The Presidential Election of 1912 reflected both the important influence of Progressivism on American politics and the deep divisions that it could cause.
The debate over the Republican presidential candidate before the election proved to be very controversial. President William Howard Taft, an Ohioan, wished to run for reelection. The Ohio Progressive Republican League, founded in January 1912, originally supported the candidacy of Progressive reformer Robert M. LaFollette. Former president Theodore Roosevelt, critical of the direction of Taft's administration, also declared his desire to run. At the Republican National Convention, delegates eventually chose Taft as the party's candidate. Members of the Ohio Progressive Republican League, as well as many other Progressives, left the convention to form their own political party. This new party was named the Progressive Party, and its members chose Roosevelt as their presidential candidate. The party soon had the nickname of the "Bull Moose" Party. Roosevelt was known for his love of the outdoors. At one point during the campaign, he was quoted as saying, "I feel as fit as a bull moose." The nickname stuck.
Roosevelt ran on a platform of reform that he called "New Nationalism." Among the party's platform planks were proposed child labor laws, a minimum wage law for women, and laws regulating labor relations.
Eugene V. Debs ran for the Socialist Party. The Progressive Party divided the Republican Party's vote. With the Republicans divided, Democrat Woodrow Wilson won the presidential election. Roosevelt received approximately twenty-five percent of the popular vote in the election. In Ohio, the majority of votes were cast for Wilson. The Progressive Party proved to be short-lived. By the Presidential Election of 1916, the Republican Party was reunited in an attempt to defeat Wilson.