nomination of any candidate for President who is the representative of or under any obligation to J. Pierpont Morgan, Thomas F. Ryan, August Belmont, or any other member of the privilege-hunting and favor-seeking class.” From a resolution William Jennings Bryan introduced at the Democratic National Convention repudiating machine candidates.
- “The people’s Government has been usurped by the Invisible Government, and the people’s Government must be given back to the people again.” Albert J. Beveridge IN, Progressive Party National Convention, August 5-7, 1912
- Democratic Party: “New Freedom” Individualism; moderate progressive measures: single six-year presidential term, direct election of Senators, national income tax, presidential primaries
- Republican Party: Increase judicial power over elected officials
- Progressive Party: “The New Nationalism” reforms federal regulation over: the economy, corporations; overruling judicial decisions that contradicted progressive reforms;
General Election Controversies/Issues:
- Ideological differences: Taft, conservatism; Roosevelt, Progressivism; Wilson, liberalism
- “new day” in America, need for increased government involvement, social welfare programs;
Campaign Innovations (General Election):
- Taft was the first sitting President to stump for reelection in a primary or in the general election after being renominated
- A powerful third party candidate who affected the outcome of the election
- Third party as spoilers
- Republican Party: Quiet campaign style: Taft for the most part did not stump, saying the incumbent President does not campaign.
- Conservative Old Guard control increased over the Republican Party
- Taft called Roosevelt’s supporters and Republican defectors who formed the Progressive Party “labor, socialistic, discontented, ragtag, and bobtail variety.”
- Democratic Party: Wilson preferred a dignified style. Bryan actively campaigned for Wilson out West.
- Progressive Party: Roosevelt campaigned vigorously; claimed the Republican nomination was stolen from him.
Major Personalities (General Election): Louis Brandeis; William Jennings Bryan;
Turning Points (General Election):
- October 14, 1912, In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Roosevelt shot by a mad saloonkeeper, John F. Schrank. The bullet went through his steel eyeglass case, and a 50 page copy of his speech in his jacket before it lodged in his chest.,Roosevelt nevertheless delivered his speech
- October 30th Republican Vice Presidential candidate James S. Sherman died. Columbia University president Nicholas Murray Butler replaced him.
Popular Campaign Slogans:
- Democratic Party: “Empty Market Basket”
- Democratic: Wilson, That’s All (Woodrow Wilson)
Influential Campaign Appeals or Ads:
Money Spent (Each Campaign/Party/Overall):
- Big Business knew Taft and the Republican did not have much a chance at victory and they did not contribute much to the Republican campaign
Defining Quotation (Winning Candidate):
- “What form does the contest between tyranny and freedom take to-day? What is the special form of tyranny we now fight? How does it endanger the rights of the people, and what do we mean to do in order to make our contest against it effectual? What are to be the items of our new declaration of independence? By tyranny, as we now fight it, we mean control of the law, of legislation and adjudication, by organizations which do not represent the people, by means which are private and selfish.” Woodrow Wilson, “The New Freedom”
- “Ours is a programme of liberty, theirs is a programme of regulation.” Woodrow Wilson
Defining Quotation (Losing Candidate):
- “Sometimes, I think I might as well give up so far as being a candidate is concerned. There are so many people in the country who don’t like me. Without knowing much about me, they don’t like me -apparently on the Dr. Fell principle . . . they don’t exactly know the reason, but it is on the principle: I don’t like you, Dr. Fell, The reason why I can not tell, But this I know and know full well, I don’t like you, Dr. Fell. William Howard Taft writing in July 1912
- “I hope we shall win. . . . But win, or lose, we shall not falter. . . . Our cause is based on the eternal principle of righteousness; and even though we who now lead may for the time fail, in the end the cause itself shall triumph. . . . We stand at Armageddon, and we battle for the Lord.” Theodore Roosevelt, Acceptance speech Presidential nomination Progressive Party
- “I will make this speech or die. It is one thing or the other…. I am going to ask you to be very quiet and please excuse me from making a long speech. I’ll do the best I can, but there is a bullet in my body… It is nothing, I am not hurt badly. I have a message to deliver and will deliver it as long as there is life in my body… I have had an A-1 time in life and I am having it now. It was a very natural thing that weak and vicious minds should be inflamed to acts of violence by the kind of artful mendacity and abuse that have been heaped upon me for the last three months.” Theodore Roosevelt after being shot, October 14, 1912
- “Only a year ago workingmen were throwing decayed vegetables and rotten eggs at us but now all is changed…. Eggs are too high. There is a great giant growing up in this country that will someday take over the affairs of this nation. He is a little giant now but he is growing fast. The name of this little giant is socialism.” Emil Seidel, Socialist Party, Vice presidential candidate
Significant books about the campaign:
- Chace, James. 1912: Wilson, Roosevelt, Taft & Debs– The Election that Changed the Country. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004.
Lasting Legacy of Campaign:
- Only time in the 20th century a third party candidate received more votes, popular and electoral votes than a major party candidate
- Weakest Republican election results in history, with an incumbent defeated.
- August 6, 1909: “Taft signs the Payne-Aldrich Tariff Act, establishes a Tariff Board and reduces the tariff.”
