United States presidential election, 1916
|Presidential election results map. Red denotes states won by Hughes/Fairbanks, Blue denotes those won by Wilson/Marshall. Numbers indicate the number of electoral votes allotted to each state.|
The United States presidential election of 1916 was the 33rd quadrennial presidential election, held on Tuesday, November 7, 1916. Incumbent President Woodrow Wilson, the Democratic candidate, was pitted against Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes, the Republican candidate. After a hard-fought contest, Wilson defeated Hughes by nearly 600,000 votes in the popular vote and secured a narrow Electoral College margin by winning several swing states by razor-thin margins. As a result, Wilson became the first Democratic president since Andrew Jackson to be elected to two consecutive terms of office.
The election took place while Europe was embroiled in World War I. Public sentiment in the still neutral United States leaned towards the British and French (Allied) forces, due to the harsh treatment of civilians by the German Army, which had invaded and occupied large parts of Belgium and northern France. However, despite their sympathy with the Allied forces, most American voters wanted to avoid involvement in the war, and preferred to continue a policy of neutrality. Wilson's campaign used the popular slogan "He kept us out of war" to appeal to those voters who wanted to avoid a war in Europe or with Mexico. The progressive Hughes also criticized Wilson for not taking the "necessary preparations" to face a conflict, which served to strengthen Wilson's image as an anti-war candidate. The Republicans had supported a moderate interventionist policy under the previous three administrations, while no Democratic president had presided over a major war since James Knox Polk.
Despite the narrow margin of his win, the 1916 election saw an increase in Wilson's popular vote from his election in 1912, when he won in a landslide in the Electoral College. Wilson accomplished this due to the split in the Republican vote in 1912 between William Howard Taft and Theodore Roosevelt, the former Republican president who was running as an independent. In 1916 conservative and progressive Republicans were largely united under the moderate Hughes in their bid to oust Wilson, however Wilson attracted many voters who had earlier suported Roosevelt. It is one of only three elections in which a nominee was elected president without the support of his state of residence (New Jersey). The other two were James Knox Polk (Tennessee, 1844) and Richard Nixon (New York, 1968). Wilson, however, did win his state of birth (Virginia), just like Nixon (born in California), but unlike Polk (born in North Carolina).
Republican Party nomination 
- Charles Evans Hughes, U.S. Supreme Court Justice and former Governor of New York
- John W. Weeks, U.S. senator from Massachusetts
- Elihu Root, former U.S. senator from New York
- Charles W. Fairbanks, former Vice President of the United States from Indiana
- Albert B. Cummins, U.S. senator from Iowa
- Theodore E. Burton, former U.S. senator from Ohio
Candidates gallery 
Republican National Convention 
The 1916 Republican National Convention was held in Chicago between June 7 and June 10. A major goal of the party's bosses at the convention was to heal the bitter split within the party that had occurred in the 1912 presidential campaign. In that year, Theodore Roosevelt bolted the Republican Party and formed his own political party, the Progressive Party, which attracted most of the Republican liberals. William Howard Taft, the incumbent president, won the nomination of the regular Republican Party. This split in the Republican ranks divided the Republican vote and led to the election of Democrat Woodrow Wilson. Although several candidates were openly competing for the 1916 nomination—most prominently conservative Senator Elihu Root of New York and liberal Senator John W. Weeks of Massachusetts—the party's bosses wanted a moderate who would be acceptable to both factions of the party. They turned to Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes, who had been serving on the court since 1910 and had the advantage of not having publicly spoken about political issues in six years. Although he had not actively sought the nomination, Hughes made it known that he would not turn it down; he won the nomination on the third ballot. Former Vice-President Charles W. Fairbanks was nominated as his running mate. Hughes was the only Supreme Court Justice to be nominated for president by a major political party.
|Charles Evans Hughes||253||326||950|
|John W. Weeks||105||102||2|
|Charles W. Fairbanks||89||75||7|
|Albert B. Cummins||85||77||2|
|Theodore E. Burton||78||69||9|
|Lawrence Yates Sherman||66||59||5|
|Philander C. Knox||36||30||6|
|Martin Grove Brumbaugh||29||22||2|
|Robert M. La Follette||25||25||23|
|William Howard Taft||14||4||0|
|T. Coleman du Pont||7||13||6|
|Henry Cabot Lodge||7||2||0|
|Frank B. Willis||1||2||2|
|Warren G. Harding||1||0||1|
|Samuel W. McCall||0||1||1|
Democratic Party nomination 
Candidates gallery 
Democratic National Convention 
The 1916 Democratic National Convention was held in St. Louis, Missouri between June 14 and June 16. Given Wilson's enormous popularity within the party, he was overwhelmingly re-nominated. Vice-President Thomas R. Marshall was also re-nominated with no opposition.
In the campaign Colonel House declined any public role, but was Wilson's top campaign advisor. Hodgson says, "he planned its structure; set its tone; guided its finance; chose speakers, tactics, and strategy; and, not least, handled the campaign's greatest asset and greatest potential liability: its brilliant but temperamental candidate."
