The Presidential Election of 1912 was a disaster for the Republican Party. After dominating the political landscape for two decades, the party split due to the re-emergence of Theodore Roosevelt.
William Howard Taft was supposed to be Roosevelt’s protege and continue his vision, however, Taft had different ideas that upset Roosevelt and caused him to throw his hat back into the ring in 1912.
Roosevelt challenged Taft at the 1912 Republican Convention, but Taft and his conservative members narrowly defeated the charismatic candidate. Instead of uniting with the Republicans, Theodore Roosevelt became a third-party candidate under the Progressive Party.
Meanwhile, Woodrow Wilson of the Democrats did not have an easy process either. William Jennings Bryan threw his support behind the New Jersey Governor late in the process which gave Wilson the nod.
The Candidates were as follows:
- Republicans: William Howard Taft and Vice President Nicholas Butler
- Democrats: Woodrow Wilson and Vice President Thomas Marshall
- Progressives: Theodore Roosevelt and Vice President Hiram Johnson
Republicans: Taft was a weak candidate. The conservative Republicans supported his nomination, but it would be at the cost of the election. He was a reluctant executive with a brilliant judicial mind that preferred the Supreme Court over the Oval Office. Their issues were not well-defined and overshadowed by Roosevelt’s progressive party.
Democrats: Wilson was known as a Reformer and finished 2nd on the Democratic ballot 46 times before winning. His platform was called “New Freedom”. He pushed for many different reforms which included tariff reform, banking reform, and new antitrust law.
Progressive: After surviving an assassination attempt, Roosevelt continued to electrify crowds across the country. His charisma was undeniable. He pushed to help the average worker and wanted to have better environments and conditions for the American worker. He wanted higher tariffs to protect American worker jobs as well.
Theodore Roosevelt would split the vote with Taft and Wilson would easily win the Presidency.
Taft was a weak candidate and did not receive much support. If he had not run, then there is a strong possibility that the Republicans would have defeated Woodrow Wilson in 1912.
Wilson carried fewer popular votes in the country than William Jennings Bryan had during his campaigns for president. Roosevelt and Taft had split the vote into many states. Roosevelt managed to win 88 electoral votes, Taft only 8, and Wilson 435.
Woodrow Wilson would go on to show that he was the right man at the right time for the job.