- September 14, 1909: President Taft begins a tour of the southern and western states in gain support for his new tariff act.
- September 17, 1909: “While on a tour, Taft calls the Payne-Aldrich Act “the best” tariff bill ever passed by the Republican Party, Republican progressives and party regulars are upset by his comments.”
- November 10, 1909: Taft completes his cross country tour, he makes a total of 259 speeches. A Winona, Minnesota observer claims: “I knew he was good natured but I never dreamed he was so dull.”
- November 13, 1909: “Louis Glavis, (chief of the Field Division of the Department of the Interior) accuses Secretary of the Interior Richard Ballinger of conspiring “to defraud the public domain in the Alaskan coal fields” in Collier’s Weekly magazine; Glavis also implicates the Taft administration.”
- May 20, 1910: “At a congressional investigation into the Glavis-Ballinger dispute, attorney Louis Brandeis, representing Glavis, reveals damaging information about the Taft administration. Congress clears Ballinger and the Taft administration of any wrongdoing, however.”
- June 18, 1910: Taft decides not to greet Theodore Roosevelt when he returns from his trip to Africa.
- June 20, 1910: Roosevelt declines Taft’s invitation to the White House, but praises Taft’s railroad legislation, postal savings bill, and conservationism.
- 1910: Oregon is the first state to adopt the presidential preference primary into law. Presidential preference primary: The “beauty contest” allows voters to choose one candidate for the nomination, in addition to voting for specific convention delegates.
- August 31, 1910: Theodore Roosevelt gives his “New Nationalism” speech in Osawatomie, Kansas. Roosevelt outlines his new radical social program that would expand the government’s social responsibilities, and take American progressivism in a new direction. Roosevelt advocates “conservation, control of trusts, labor protection, and a graduated income tax,” and aiding “the plight of children, women, and the underprivileged.”
- September 5, 1910: “Taft rejects a proposed dinner, given by the National Conservation Congress, which would honor both himself and Roosevelt.”
- September 10, 1910: “Taft, in a letter to his brother, comments that Roosevelt “has proposed a program (‘New Nationalism’) which it is absolutely impossible to carry out except by a revision of the federal Constitution. In most of these speeches he has utterly ignored me. His attitude toward me is one that I find difficult to understand and explain.””
- November 8, 1910: Mid-Term Elections: Democrats gain control in the House of Representatives with a majority of 228 to 162 to 1. In the Senate, Republicans maintain control with 51 to 41 seats.
- January 21, 1911: “Wisconsin Senator Robert LaFollette establishes The National Progressive Republican League in Washington, D.C.”
- June 17, 1911: “Senator Robert LaFollette, a progressive from Wisconsin, announces his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination.”
- December 23, 1911: Theodore Roosevelt finally announces that he would accept the nomination if he was drafted, but that he would not campaign for it. Finding Taft too conservative, Theodore Roosevelt opposes him for the Republican nomination.
- August 3, 1911: “Taft signs general arbitration treaties with France and England. Roosevelt, along with his friend and ally Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, lead the campaign in opposition to the treaties.”
- Fall, 1911: “Taft tours the western United States to drum up support for his arbitration treaties with England and France. In March 1912, the Senate will approve the treaties, which are rejected by Britain and France.”
- October 26, 1911: “Taft files suit against U.S. Steel for violating the Sherman Act. In papers filed for the suit, Taft alleges that Roosevelt in 1907 had mistakenly let U.S. Steel purchase the Tennessee Coal and Iron Company. This action damages the Taft-TR relationship irreparably.”
- February 22, 1912: “Theodore Roosevelt announces that his “hat is in the ring” as a candidate for President. Taft and running mate James S. Sherman are re-nominated together, the first time that Republicans endorse a sitting President and vice president for the party ticket.”
- First time significant numbers of delegates to the national convention are elected in presidential preference primaries (362 Republican delegates from 14 states).
- First time an incumbent President, Republican William Howard Taft, stumps for the nomination
- March 19, 1912: North Dakota Primary: Democrat (Gov. John Burke); Republican Robert M. La Follette, Sr. Robert M. La Follette, Sr first challenges William Howard Taft for the Republican nomination, maintains some momentum and has early wins in North Dakota and his home state Wisconsin.
- April 2, 1912: Alabama Primary Democrat: (U Rep. Oscar Wilder Underwood), Wisconsin Primary (Gov. Woodrow Wilson) Wisconsin Primary Republican, Robert M. La Follette, Sr.
- April 13, 1912: Pennsylvania Primary, Gov. Woodrow Wilson wins.
- April 30, 1912: Massachusetts Primary: Democrat (Speaker of the House James Beauchamp “Champ” Clark); Republican, Howard Taft wins.
