1912 Republican Party presidential primaries
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Results by state
The 1912 Republican presidential primaries were the selection process by which the voters of the Republican Party chose its nominee for President of the United States in the 1912 presidential election. Incumbent President William Howard Taft was chosen as the party's nominee through a series of primaries and caucuses culminating in the 1912 Republican National Convention.
Withdrew during Convention
During his first year in office, President Taft set in motion a series of events leading to a split in the Republican Party. By the middle of 1909, progressive Republicans had started accusing Taft of granting the pro-business wing of the party near total leeway on the filling of political positions.
The off-year elections of 1909 were to a large degree fought on local issues relating to reform, and they were mostly a draw between the two parties. In New York State, Governor Charles E. Hughes asked the legislature to pass a bill providing for primary elections for each state office except for that of presidential electors. The proposal for primaries became the major issue in the state legislative elections, in which the Democrats gained five seats. Gubernatorial races were retained by the Republicans in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, though in the latter state bolting reformers almost delivered the race to the Democrats. Reformers won control of the mayoralty of Indianapolis, but "machine" candidates won in New York City, Buffalo, Albany, and Cincinnati.
The following year (1910), former President Theodore Roosevelt and sitting Vice President James S. Sherman both sought to be the temporary chairman of the New York State Republican convention. Sherman's victory there was the first sign that the progressive Republicans faced major challenges if they wanted to work within the party. The rift spilled over into Michigan, where local conventions in the summer became polarized over Roosevelt.
Intra-party tension cost the Republicans dearly in the midterm elections of 1910. Their major defeat was in Congress. In the Senate, the Democrats took ten seats from the Republicans, cutting the margin in half. The Democrats took control of the U.S. House, defeating 45 incumbent Republicans to move from a 47-vote deficit to a majority of 67. In gubernatorial races, the Democrats took Idaho, Maine, and New Jersey while the Republicans took Nebraska, Nevada, and Tennessee. An Independent was elected in Wyoming, taking that seat out of the Republican column.
A major goal of the progressives in 1911 was a push for primaries. By July 12, at least six states had passed legislation for delegates to the national convention to be chosen in primaries: North Dakota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Oregon, New Jersey, and Florida. Progressive Republicans increased their calls for primaries following the off-year election of 1911. On November 11, leading Progressives contacted all Republican state chairmen and asked them to provide for selection of delegates to the upcoming Republican National Convention by primaries. Senator Albert B. Cummins, a moderate progressive from Iowa, endorsed the idea and asked Republicans to stop pressing him to run for president.
During the last two months of 1911, Progressive Republican leaders questioned how to proceed for the spring primaries. La Follette was gaining endorsements from progressives around the nation, but he was perceived to be too radical for the party. One by one, leading progressives began to come out for President Roosevelt. On November 21, Roosevelt's name was officially entered into a primary, that of Nebraska. Roosevelt finally announced on December 23 that he would accept the nomination if granted to him, but that he would not campaign for it. In February 1912, Roosevelt officially began his campaign for the nomination.
The jockeying by Taft, Roosevelt, and La Follette began in state conventions and continued through the primary season. By the time of the first presidential preference primary, held in North Dakota on March 19, Taft was leading in the delegate count with 127 to 10 for his challengers. These delegates had been chosen in conventions. Voters who braved the cold rain in North Dakota on primary day handed the first official presidential primary to La Follette. The campaign there was almost exclusively a Roosevelt vs. La Follette race; La Follette ended up with 57% to 40% for Roosevelt and 3% for Taft. Roosevelt asserted that loss was due to Democrats who voted for La Follette to embarrass his candidacy. President Taft's first major victory came in New York's primary on March 26. Just before the vote, the New York Times reported that Taft had won 134 out of the 170 delegates chosen nationwide. New York Republicans voted overwhelmingly for Taft, by roughly a 2-to-1 margin; New York City gave Taft nearly 70% of the vote there. It was a stunning repudiation of Roosevelt in his home state and his second loss in the first two presidential primaries.
Roosevelt changed his strategy following his New York debacle. He issued an ultimatum to Republicans on March 28 to nominate him, or he would run as an independent. With local conventions being held nearly on a daily basis, Roosevelt was falling further behind in the delegate counts. La Follette scored another major victory on April 2 when he won his home state of Wisconsin. He defeated Taft by a 73–26% margin; Roosevelt missed the filing deadline but received some write-in votes. Roosevelt's fortunes began to change with the Illinois primary on April 9. In his first primary victory, Roosevelt won 61% of the vote to Taft 29% and La Follette 10%. Roosevelt won every county, though Taft won some Congressional Districts in Chicago.
