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Republican Party presidential primaries, 1912

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Title: Republican Party presidential primaries, 1912  
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Subject: Republican Party (United States) presidential primaries, United States presidential election in Vermont, 1912, United States presidential election in Massachusetts, 1912
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Republican Party presidential primaries, 1912

Republican Presidential Primaries, 1912

March 19 to June 4, 1912

Nominee William Taft Teddy Roosevelt
Party Republican Republican
Home state Ohio New York
Delegate count 566 466
States carried 2 (P)[1] + 32 (C)[2] 8 (P)[3] + 8 (C)[4]
Popular vote 800,441 1,183,238
Percentage 34.59% 51.14%

Nominee Robert Marion La Follette Albert B. Cummins
Party Republican Republican
Home state Wisconsin Iowa
Delegate count 36 10
States carried 2 (P)[5] -
Popular vote 327,357 -
Percentage 14.15% -

The Republican Party during the Taft Administration

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, the more progressive Republicans were complaining that Taft was granting the more business-minded Republicans 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 Presidential Elector. 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 mayorship of Indianapolis, but "machine" candidates won in New York City, Buffalo, Albany, and Cincinnati.

The following year (1910), former Pres. Roosevelt and sitting VP James Sherman 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 Theodore 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.

Establishing the Initial Presidential Primaries

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 the interesting date of November 11 (11/11/11), leading Progressives contacted all Republican state chairmen and asked them to provide for selection of delegates to the upcoming Republican National Convention by primaries. Sen. Albert B. Cummins, a moderate progressive from Iowa, endorsed the idea and asked Republicans to stop pressing him to run for President.

An interesting primary election law issue at the time was the issue of "instructing." If a delegate were chosen in a primary based on support of a particular candidate, could that delegate be legally bound to vote for that candidate? The issue arose during the debates in Ohio, where the old law of 1908 providing for voluntary primaries was being debated. In 1908, Taft managed to sweep the Ohio Republican primary by having his "anti-machine" candidates for delegates printed in a column under his name and the "machine delegates," who supported Sen. Joseph Foraker, placed in a column under Foraker's name. This informal pledging of delegates was not part of the 1908 law, but Ohio lawmakers were generally opposed to the "popularity contest" model unless the delegates voted accordingly.

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 August 1 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.

The Primary Season of 1912

Presidential Candidates

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