Alternative History

Blue denotes states won by Wilson(Democrat) Green denotes states won by Roosevelt(Progressive) Red denotes states won by Taft(Republican)

The 1912 Election was a three way battle between Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt and incumbent President William Howard Taft. Taft was unpopular and Roosevelt had come out of supposed retirement to battle him in the Republican Primary. When Taft won due to Conservative elements siding with Taft. Afterwards Roosevelt and his supporters left the convention and set up their own party. Wilson had a tough battle in the Democratic Primaries but managed to pull through it. Roosevelt pulled a very unexpected move and formed a coalition with the Socialist Party and made Eugene Debs his running mate. This garnered him more support in the west but even so Wilson won with a huge electoral victory, and with nearly 9 percent more then his closest rival in the popular vote.

Republican Primary[]

Republican candidates

  • William H. Taft, President of the United States from Ohio
  • Theodore Roosevelt, former President of the United States
  • Robert M. LaFollette, U.S. senator from Wisconsin

By 1910 the split in the Republican party was evident. The conservative wing, lead by Taft, favored business and judicial supremacy. Roosevelt and his more progressive supporters on the other hand pushed against the courts, favored labor unions and opposed tariffs on manufactured products. During the Taft administration the split deepened.

Primary elections in 14 states where held for the Republicans. This was advocated by the Progressive wing of the party who wished to break the control of the party bosses. At the beginning of the elected primaries the Progressive wing had a shallow split between Robert LaFollette and Roosevelt. LaFollette won only two primaries and Roosevelt won nine. The other three went to Taft.

William Howard Taft


The Republican convention was held in Chicago. Despite his poor performance LaFollette did not drop out, although he considered an alliance with Roosevelt. Unfortunately for Roosevelt, Taft had gotten many more of the non-elected delegates on his side. He managed to gain nearly all of the Republican delegates from the South. This aided him greatly and placed him above Roosevelt. Roosevelt tried to challenge the Southern states credentials by saying that in the real election these states would belong completely to the Democrats and where unlikely to aid the Republicans in the general election. He even made an alliance with Robert LaFollette to stop Taft but it failed. Taft had won.

The former President would not take losing well. He and his supporters, along with LaFollette left the convention on June 22th. Taft easily got the nomination of the Republican party but at the cost of a schism in the party itself, and with the Democrats holding an estimated 45 percent of the popular vote.

Progressive Party Nomination[]

President Theodore Roosevelt, 1904


The progressive Republicans launched the new Progressive Party. Built mainly around Roosevelt it promised to increase federal regulation and protect the welfare of ordinary people.

Roosevelt first thought it right to offer the Vice President nomination to Robert LaFollette but he declined.

Later Roosevelt shocked the Progressives calling a temporary end to the convention and said that he wished to set up a new one in New York City for the nomination of a Vice President. A month later with much press coverage his running mate was shown. Eugene Debs, a Socialist. Although the convention was very hard for Debs he managed, with his oratorical skills, to convince the Progressives that he could bring a majority of the Socialists on board.

Democratic Primary[]

Democratic candidates

  • Woodrow Wilson, Governor of New Jersey
  • Champ Clark, Speaker of the House from Missouri
  • Judson Harmon, Governor of Ohio
  • Oscar W. Underwood, House Majority Leader from Alabama
  • Thomas R. Marshall, Governor of Indiana
President Woodrow Wilson portrait December 2 1912


The Democratic Convention was held in Baltimore from June 25 to July 2. After a long deadlock, former Democratic presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan threw his support to Woodrow Wilson in order to defeat Missouri Representative Champ Clark. Clark had received a majority of the vote, but because of the "two-thirds rule" and bitter opposition from Bryan and others, his support faded. Wilson received the nomination on the 46th ballot. Wilson immediately began to campaign in states that usually where dominated by 60 percent to the Republicans. He saw the Republican split as the Democrats best chance at finally winning the election.


Roosevelt and Debs are noted as being two very good speakers and very able at selling their ideas to more Progressively thinking people. While radicals in the Socialist party saw Debs as a traitor most viewed this action as a way to further their agenda and get into main stream politics.

Debs Canton 1918

Debs at a rally in Illinois

Taft knew he had little chance to win as Roosevelt had split the party in two. He campaigned quietly. Other Republicans tried to denounce Roosevelt, such as future party leader Albert B. Cummins. However characterizing Roosevelt as a dangerous radical didn't work as the people knew him too well. The Republican party slowly grew more conservative and even Taft began to be seen as too Progressive.

Wilson supported a policy of "new freedom" which supported individualism instead of a strong government. In the end with the Republican Party split in two Wilson easily won with a huge electoral lead over both Roosevelt and Taft.

Electoral Results[]

President/VP Candidates Party Electoral Vote Popular Vote
Wilson/Marshall Democratic 385 41.8
Roosevelt/Debs Progressive/Socialist/Inp. 138 33.4
Taft/Butler Republican 8 23.2