1912

Theo Lippman Jr.

October 06, 1992|By Theo Lippman Jr.

This is the 52nd presidential election.

The 32nd was held in 1912. For the first time, preferential primaries were a feature of presidential elections. Progressive Republicans, upset with the conservatism of President William Howard Taft, urged former President Theodore Roosevelt to challenge his protege.

TR was eager to. He won nine state primaries to Taft's one, but the incumbent president controlled the party regulars and was easily nominated at the tightly controlled convention. Later TR was nominated as the candidate of the Progressive Party.

Democrats were split more than in two, and it took delegates 46 ballots to nominate New Jersey Gov. Woodrow Wilson. He won the election with only 42 percent of the popular vote -- but a whopping 435 electoral votes to TR's 88 and Taft's 8. The margin was certainly due to the Republican split, but some historians believe Wilson would have won in a two-candidate race.

In any event, he took his election as a mandate for a bold, liberal, innovative presidency, the first by a Democrat since Andrew Jackson in the 1830s.

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