In the two weeks following the Illinois primary, Roosevelt won three states. He defeated Taft by a 60-40% margin in Pennsylvania on April 13. Nebraska and Oregon voted on April 19, going to Roosevelt with 59% and 40% respectively. Taft ended the month with a 50–48% win in Massachusetts. However, due to the Massachusetts ballot offering a presidential preference separate from the delegate vote, Roosevelt won more delegates even though he placed second. By the end of the month, Roosevelt was leading in delegates chosen in primaries with 179 to 108 for Taft and 36 for La Follette. Due to the fact that just 14 states held primaries, Taft had 428 delegates overall while Roosevelt had 204 and La Follette had 36.
A big turn of events occurred on June 17, 1912. The Chicago Tribune sent out a newspaper with a column on the Republican primary titled, "10 From South Desert Taft for Roosevelt". In this column the writer explains that five Mississippi delegates and five Georgia delegates announced that they would not be supporting Taft in this second presidential election, but instead would switch their support to Theodore Roosevelt. All ten of the delegates signed a statement that they were deserting the Taft movement and supporting Roosevelt. The Taft campaign marked up the southern states and their delegates in anticipation of a big southern win. This changed win the five Georgia delegates, Clark, Grier, J.H. Boone, J. C. Styles, J. Eugene Peterson, and S. S. Mincey switched to supporting Roosevelt along with the five Mississippi delegates Charles Banks, W.P. Locker, Perry W. Howard, Daniel W. Gerry, and Wesly Crayton.
Theodore Roosevelt also attacked President Taft in the Chicago Tribune on June 17, 1912 with his own column. In the column Roosevelt wrote about the differences in delegates that Taft and he had. He stated that the delegates Taft had were from territories or states that had never cast a Republican electoral vote or were controlled by federal patronage. Roosevelt summed up Taft's delegates as, "one-eighth of his delegates represent a real sentiment for him and seven-eighths represent nothing whatever but the use of patronage in his interest in certain Democratic states". Roosevelt made it clear that Taft had turned the Republican Party for the worst and that he had no chance of winning the election.
Five states voted in the final four weeks of the primary season, and Roosevelt won all five states. He won Maryland 53–47 over Taft. In California, Roosevelt received 55% to Taft's 27% and La Follette's 18%. The major shock of the primary season was Roosevelt's 55–40% defeat of Taft in his home state of Ohio on May 21. One week later, Roosevelt won New Jersey, 56–41%. The primary season wrapped up with South Dakota, where Roosevelt won with 55%.
Altogether, Roosevelt won 290 delegates in the primaries to 124 for Taft and 36 for La Follette. Including delegates chosen in party conventions, however, Taft had a 566–466 margin, placing him over the 540 needed for nomination.
|Raw Votes||Delegate Estimate|
|Date||State||Robert La Follette||Theodore Roosevelt||William Taft||La Follette||Roosevelt||Taft|
|March 19||North Dakota||34,123||23,669||1,876||6||4||0|
|March 26||New York*||0%||33.57%||66.43%||0||31||59|
|May 28||New Jersey||3,464||61,297||44,034||0||16||12|
|June 4||South Dakota||10,944||38,106||19,960||2||6||3|
- Note: In states with asterisk, votes were for delegates pledged to support their candidate, not to the candidate itself.
Results in major cities (by the top 100 cities in the 1910 Census)
- Kalb, Deborah (2016-02-19). Guide to U.S. Elections - Google Books. ISBN 9781483380353. Retrieved 2016-02-19.
- "10 FROM SOUTH DESERT TAFT FOR ROOSEVELT (June 17, 1912)." June 17, 1912 - 10 FROM SOUTH DESERT TAFT FOR ROOSEVELT | Chicago Tribune Archive. N.p., 17 June 1912. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.
- Roosevelt, Theodore. "Roosevelt Delegates, Taft Delegates, Stolen Delegates. (June 17, 1912)." June 17, 1912 - Roosevelt Delegates, Taft Delegates, Stolen Delegates. | Chicago Tribune Archive. N.p., 17 June 1912. Web. 21 Feb. 2017.
- "TAFT 566 - ROOSEVELT 466. - Present Line-Up of Instructed and Pledged Delegates With All the Contests Decided" (PDF). New York Times. 1912-06-16. Retrieved 2016-02-24.