Republican Party (United States) presidential primaries, 1912

Republican Party (United States) presidential primaries, 1912

Infobox Election
election_name = Republican Presidential Primaries, 1912
country = United States
type = presidential
ongoing = no
previous_election = Republican Party (United States) presidential primaries, 1912
previous_year = 1912
next_election = Republican Party (United States) presidential primaries, 2008
next_year = 1916
election_date = March 19 to June 4, 1912

nominee1 = Teddy Roosevelt
party1 = Republican Party (United States)
home_state1 = New York
states_carried1 = 8
popular_vote1 = 1,183,238
percentage1 = 51.14%

nominee2 = William Taft
party2 = Republican Party (United States)
home_state2 = Ohio
states_carried2 = 3
popular_vote2 = 800,441
percentage2 = 34.59%

nominee3 = Robert Marion La Follette
party3 = Republican Party (United States) | home_state3 = Wisconsin
states_carried3 = 2
popular_vote3 = 327,357
percentage3 = 14.15%

before_election = Taft
before_party =
after_election = Hughes
after_party =

tart of the primaries

The significance of the Ohio discussion became clear quickly. Sen. Cummins drafted a bill providing for a national presidential primary. He recommended that a national primary on 8/1/1912 choose the candidates. The national conventions would adopt the platform and organize the party but nothing else. The machinery for determining the winner would be similar to that for counting the electoral votes. [NYT 12/2/1911]

During the last two months of 1911, Progressive Republican leaders questioned how to proceed for the spring primaries. LaFollette 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 11/21/1911, Roosevelt's name was officially entered into a primary, that of Nebraska [NYT 11/22/1911] . TR finally announced on 12/23/1911 that he would accept the nomination if granted to him, but that he would not campaign for it. This was interpreted as the go-ahead for Roosevelt delegates to contest each state. [NYT 12/24/1911]

Primary season

The jockeying by Taft, Roosevelt, and LaFollette began in state conventions and continued through the primary season. By the time of the first presidential preference primary, held in North Dakota on 3/19/1912, Taft was leading in the delegate count with 127 to 10 for his challengers. These delegates had been chosen in conventions. NYT 3/14/1912

Voters who braved the cold rain in North Dakota on primary day (3/19/1912) handed the first official presidential primary to LaFollette. The campaign there was almost exclusively a TR vs. LaFollette race; LaFollette ended up with 57% to 40% for TR and 3% for Taft. Roosevelt explained the loss was due to Democrats who voted for LaFollette to embarrass his candidacy. [NYT 3/20/1912]

Pres. Taft's first major victory came in New York's primary on 3/26/1912. Just before the vote, the New York Times reported that Taft had won 134 out of the 170 delegates chosen nationwide [NYT 3/24/1912] . New York Republicans voted overwhelmingly for Taft, by roughly a 2:1 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 3/28/1912 to nominate him; otherwise, he would run as an independent [NYT 3/28/1912] . With local conventions being held nearly on a daily basis, Roosevelt was falling further behind in the delegate counts.

LaFollette scored another major victory on 4/2/1912 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 4/9/1912. In his first primary victory, TR won 61% of the vote to Taft 29% and LaFollette 10%. Roosevelt won every county, though Taft won some Congressional Districts in Chicago. Including NYS, the count of delegates chosen in primaries was Taft-84, TR-68, and LaFollette-36.

In the two weeks following the Illinois primary, Roosevelt won three states. He defeated Taft by a 60-40% margin in PA on 4/13/1912. Nebraska and Oregon voted on 4/19/1912. Roosevelt won NE with 59% (Taft placed behind LaFollette) and OR with 40% to LaFollette 31% and Taft 29%. Taft ended the month with a 50-48% win in Massachusetts. Due to the MA ballot offering a presidential preference separate from the delegate vote, TR won more delegates even though he placed second. At the end of the month, Roosevelt was leading in delegates chosen in primaries with 179 to 108 for Taft and 36 for LaFollette. The nationwide delegate count, however, was Taft 428, TR 204, and LaFollette 36. [NYT 4/28/1912]

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 27% and LaFollette 18%. The major shock of the primary season was TR's 55-40% defeat of Taft in his home state of Ohio on 5/21/1912. One week later, TR won New Jersey, 56-41%. The primary season ended in South Dakota, where TR won 55% to Taft 29% and LaFollette 16%.

Altogether, TR won 284 delegates in the primaries to 125 for Taft and 36 for LaFollette. Including delegates chosen in party conventions, Taft had a 571-439 margin, placing Taft over the 540 needed for nomination. [NYT 5/29/1912]


Former President Theodore Roosevelt won an impressive series of victories in the presidential primaries in 1912. Overall, he won 286 delegates in the primaries, compared to 125 for President Taft and 41 for U.S. Senator LaFollette. [Note: these numbers have traditionally been reported as TR-236, Taft-34, and LaFollette-41; the reason for the undercount is uncertain.] By the time the convention assembled, it was still unclear whether Taft or Roosevelt had a majority of the delegates. Taft was in the lead, and Roosevelt was challenging as many delegations as possible in a last-ditch effort to gain a majority. At the very beginning of the convention, a progressive delegate from Wisconsin nominated Governor Francis McGovern WI for temporary chairman instead of Elihu Root, who as the appointee of the National Committee would normally have taken the seat. Following a very tense debate and roll call, Root was chosen with 558 votes to 501 for McGovern and 19 for others.

The second item of contention was a motion to refine the list of delegates on the floor rather than through the Credentials Committee. Following a very long discussion and roll call, the Taft forces won a narrow 567-507 vote not to change the list of delegates.

After the Credentials Committee reported, recommending the seating of almost all the Taft contestants, another long series of debates began. The Roosevelt delegates challenged Alabama, Arizona, and California, losing narrowly on each roll call. After that time, the Roosevelt delegates realized that they were going to lose every contest and stopped voting.

Another debate followed the report of the Rules Committee, following the convention's established pattern.

Another long debate took place during the discussion of the platform. It was substantially a recap of the successes of the administrations of McKinley, Roosevelt, and Taft. A LaFollette delegate proposed an entire minority platform - which the Roosevelt delegates were not prepared for. The chairman of the platform committee asked for a vote on the platform, although the minority platform lost a voice vote. The vote on the platform was Yea-666, Nay-53, Not voting-343, and Absent-16. Most of the nays were cast by LaFollette delegates.

Presidential Nomination. When the time came to nominate a candidate, the Roosevelt forces were aware of the outcome. TR asked his delegates to abstain in the roll call. Warren G. Harding placed Taft in nomination in a speech which the Roosevelt delegates mostly listened to without response. LaFollette's name was also placed in nomination. The result of the roll call was Taft 556, TR delegates not voting 349, Roosevelt 107, LaFollette 41, and 26 for others.

Vice Presidential Nomination. With a brief speech, VP James S. Sherman was placed in nomination for a second term. A Taft delegate moved that he be nominated by acclamation, but Root insisted on having a roll call instead. The result: Sherman 596, TR delegates not voting 352, Absent 72, others 58. Sherman was the first VP since 1828 to be re-nominated for a second consecutive term.


Taft 556Abstainte 349Roosevelt 107Follette 41Cummins 17Hughes 2Roosevelt started his own party the Bull moose party it would split the party in half causing the Republicans to lose the election in November.

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