U.S. Presidential Election 1912

by poonam bisht

The presidential election of 1912 was a three-way race between Woodrow Wilson, William Howard Taft, and Theodore Roosevelt. A faction of the Republican Party broke off to become the Progressive…

The presidential election of 1912 was a three-way race between Woodrow Wilson, William Howard Taft, and Theodore Roosevelt. A faction of the Republican Party broke off to become the Progressive Party, splitting the Republican votes and causing both parties to lose the election. Democratic candidate, Woodrow Wilson won the election to become the twenty-eighth President of the United States.

The 1912 election was the first election in which all forty-eight contiguous states participated, and the last election in U.S. history with a top candidate from a party other than the Democratic and Republican Parties. The top two candidates came from the Democratic Party and Progressive Party.

After finishing off most of McKinley’s second presidential term beginning in 1901, and completing a full term of his own in 1904, Theodore Roosevelt did not seek reelection in 1908. Since he had not served two full terms and was not elected to the presidential seat twice, he decided to seek reelection in 1912.

Roosevelt had endorsed Taft in the previous election, but Roosevelt was disappointed with Taft’s administration. Taft had strayed from Roosevelt’s policies, which alienated the more progressive Republicans. The Republican Party then began to divide into Roosevelt’s Progressive Party and the conservative Republicans who supported Taft. Roosevelt won most of the Republican Party’s state primaries, but by the Republican National Convention, Taft had gathered the support of southern delegates who overpowered the delegates Roosevelt had already won. Taft won the Republican Party presidential nomination, and incumbent Vice President James S. Sherman was chosen as his running mate.

Roosevelt led his supporters to leave the Republican Party, forming the Progressive Party, also known as the Bull Moose Party. Roosevelt became the party’s presidential candidate, with Hiram Johnson as vice presidential nominee.

The Democratic National Convention was a battle between Speaker of the House Champ Clark and New Jersey Governor Woodrow Wilson. Clark had much of the party’s support until the former presidential candidate, William Jennings Bryan put his support behind Woodrow Wilson. The party soon followed, and Wilson secured the Democratic nomination, with Thomas R. Marshall as his running mate.

The Socialist Party again nominated Eugene V. Debs, with Emil Seidel as his running mate. Other third party candidates were nominated by the Prohibition Party and the Socialist Labor party.

The election of 1912 was dramatic and eventful. In October, Roosevelt was shot in an assassination attempt by John Flammang Schrank while on the campaign trail. Fortunately, the bullet pierced through the contents of his pocket (an eyeglass case made of steel and a copy of his speech) before lodging into his chest. Rather than go see a doctor, Roosevelt carried on with his speech as scheduled, speaking for ninety minutes and even noting that his thick fifty page manuscript had slowed the bullet. When he finally did see a doctor, they decided to leave the bullet in his chest, and there it remained for the rest of his life. While Roosevelt was out of commission, both Wilson and Taft stopped their campaigns out of respect, and continued when Roosevelt continued his own.

Later that month, at the very end of his vice presidential term, James S. Sherman died in office, and Taft had to finish his campaign alone. He later chose Nicholas M. Butler to replace Sherman as his replacement vice presidential candidate.

Roosevelt and Taft split the Republican vote, leaving Woodrow Wilson with a wide margin of victory. A close race in California led to a split electoral vote, eleven went to Roosevelt and two went to Wilson. Wilson won the election a total of 435 electoral votes, while Roosevelt came in second place with 88, and Taft earned only 8.

The breakdown of candidates and electoral votes was as follows:

Presidential Candidate Home State Party Electoral Votes Running Mate
Woodrow Wilson New Jersey Democratic 435 Thomas R. Marshall
Theodore Roosevelt New York Progressive 88 Hiram Johnson
William Howard Taft Ohio Republican 8 Nicholas M. Butler (James S. Sherman)
Eugene V. Debs Indiana Socialist 0 Emil Seidel
Eugene Chafin Illinois Prohibition 0 Aaron S. Watkins
Total 531

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