Here, Senator Mark Hanna of Ohio refuses to say whether he will seek the Republican presidential nomination in 1904. The empty driver’s seat on the Republican Elephant indicates that it is his for the asking.
When this cartoon appeared, President Theodore Roosevelt’s record of accomplishment after a little over two years in office had made him the likely Republican standard-bearer in 1904. However, he was worried about a possible challenge from Senator Hanna, who was also chairman of the Republican National Committee. The Ohioan was popular among businessmen who were unhappy with the Roosevelt’s use of antitrust and regulatory laws. Tension between the two men came to a head in the weeks just prior to the Ohio Republican Convention in early June 1903.
In May 1903, Hanna’s Ohio backers announced that the upcoming gathering would address state issues without considering the question of a presidential endorsement. In reaction, the state’s other Republican senator and Hanna’s political foe, Joseph Foraker, told the press that the party rank and file “would be very much disappointed” if the convention did not express support for Roosevelt’s nomination. Senator Hanna, in turn, explained to the president and the press that such an action would be premature. On May 25, Roosevelt wrote Hanna and released a public statement arguing that the question “was bound to arise” at the state convention, and “those who favor my administration and nomination will endorse them, and those who do not will oppose them.” Hanna was forced to acquiesce, and the delegates endorsed Roosevelt.
While that undercut Hanna’s political base in his home state, a liability had he decided to run for president, the onset of an economic downturn prompted some Republican businessmen to continue to offer him financial support for a challenge to Roosevelt. However, the Ohio senator died of typhoid fever on February 15, 1904. A few months later at the Republican National Convention that nominated Roosevelt, a huge portrait of Hanna hung on the podium.