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Theodore Weighs the Odds

October 25, 2017

Former Interior Secretary James R. Garfield wanted to run for governor of Ohio in 1910, but he withdrew from the race when the state convention endorsed the Taft Administration.  Normally, association with Taft would have been a plus.  Taft was a fellow Republican from Ohio.  He had been President Theodore Roosevelt’s hand-picked successor in 1908, but by 1910 he had managed to offend the former President.  If Garfield accepted the nomination for governor and then won the general election, he would be expected to support Taft in 1912.  This he would not do.  The party nominated former Lieutenant Governor Warren G. Harding instead.  Harding then lost to the Democratic incumbent.

Garfield was offended by Taft’s dismissal of Gifford Pinchot from the U.S. Forest Service.  Garfield, Pinchot and many others wished that Roosevelt would challenge Taft for the presidential nomination in 1912.  By late 1911 Roosevelt was giving their wish serious consideration.

Up to this time President Grant was the only Republican to serve two full terms.  When he tried to run for a third nonconsecutive term, he failed to get the nomination even though there was no incumbent in that race.  Although Roosevelt was still very popular with the people, the default position of the Republican National Convention would be to support Taft.  Roosevelt’s 1912 challenge would be even less likely to succeed than that of Grant in 1880.

However, Roosevelt could demonstrate his continuing worth by winning primary elections.  Surely the Republican National Convention would respect the demonstrated will of the people, wouldn’t they?





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