Progressive Party nomination 
The Progressives re-nominated former President Theodore Roosevelt, but he withdrew from the race and supported Hughes. When Roosevelt refused to be their candidate, the Progressive Party quickly fell apart. Most of its members returned to the Republican Party, although a substantial minority supported Wilson for his efforts in keeping the United States out of World War I. Roosevelt turned down the Progressive nomination for both personal and political reasons. He had become convinced that running for president on a third-party ticket again would merely give the election to the Democrats, a result he was loath to make possible, since he had developed a strong dislike for President Wilson. He believed Wilson was allowing Germany and other warring nations in Europe to "bully" and intimidate the United States.
General election 
The fall campaign 
The Democrats built their campaign around the slogan, "He Kept Us out of War," saying a Republican victory would mean war with both Mexico and Germany. Wilson's position was probably critical in winning the Western states. Charles Evans Hughes insisted on downplaying the war issue. He advocated a program of greater mobilization and preparedness. With Wilson having successfully pressured the Germans to suspend unrestricted submarine warfare, it was difficult for Hughes to attack Wilson's peace platform. Instead, Hughes criticized Wilson's military interventions in Mexico, where the U.S. was supporting various factions in the Mexican civil war. Hughes also attacked Wilson for his support of various "pro-labor" laws (such as limiting the workday to eight hours), on the grounds that they were harmful to business interests. His criticisms gained little traction, however, especially among factory workers who supported such laws. Hughes was helped by the vigorous support of popular former President Theodore Roosevelt, and by the fact that the Republicans were still the nation's majority party at the time. A key mistake by Hughes was made in California. Just before the election, Hughes made a campaign swing through the state, but he never met with the powerful Republican Governor Hiram Johnson to seek his support. Johnson took this as a snub and never gave Hughes his full support.
The result was exceptionally close and the outcome was in doubt for several days, partially because of the wait for returns from California in the west. The electoral vote was one of the closest in American history – with 266 votes needed to win, Wilson took 30 states for 277 electoral votes, while Hughes won 18 states and 254 electoral votes. Wilson was the second of just four presidents in US history to win re-election with a lower percentage of the electoral vote than in their prior elections, following James Madison in 1812. As the electoral college had increased during Madison's first term, but held steady throughout Wilson's, Wilson was also the first of only three to receive fewer total electoral votes. This result would be experienced again only by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940 and 1944 and Barack Obama in 2012.
The key state proved to be California, which Wilson won by only 3,800 votes out of nearly a million cast. New Hampshire may have not been a deciding state in the election, but the margin of victory for Wilson there was the smallest ever recorded in an American presidential election: 56 votes. If Hughes had carried California and its 13 electoral votes, he would have won the election. A popular legend from the 1916 campaign states that Hughes went to bed on election night thinking that he was the newly-elected president. When a reporter tried to telephone him the next morning to get his reaction to Wilson's comeback, someone (stories vary as to whether this person was his son or a butler or valet) answered the phone and told the reporter that "the president is asleep." The reporter retorted, "When he wakes up, tell him he isn't the president."
Wilson's popular vote margin of 3.1% was the smallest attained by a victorious sitting president until 2004. By defeating Hughes, Woodrow Wilson became the first Democratic president to win a second consecutive term since Andrew Jackson. Vice-President Thomas R. Marshall also earned the distinction of becoming the first vice-president elected to a second term since John C. Calhoun in 1828.
The total popular vote cast in 1916 exceeded that of 1912 by 3,500,000. The very large total vote was an indication of an aroused public interest in the campaign. It was larger in every section, notably in the East North Central section. Some of this was due to the state extension of suffrage to women. In Illinois, for example, the total vote was 1,000,000 greater than in 1912. It increased by more than 260,000 in Kansas, and in Montana, it more than doubled.
Wilson's vote was 9,126,868, an increase of nearly 3,000,000. There was a gain in every section and in every state. Hughes, the nominee of the united Republican Party, polled more votes by nearly 1,000,000 than had ever been cast for a Republican candidate. In some of the states carried by Wilson, particularly in the South, the margin of popular vote was large. Considering the vote by sections, Wilson ran behind Hughes in New England, the (Northeastern) Mid-Atlantic states, and in the East North Central section. His lead was not great in the West North Central, but was very large in the West South Central and Mountain as well as in the East South Central and South Atlantic sections. 1/2 of Wilson's total vote was cast in the 18 states that he did not carry.
Of the 3,022 counties making returns, Wilson led in 2,039 counties (67.47%). Hughes managed to carry only 976 counties (32.30%), the smallest number in the Republican column in a two-party contest during the Fourth Party System. Two counties (0.07%) split evenly between Wilson and Hughes. Although the Progressive Party had no presidential candidate, just candidates for presidential elector who were unpledged for president, they carried 5 counties (0.17%).
