U.S. Presidential Election 1904

by poonam bisht

The presidential election of 1904 was a competition between incumbent President Theodore Roosevelt and Democratic nominee Alton B. Parker of New York. Roosevelt, who had taken office after President McKinley’s…

The presidential election of 1904 was a competition between incumbent President Theodore Roosevelt and Democratic nominee Alton B. Parker of New York. Roosevelt, who had taken office after President McKinley’s assassination in 1901, became the first president by succession to win a reelection. Roosevelt defeated Parker by a wide margin, and went on to serve a full term as President of the United States.
Roosevelt had demonstrated his leadership abilities after taking over for McKinley in the previous years, and positioned himself for reelection. He was a charismatic leader and a popular candidate with the public. The Republican Party chose Roosevelt easily, balancing out his more progressive views with a conservative politician, Charles W. Fairbanks of Indiana, as his running mate.

The Democrats knew they needed a strong candidate to counter the well-liked incumbent. They chose Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals, Alton B. Parker, a well-respected leader. Though he had run for his court position as a Democrat, the opposing side respected him so much, they chose not to nominate anyone to run against him.

William Jennings Bryan, who had been the party’s presidential nominee for the previous two elections, did not want the nomination himself. However, he would not support Parker either, as he was known to be a Gold Democrat. Bryan had fought for a bimetallic monetary system in his past campaigns. Instead, he put his support behind William Randolph Hearst, publisher and owner of eight newspapers. Hearst, who was at the time representing New York in Congress, was a labor-friendly and liberal alternative to Parker. Bryan’s supporters backed his choice, but it wasn’t enough. Parker was nominated as the Democratic Party candidate on the first vote. Senator Henry G. Davis of West Virginia was selected to be his running mate, becoming the oldest candidate ever to be nominated for the position by a major political party, at 80 years old.

After Parker received the nomination, he sent out a telegraph declaring his stance on the issue of silver. His letter showed his strong support of the gold standard, and announced that the Democratic Party was welcome to replace him as their presidential nominee if they disagreed with this, but the party did not.

Several third parties nominated candidates in the 1904 election. The recently formed Socialist Party nominated Eugene V. Debs and Benjamin Hanford as presidential and vice presidential nominees. The Prohibition Party chose Silas Comfort Swallow and George W. Carroll to represent their party, and the Populist Party nominated Thomas E. Watson and Thomas Tibbles. Finally, the Socialist Labor Party nominated Charles Hunter Corregan and William Wesley Cox.

The election of 1904 was less dramatic than the previous few, and the campaigns struggled to find issues to differentiate the two. They held similar views when it came to the monetary system, immigrants and labor. In fact, both parties suggested that their candidate could have been on the opposing side.

Campaign funding was a controversial aspect of the 1904 election when it came out that both sides were being financed by special interest groups. Insurance companies and steel manufacturers had donated a substantial portion of Roosevelt’s campaign funds, while Parker received funds from bankers and oil tycoons.

In the end, charisma and a good track record won out over inexperience, and Roosevelt won the election by the widest margin at that point in history, with over 2.5 million popular votes.

The breakdown of candidates and electoral votes was as follows:

Presidential Candidate Home State Party Electoral Votes Running Mate
Theodore Roosevelt New York Republican 336 Charles W. Fairbanks
Alton B. Parker New York Democratic 140 Henry G. Davis
Eugene V. Debs Indiana Socialist 0 Benjamin Hanford
Silas Comfort Swallow Pennsylvania Prohibition 0 George W. Carroll
Thomas E. Watson Georgia Populist 0 Thomas Tibbles
Charles Hunter Corregan New York Socialist Labor 0 William Wesley Cox
Total 476

Related Maps