The Elections of 1904 and 1908


Theodore Roosevelt (336 Electoral Votes)
Alton Parker (140 Electoral Votes)

William Howard Taft (321 Electoral Votes)
William Jennings Bryan (162 Electoral Votes)


America had never known a president like Theodore Roosevelt – “TR.”  The youngest man to reach the presidency (John F. Kennedy later became the youngest man elected to the office), Roosevelt was energetic and activist.  He exploited – indeed, he practically invented – the office’s potential as a “bully pulpit.”  He took more initiative in developing public policy than almost any of his predecessors, both by using executive powers (such as using the Sherman Anti-Trust to bring suit against trusts) and by promoting a vigorous legislative agenda in Congress (such as the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906).  Much of what we now take for granted about the exercise of presidential leadership originated with “TR.”  Roosevelt so dominated the office and the country that the Democrats resorted to nominating the Chief Justice of the New York Court of Appeals (not usually a stepping stone to the presidency) for the hopeless race against him in 1904.  In 1908, Roosevelt decided to follow the Washington precedent and step down from office after two (almost full) terms.  His chosen successor, the hefty William Howard Taft, easily defeated Democrat William Jennings Bryan in 1908.  Bryan became the only major party nominee to lose three presidential elections.  (Franklin Roosevelt won four elections, while Grover Cleveland and Richard Nixon each won two of the three times they were nominated.)  Taft served for one undistinguished term as president, but was later appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the only man to hold both offices.

Leave a Reply