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The Republican Campaign
After the partisan conventions ended, the presidential campaign was relatively uneventful.  As the vice-presidential nominee in 1900, Roosevelt had undertaken an energetic national speaking tour.  In 1904, he grudgingly accepted the traditional taboo against sitting presidents openly campaign for reelection.  The main responsibility for electioneering fell to vice-presidential nominee Charles Fairbanks, who embarked on a campaign swing through 33 states. 

Nevertheless, Roosevelt managed to remain in the limelight by opening the White House to the press, making policy statements, and conducting official duties, all done with his attention-getting personality.  Behind the scenes, he oversaw the campaign with constant orders to Republican National Committee Chairman Cortelyou and other staff members, and sent numerous suggestions to his unofficial organ, the New York Press.  In his formal letter of acceptance, Roosevelt claimed to have remained true to the principles of President McKinley, attributed economic prosperity to protective tariffs, promised to adhere to the gold standard, criticized Democrats for trying to defeat the Panama Canal treaty, but neglected to mention the administration’s antitrust policy.  As the Wall Street Journal observed, the letter was written by a candidate eager to give no offense.

Leading Republicans took direct shots at Parker and the Democrats.  William Howard Taft, the former governor-general of the Philippines and the new secretary of war, declared that Democratic and anti-imperialist criticism of Republican foreign policy had prolonged the Filipino rebellion.  Elihu Root, Taft’s predecessor at the War Department, argued that Parker’s reliance on the common law to curb business trusts would in practice sustain their existence.  The president’s campaign made an apparently successful effort to win the vote of ethnic groups, such as Germans, Italians, and Irish.  Two Democratic newspapers with Irish-American readerships, the Pilot (Boston) and The Irish World (New York), endorsed Roosevelt.  So did the usually Democratic New York Sun:  “Theodore!  With all thy faults.”  Under the direction of Cornelius Bliss, treasurer of the National Republican Committee, the GOP raised almost $2.2 million (or $44.1 million in 2002 dollars), which was over four times more than Democrats collected. 

The Democratic Campaign
Unlike Bryan, who had electioneered continuously across the country during the 1896 and 1900 campaigns, Parker ran an old-fashioned campaign by receiving delegations at his home in Esopus, New York, along the Hudson River about 100 miles north of New York City.  Parker’s official letter of acceptance on September 25 praised the Democratic platform, while explaining that his “Gold Telegram” was intended to make his position clear so that voters were not deceived.  The nominee assailed Republican trade protectionism as benefiting only special interests.  Although Parker agreed that business monopolies were dangerous, he argued against more antitrust legislation because “the common law as developed affords a complete legal remedy against monopolies.”  The letter’s ambiguous position on Philippine policy led some to interpret that the nominee had called for independence, some that he endorsed the status quo, and others that he was leaving the question open.  Like Bryan in 1900, Parker condemned the treatment of native Filipinos under Republican rule, but ignored violence and discrimination against blacks in the United States. 

The acceptance letter had little effect on the campaign, and signs from most of the country led party leaders to despair.  Democrats could only be sure of the South, where the Republican plank on voting rights and Roosevelt’s few favorable policies toward blacks caused intense anger and fear among white voters.  In the Plains and Mountain States, the 1904 nominee failed to win over Bryan’s populist constituency.  The Great Commoner endorsed Parker after the convention and belatedly campaigned for him in October.  Meanwhile, Bryan delineated his own agenda—including government ownership of railroads and telegraphs, a graduated income tax, and popular election of federal judges—which signaled to many the beginning of his campaign for the nomination in 1908.  Parker’s campaign manager, David B. Hill, announced his retirement from politics in order to save the candidate from guilt by association with the controversial party boss.  Thomas Fortune Ryan contributed $250,000 of the less than $500,000 ($10 million in 2002 dollars) raised for the Democratic campaign.

At the insistence of desperate party leaders, Parker undertook a brief speaking tour in the final weeks of the campaign.  The Democratic nominee charged that large business corporations were funding the Roosevelt campaign in return for political favors.  Even more seriously, he implied that the firms made the donations because they were being blackmailed by Republican National Committee Chairman Cortelyou.  Such rumors had been circulating among Democrats since mid-summer and had surfaced in the Democratic press and even the Republican New York Times in September.  The charges had little effect because no evidence was produced and Parker himself was closer to wealthy businessmen, such as Ryan and August Belmont Jr., than Roosevelt was.  In fact, some of the largest GOP donors were later prosecuted by the Roosevelt administration for antitrust violations.

 
 
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