The United States presidential election of 1912 was the 32nd quadrennial presidential election, held on Tuesday, November 5, 1912. Democratic Governor Woodrow Wilson of New Jersey unseated incumbent Republican President William Howard Taft and defeated Former President Theodore Roosevelt, who ran as the Progressive Party ("Bull Moose") nominee. Roosevelt remains the only third party presidential candidate in U.S. history to finish better than third in the popular or electoral vote.
Roosevelt had served as president from 1901 to 1909, and Taft had won the 1908 Republican presidential nomination with Roosevelt's support. Displeased with Taft's actions as president, Roosevelt challenged Taft at the 1912 Republican National Convention. After Taft and his conservative allies narrowly prevailed at the Republican convention, Roosevelt rallied his progressive supporters and launched a third party bid. Backed by William Jennings Bryan and other progressives, Wilson won the Democratic Party's presidential nomination on the 46th ballot, defeating Speaker of the House Champ Clark and several other candidates. Meanwhile, the Socialist Party renominated its perennial standard-bearer, Eugene V. Debs.
The election of 1912 was bitterly contested by three individuals, Wilson, Roosevelt, and Taft, who all had or would serve as president. Roosevelt's "New Nationalism" platform called for social insurance programs, an eight-hour workday, and a strong federal role in regulating the economy. Wilson's "New Freedom" platform called for tariff reform, banking reform, and a new antitrust law. Knowing that he had little chance of victory, Taft conducted a subdued campaign based on his own platform of "progressive conservatism." Debs claimed that the other three candidates were largely financed by trusts and tried to galvanize support behind his socialist policies.
The Progressive party was nicknamed the "Bull Moose Party" after journalists quoted Roosevelt saying that he felt "fit as a bull moose" following an assassination attempt on the campaign trail shortly after the new party was formed.
Wilson carried 40 states and won a large majority of the electoral vote, taking advantage of the split in the Republican Party. He was the first Democrat to win a presidential election since 1892, and would be one of just two Democratic presidents to serve between the Civil War and the onset of the Great Depression. Roosevelt won 88 electoral votes, while Taft carried just two states, taking 8 electoral votes. Wilson won 41.8% of the national popular vote, while Roosevelt won 27%, Taft 23%, and Debs 6%.