- May 4, 1912: Nevada Primary (Speaker of the House James Beauchamp “Champ” Clark)
- May 5, 1912: Texas Primary (Gov. Woodrow Wilson wins)
- May 6, 1912: Maryland Primary (Speaker of the House James Beauchamp “Champ” Clark wins)
- May 7, 1912: Mississippi Primary (Rep. Oscar Wilder Underwood wins)
- May 14, 1912: California Primary (Speaker of the House James Beauchamp “Champ” Clark wins)
- May 21, 1912: Ohio Primary (Gov. Judson Harmon wins)
- May 28, 1912: New Jersey Primary (Gov. Woodrow Wilson wins)
- May 29, 1912: Arizona Primary (Speaker of the House James Beauchamp “Champ” Clark wins)
- May 31, 1912: Rhode Island Primary (Speaker of the House James Beauchamp “Champ” Clark wins)
- June 4, 1912: South Dakota Primary (Speaker of the House James Beauchamp “Champ” Clark wins)
- June 18-22, 1912: Republican National Convention convenes at the Chicago Coliseum in Chicago, Illinois renominates 1st ballot William Howard Taft (Ohio) for President, and James S. Sherman (New York) for Vice President. Although Theodore Roosevelt wins 9 Republican Presidential primaries, 278 delegates to 36 for La Follette and 48 for Taft, the pledges are not binding at the convention. With “Old Guard” supporting Taft, Taft is able to gather enough delegates to secure the nomination and shut out Roosevelt. At the convention, Roosevelt challenges the delegates’ credentials. Southern delegates support Taft by a margin of 5-1, and Taft secures Alabama, Arizona, and California’s delegates even though Roosevelt wins the states by close margins.
- June 22, 1912: Roosevelt asks his supporters to abstain from voting and to leave the convention. Convention chairman Elihu Root, Roosevelt’s former ally, proposes the convention renominate President Taft and Vice President James S. Sherman
- July 12, 1912: Prohibition Party Convention nominates Eugene Wilder Chafin for President,
- August 5-7, 1912: Progressive Party Convention nominates Theodore Roosevelt for President, and Senator Hiram Johnson of California for Vice President. The party forms when Roosevelt and his supporters split from the Republican party after re-nominating William Howard Taft; Supporters included social workers, reformers, intellectuals, feminists, Republican insurgents, disgruntled politicians, businessmen “New Nationalism.” Radical progressive platform “Covenant with the People; Popularly known as the “Bull Moose Party”
- Fall 1912: Republican Party runs a quiet campaign; Taft for the most part does not stump, saying the incumbent President does not campaign. Conservative Old Guard control increases over the Republican Party.
- Fall 1912: Taft called Roosevelt’s supporters and Republican defectors who formed the Progressive Party “labor, socialistic, discontented, ragtag, and bobtail variety.”
- Fall 1912: Woodrow Wilson prefers a dignified style. Bryan actively campaigns for Wilson out West.
- Fall 1912: Roosevelt campaigns vigorously; claims the Republican nomination was stolen from him.
- October 14, 1912: A mad saloonkeeper, John F. Schrank in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, shoots Roosevelt. The bullet went through his steel eyeglass case, and a 50-page copy of his speech in his jacket before it lodged in his chest. Roosevelt nevertheless delivered his speech
- October 30, 1912: Republican Vice Presidential candidate James S. Sherman dies. Columbia University president Nicholas Murray Butler replaces him on the Republican ticket.
- November 5, 1912: Election Day, Democrats Woodrow Wilson is elected President, Thomas R. Marshall is elected Vice President.
- January 13, 1913: Presidential Electors cast the electoral vote in their respective state capitols.
- 1912: New York Primary, Howard Taft wins.
- 1912: Nevada Primary, Howard Taft wins.
- April 9, 1912: Illinois Primary: Democrat, Speaker of the House James Beauchamp “Champ” Clark wins; Republican, Theodore Roosevelt wins. When Theodore Roosevelt enters the race, progressives abandon La Follette to support Roosevelt.
- Apr 10, 1912: Social Labor Party Convention nominates Arthur Elmer Reimer for President.
- Pennsylvania, Nebraska, Oregon, Maryland, California, Ohio, New Jersey, South Dakota Primaries: Republican Theodore Roosevelt wins.
- April 19, 1912: Nebraska Primary, Democrat (Speaker of the House James Beauchamp “Champ” Clark), OR (Gov. Woodrow Wilson)
- Theodore Roosevelt wins the most delegates and elections in the new Presidential preference primaries
- May 1, 1912: Florida Primary (Unpledged), Georgia (Rep. Oscar Wilder Underwood)
- May 18, 1912: Socialist Party Convention nominates Eugene Victor Debs for President.
- June 25-July 2, 1912: Democratic National Convention convenes at the 5th Maryland Regiment Armory in Baltimore, Maryland. Ollie M. James (Kentucky) serves as chairman. The convention nominates on the 46th ballot Woodrow Wilson (New Jersey) for President, Thomas R. Marshall (Indiana) for Vice President. There are 10 nominees competing for the Presidential nomination. House Speaker Champ Clark becomes the front-runner with the endorsement of New York’s Tammany Hall and Wall Street. William Jennings Bryan, still influential, blocks Clark’s nomination after hearing of the Tammy Hall endorsement. On the 14th ballot, Bryan switches support to Woodrow Wilson, Governor of New Jersey. Wilson is nominated on the 46th ballot. Thomas R. Marshall shifts Indiana’s votes to Wilson; later is designated as Wilson’s running mate