The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Tuesday, July 05, 2005

That 1912 Election - again

I looked on July 3 at the likelihood that the Bull Moose candidature of Theodore Roosevelt split the Republican vote and let Woodrow Wilson in.

It's the CW, and all the numbers looked that way. But I took the matter under advisement.

Fiddling with spreadsheets for the 1912 election and the two surrounding ones only seems to confirm the CW.

If you simply aggregate the popular votes for TR and Taft, and assume they were cast for a single GOP candidate, R', Wilson loses 379-152, with R' winning in 34 states.

R' only needs 266 of 531 EVs to be elected. If you arrange the states in descending order of the winning percentage margin for R', you get to the requisite 266 EVs counting 24 states each with a margin better than 8%.

But is it a sound method to aggregate the Taft and TR scores? After all, TR is an insurgent who might have been expected to pick up votes - in the LaFollette/Hiram Johnson West, say - that a regular Republican like Taft might not.

One could check the results of the 1908 and 1916 elections in the 1912 R' states as a guide to the performance that might have been expected had a single GOP candidate run in 1912.

In 1908, of the 24 R' states, one (NM) did not exist in 08; Taft won 22 of the remainder, winning 321-162 [1].

In 1916, Hughes failed to pick up 9 of the 24, accounting for 45 EVs. He lost 277-254.

Of the other ten states in which R' 'won' in 1912, Hughes failed to win most of them. In particular, of the four states with an R' margin of more than 5% in 1912, Hughes lost three, picking up just 13 of the 51 EVs of those four.

There is some support for the insurgency factor [2] in Hughes' dire performance in the West: of the 17 states 'won' by R' and lost by Hughes, ten were in the West, accounting for 52 EVs - though 13 of these EVs were from California, which R' 'won' by less than 1%.

One also, of course, has the myriad of secondary factors, including, notably, the war: Hughes was less neutralist than Wilson [3].

But that's enough for now.

  1. There were 386 members in the House in 1908, representing 46 states. The admission of NM and AZ in 1912 (who each got just the one at-large member) was accompanied by an increase in the total to 435 members - for reasons that I will leave for another day.

  2. That TR picked up votes in 1912 that a regular GOP candidate could not have done.

  3. I note that Hughes picked up Wisconsin, despite its German demo. A warning against simplistic analysis, I'd say - if that wasn't simplistic analysis, of course...

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