Bull Moose Party

Theodore Roosevelt, Twenty-Sixth President of the United States
Theodore Roosevelt, Twenty-Sixth President of the United States. Credit: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-USZ62-13026 DLC

Officially titled the Progressive Party of 1912, they were nicknamed the Bull Moose Party from a quote by Theodore Roosevelt. When asked whether he was fit to be president, he responded that he was as fit as a "bull moose."

Origin of the Bull Moose Party:

Theodore Roosevelt was president of the United States until 1909. He had finished out the term when William McKinley was assassinated in 1901. He then ran and won the presidency in 1904.

He decided not to run again in the 1908 election. William Howard Taft was chosen to run and won the presidency for the Republican Party. In 1912, Roosevelt was unhappy with Taft's time in office and put his name forward to become the Republican Party's nominee again. The Party chose to stick with Taft. This angered Roosevelt who walked out of the convention and then formed his own party, the Progressive Party, in protest. Hiram Johnson was chosen as his running mate.

Platform of the Bull Moose Party:

True to Roosevelt's progressive beliefs, the platform of the party called for major reforms including women's suffrage, social welfare assistance for women and children, farm relief, revisions in banking, health insurance in industries, and worker's compensation. The party also wanted an easier method to amend the constitution.

Election of 1912:

In 1912, voters could choose between William Howard Taft who was the incumbent Republican president, Roosevelt who had previously been the Republican president, or Woodrow Wilson, the Democratic candidate.

Roosevelt shared many of the progressive policies of Wilson yet his core support came from Republicans who defected from the party. Taft and Roosevelt came away with a combined popular vote of 50% whereas Wilson ended with 43% of the vote. Many historians believe that the Bull Moose Party split the Republican vote there by leading to Wilson's victory although there are some who believe he would have won anyway.

End of the Bull Moose Party:

While the Bull Moose Party lost at the national level in 1912, it continued putting candidates on the ballot at the state and local elections. However, these candidates did poorly in 1914. The party did hold a convention in 1916 and nominated Roosevelt to run again. When he refused, the party tried to give the nomination to Charles Evan Hughes which led to the dissolution of the party.