The Republican Nomination


 “The Fishing Season”
  Cartoonist:  Edward Windsor Kemble
  Source:  Harper's Weekly
  Date:   April 13, 1912, pp. 14-15

Click to see a large version of this cartoon...

Click to see a large version of this cartoon

Complete HarpWeek Explanation:
This Harper’s Weekly cartoon depicts the campaign for the Republican presidential nomination as a fishing contest between Theodore Roosevelt (left) and William Howard Taft (right). The former president, wearing his Rough Rider gear, has caught only a few, small fish/delegates on his side of the pier with his “Third Term Bait.” He grimaces as larger fish swim toward other fish/delegates, which have opened their mouths in anticipation of Taft’s bait. The incumbent smiles knowingly, having already caught several of the large fish/delegates.

The cartoon reflects that fact that Taft possessed the power of patronage, which kept many state party organizations loyal to the president. Although 1912 was the first presidential contest in American history in which popular primaries played a key role, many delegates were still chosen by the state parties. Roosevelt knew his only hope for the nomination was to do well in the primaries, which allowed voters to cast ballots directly for their preferred candidates. Roosevelt won 9 of 12 primaries—Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio (Taft’s home state), Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, and California—and only lost to Taft in Massachusetts and to Senator Robert La Follette in Wisconsin and North Dakota. The former president won 51% of the total primary vote to Taft’s 33.5% and La Follette’s 15.5%. However, since the incumbent president did well in non-primary states, the delegate count on the eve of the convention was: 432 for Roosevelt, 326 for Taft, and 41 for La Follette. Most contested delegates were awarded to Taft, allowing him to win the nomination.













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