The presidential election of 1912 marked a turning point in American history. That year the Republican Party split over the re-emergence of Theodore Roosevelt in presidential politics. That division paved the way for Woodrow Wilson to take the Whitehouse. After Wilson got the United States involved in World War I, the United States would never be the same. In 1908 Theodore Roosevelt announced that he would not seek another presidential term. He got behind his hand-picked successor William Howard Taft. Taft won the 1908 presidential election easily defeating William Jennings Bryan who lost for an unpreceded third time. Taft was better suited to a judicial appointment than as president. He was never happy as president. Later he would win appointment as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court where he would excel. Still that was far in his future in 1912. After Roosevelt returned from an African safari, fellow progressives told him that Taft had betrayed his trust. Roosevelt was particularly peeved over a dispute between Taft’s secretary of the interior, Richard A. Ballinger and Gifford Pinchot who was chief of the Forest Service. Pinchot accused Ballinger of selling out to the coal interests to plunder the federal reserves in Alaska. Taft stood with Ballinger and fired Pinchot which split the Republican Party. A later investigation cleared Ballinger of any wrongdoing. In addition, Roosevelt accused Taft of soft peddling the anti-trust law enforcement despite that the Taft administration had prosecuted more cases than the Roosevelt administration had. Roosevelt set out to wrestle the 1912 Republican presidential nomination away from Taft. After losing an early primary, Roosevelt’s organization got its act together and won the later contests. Still in that day presidential candidates were nominated at the conventions, not in the primaries. Taft used the power of his office and had the nomination locked up when the Republicans met to choose a candidate. Roosevelt’s forces attempted to challenge the credentials of many Taft delegates, but the last 90% of the appeals. The 1912 Republican ticket was the same as it had been 1908 with Taft for president and James Sherman for vice president. Roosevelt chose not to have his name put in nomination at the GOP convention and set out to win the Whitehouse in a third party bid. Roosevelt announced that “His hat was in the ring.” Here is a symbolic "hat in the ring" button. Roosevelt won the presidential nomination from the Progressive (Bull Moose) Party. California governor, Hiram Johnson, was his running mate. Here is a very scarce Roosevelt - Johnson Bull Moose jugate button. The Democrats countered with New Jersey governor, Woodrow Wilson. Wilson’s political rise had been meteoric. He had gone from President of Princeton University (1902 – 1910) to Governor of New Jersey (1911 – 1913) to Democratic presidential nominee. Wilson’s running mate was Thomas Marshall. Wilson had wanted Oscar Underwood to run with him, but Underwood declined. With the Republicans divided, Wilson looked be a shoe-in to win the election. Still Roosevelt hit the campaign trail vigorously and gave Wilson a spirited race. Taft stayed in the Whitehouse. Eugene Debs ran as the Socialist Workers candidate. Debs is the historical hero for Bernie Sanders. Although Debs ran for president four times (1904, ’08, ’12 and 1920), his buttons are scarce and pricey. Debs was in prison when he ran in 1920 because of his opposition to the U.S. entry in World War I. That year his supporters issued a classic button with him pictured in his prison uniform and his inmate number. In the general election, Wilson won with 42% of the popular vote and 485 votes in the Electoral College. Roosevelt received 28% of the popular vote and 88 Electoral votes. Taft came in a poor third with 23% of the popular vote and only 8 Electoral votes. Debs received a little over 900,000 popular votes which represented 6% of the total. He did not win any states. The poor showing for Taft in 1912 made the GOP a third party that year. Wilson would win re-election in 1916 by a narrow margin. Theodore Roosevelt flirted running as a third party candidate that years, but declined. He appeared to have the inside track to win the 1920 Republican presidential nomination, but he died in January 1919.