Wednesday, October 10, 2012

1904: Theodore Roosevelt

Graham Steele
Poli Sci

After President William McKinley's assassination in 1901, Theodore Roosevelt became president.  Roosevelt had only grudgingly accepted the vice presidency nomination in 1900, yet he became an extremely popular president.  Though he was a member of the Republican Party, some of Roosevelt's policies included Democratic ideas, which broadened his base of voters by appealing to both parties.  Some of this policies were unpopular with Republicans; however, they quickly and decisively nominated him for election at the 1904 Republican Convention.  His slightly controversial platform of trust-busting, tariffs, labor relations, and interventionism was also adopted.  The decisiveness of the Republicans greatly contrasted with the Democratic Convention, in which several nominees were proposed and where many Democrats were divided on the issues of free silver and anti-expansionism.  In the end, Alton B. Parker was nominated, but the party remained separated.  This weakened the Democrats and, in conjunction with Roosevelt's wide-spread popularity, led to a landslide victory for the Republicans.  Roosevelt won 7,628,785 or 57.4 percent of the popular vote, while Parker only got 5,084,442 or 37.6 percent of the votes.  As seen in this electoral map of the United States in 1904, Roosevelt got 336 of the electoral votes, while Parker managed to win just 140.

Roosevelt was popular with voters around the country because of his experience as President, his military service, and his range of political policies.  He also, used campaign pins that portrayed him as patriotic and a war hero to improve his candidate image.  These pins often featured him superimposed upon the American flag or in military dress.  This connects with a campaigning technique that remains popular today, creating a positive candidate image.  The Roosevelt pins portrayed him in a flattering light and also increased voter awareness and recognition by continually showing his face.  Campaigning was viewed as unofficial and narcissistic during this time period, so neither Roosevelt, nor Parker actively worked to persuade voters.  This actually further helped Roosevelt because while he had proven experience as president, Parker was less known and popular and without campaigning, he was unable to show his attributes and win over voters.  Roosevelt's positive candidate image, popularity, and the lack of campaigning contributed to his overwhelming victory.

Two of the important campaigning suggestions Quintus Cicero offers his brother are capitalizing on weak opponents and appealing to a wide variety of voters.  The major weakness of Parker's campaign was that the Democrats were divided on several issues.  One of the issues that many Democrats disagreed on was the silver or gold currency question.  Since many undecided and persuadable voters disagreed with Parker's policy concerning this issue, they decided not to vote for him.  Roosevelt then acquired their votes by appealing to both Republicans and Democrats by proposing a wide range of policies.  Some of his ideas favored Republicans and others supported Democratic interests, making him moderately popular with both parties, while Parker was unpopular with almost everyone.  By following Cicero's campaign tips, Teddy Roosevelt officially dispelled the remarks that he was a "political accident."


American Government, s.v. "election of 1904," accessed October 9, 2012.

American Government, s.v. "Election of 1904," Map, accessed October 9, 2012.

American Government, s.v. "Alton B. Parker," accessed October 10, 2012.

American Government, s.v. "Democratic Party Platform (1904)," accessed October 10, 2012.

American Government, s.v. "Republican Party Platform (1904)," accessed October 10, 2012. +platform.

Boller, Paul F., Jr. Presidential Campaigns. New York City, NY: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Cicero, Quintus Tullius. "Campaign Tips From Cicero." foreign affairs 91, no. 3 (2012): 19-28.


  1. This is very interesting, you talked about how Roosevelt was given a patriotic image because of his military service and his use of flags. I feel like this is often seen in campaigns today with the use of red,white, and blue in their ads and logos.

  2. One of the main reasons Roosevelt won this election was because the Democrats were divided. Quintus says in his letter that before a candidate can win over the general public, they have to win over their peers. In this election, Parker never had the support of his peers, the democratic party, and thus couldn't win the presidency.

  3. Interesting point Alison. You do often see politicians with small American Flag pins, and things of the like. Its interesting that show has actually replaced action, and candidates can prove their patriotism through a 2X3 cm flag instead of real military service.

  4. I found it interesting that, like Ulysses S. Grant, Roosevelt used his war hero image to gain additional supporters and reassure the American citizens of his leadership skills. Back in the 1800's and early 1900's, war heros were some of the highest respected citizens, which is why so many military men became president. Today, we, as citizens, care more about political experience than military experience, and want someone experienced in similar work to the president.

    1. This is an interesting point about the shift in the public's mindset of what makes a person presidential. I wonder when this change took place and why; was there any one race that initiated this new way of thinking? This also makes me wonder if it is beneficial for the president to have some military experience since they are the commander in chief of one of the most formidable armies in the world.

  5. Tom, I see how it would appear that images like flags have replaced military service as examples of patriotism, but I think that both symbols of America and actual service both play a role in today's campaigns. I think that the reason military service does not seem to be present right now is that neither Obama nor Romney ever served in the armed forces. Nevertheless, in 2000 and 2008 John Kerry and John McCain respectively used their war records to improve their image and made them central parts of their campaigns. Although military records are not present in the 2012 campaign, it does not mean that it has been replaced by symbolism and empty rhetoric.