Election of 1916: Now just two parties, but same results as 1912

Woodrow Wilson and Thomas R. Marshall were renominated without opposition at the 1916 Democratic convention held in St. Louis in June. The president was riding the crest of great public approval, following his successful effort to persuade Germany to modify its submarine warfare policy.

Bull Moose activists pushed Theodore Roosevelt to carry their standard again, but the former president declined. He realized that third party politics was a losing proposition and badly wanted to win. His efforts to secure the 1916 Republican nomination, however, failed to gather much steam. The Republicans labored to repair the division in their party and nominated the highly esteemed Supreme Court Associate Justice Charles Evans Hughes of New York. Roosevelt`s former vice president, Charles W. Fairbanks, shared the ticket with Hughes.

The Democrats` campaign slogan, "He kept us out of war," was not favored by Wilson, who doubted his ability to maintain peace in an uncertain future. The views of Hughes and Wilson on American entrance into the war were quite similar. However, Hughes came to be labeled the war candidate largely because of Roosevelt`s all too frequent sword-rattling speeches. Antiwar sentiment was very strong in the country in 1916. Roosevelt`s effort to help Hughes may have cost him the election.

While only the Democrats and Republicans had any real chance of winning electoral votes, the Socialist Party ran Allen L. Benson for President, arguing that the major parties were simply the "gold brick twins." In a Socialist campaign publication, John M. Work wrote:

The Democratic platform does not differ from the Republican platform fundamentally at all. Of course, the Democratic convention was held a week later than the Republican, and this gave the Democrats a chance to go the Republicans one better in bidding for the labor vote. Like the Republican party, the Democratic Party stands for the interests of the capitalist class, and it will do just as little for the working class as it can and get by. The labor planks were frightened out of the Democratic Party by the rising Socialist vote. Therefore, the Socialist Party, not the Democratic Party, is entitled to the credit for them.

On election night in November 1916, the result was muddled because of delays in election returns. Wilson retired for the evening assuming Hughes had won. Numerous newspapers carried accounts of Wilson`s supposed defeat. Many political analysts also predicted a victory for Hughes, but the final count in California gave that state to Wilson by 4,000 votes. This ensured his re-election.

Election of 1916
Candidates
Party Electoral
Vote
Popular
Vote
T. Woodrow Wilson (NJ)
Thomas R. Marshall (IN)
Democratic 277 9,129,606
Charles E. Hughes (NY)
Charles W. Fairbanks (IN)
Republican 254 8,538,221
Allan L. Benson (NY)
George R. Kirkpatrick (NJ)
Socialist 0 585,113


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