There was a shift of votes to the Democratic Party, at least for this election, which was in locality and degree a novel phenomenon in party voting for the Fourth Party System. Wilson carried 200 counties that had never been Democratic in a two-party contest prior to that time. This shift of votes led some to believe that the Democratic Party might have the position of decided advantage in the election of 1920, a judgment that later proved disastrously wrong.
Wilson was the last Democrat to be elected without ever carrying Minnesota (The only other Democrat to do so previously was Grover Cleveland), and the last Democrat to win an election without Massachusetts and Rhode Island (Although he previously won both states in 1912). He was also the last Democrat elected to two terms without carrying Michigan and Pennsylvania either time (Although other Democrats since have won elections without one or both states, they either only served one term or they carried them both in another Presidential election).
|Presidential candidate||Party||Home state||Popular vote||Electoral
|Count||Pct||Vice-presidential candidate||Home state||Elect. vote|
|Woodrow Wilson||Democratic||New Jersey||9,126,868||49.24%||277||Thomas R. Marshall||Indiana||277|
|Charles Evans Hughes||Republican||New York||8,548,728||46.12%||254||Charles W. Fairbanks||Indiana||254|
|Allan L. Benson||Socialist||New York||590,524||3.19%||0||George Ross Kirkpatrick||New Jersey||0|
|Frank Hanly||Prohibition||Indiana||221,302||1.19%||0||Ira Landrith||Tennessee||0|
|Arthur E. Reimer||Socialist Labor||Massachusetts||15,295||0.08%||0||Caleb Harrison||Illinois||0|
|Needed to win||266||266|
Results by state 
|States won by Wilson/Marshall|
|States won by Hughes/Fairbanks|
|Charles Evans Hughes
Close states 
Margin of victory of less than 5% (129 electoral votes):
- New Hampshire, 0.06%
- Minnesota, 0.10%
- California, 0.38%
- West Virginia, 0.94%
- Indiana, 0.97%
- North Dakota, 1.50%
- Delaware, 2.43%
- Oregon, 2.57%
- Connecticut, 3.15%
- New Mexico, 3.56%
- Missouri, 3.65%
- South Dakota, 3.90%
- Massachusetts, 3.93%
- Maine, 4.02%
- Washington, 4.25%
Margin of victory of between 5% and 10% (162 electoral votes):
- Rhode Island, 5.08%
- Kentucky, 5.41%
- Kansas, 5.86%
- Wisconsin, 6.59%
- New York, 7.02%
- Ohio, 7.67%
- Maryland, 8.02%
- Michigan, 8.04%
- Illinois, 9.23%
Geography of Results 
Cartographic Gallery 
Cartogram of presidential election results by county.
Counties with Highest Percent of Vote (Democratic)
- Dillon County, South Carolina 100.00%
- Hampton County, South Carolina 100.00%
- Jasper County, South Carolina 100.00%
- Tunica County, Mississippi 100.00%
- Echols County, Georgia 100.00%
Counties with Highest Percent of Vote (Republican)
- Leslie County, Kentucky 91.55%
- Sevier County, Tennessee 90.42%
- Zapata County, Texas 89.17%
- Jackson County, Kentucky 87.90%
- Johnson County, Tennessee 87.33%
Counties with Highest Percent of Vote (Other)
- Lafourche Parish, Louisiana 59.38%
- Glascock County, Georgia 53.79%
- Paulding County, Georgia 53.52%
- Fannin County, Georgia 51.29%
- Iberia Parish, Louisiana 47.59%
See also 
- Godfrey Hodgson (2006). Woodrow Wilson's right hand: the life of Colonel Edward M. House. Yale University Press. p. 126.
- John Milton Cooper, Jr., Woodrow Wilson (2009) pp 341-2, 352, 360
- Merlo J. Pusey, Charles Evans Hughes (1951) vol 1 p 356
- The Presidential Vote, 1896-1932, Edgar E. Robinson, pg. 17
- The Presidential Vote, 1896-1932, Edgar E. Robinson, pg. 17-19
- The Presidential Vote, 1896-1932, Edgar E. Robinson, pg. 19
- The Presidential Vote, 1896-1932, Edgar E. Robinson, pg. 19
- "1916 Presidential General Election Data - National". Retrieved April 15, 2013.
- Cooper, Jr., John Milton. Woodrow Wilson (2009), ch 16
- Leary, William M., Jr. (1967). "Woodrow Wilson, Irish Americans, and the Election of 1916". The Journal of American History 54 (1): 57–72. doi:10.2307/1900319. JSTOR 1900319.
- Link, Arthur Stanley (1954). Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive Era, 1910–1917. New York: Harper.
- Link, Arthur Stanley (1965). Wilson: Campaigns For Progressivism and Peace 1916–1917. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
- Lovell, S. D. (1980). The Presidential Election of 1916. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press. ISBN 0-8093-0965-3.
- Pusey, Merlo J. (1951). Charles Evans Hughes 1. New York: Macmillan. volume 1 ch 31-34
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: United States presidential election, 1916|
- 1916 popular vote by counties
- How close was the 1916 election? — Michael Sheppard, Massachusetts Institute of Technology