- Historic Sites
T. R. On The Telephone
By private wire from Oyster Bay Roosevelt angled for the 1916 Progressive and Republican nominations, but his strategy backfired and killed the Progressive party
December 1957 | Volume 9, Issue 1
Penrose: … That side of it is not the question with me. … I really do not think the question of patronage, while a factor with a percentage of the delegates, is the controlling factor at present. … There is a general desire to win. … Lodge is here. Think it would be a good thing for you to talk with him. …
Lodge: Hello, Theodore.
Roosevelt: Hello, Cabot Lodge.
Lodge: It is a very mixed up situation we have here. … The thing lies just this way: It looks like the nomination of Hughes [by the Republicans]. There is no enthusiasm for him at all but there is a wide-spread feeling that he can be more easily elected than any one else. Now to nominate you in that convention—I do not know if the votes are there or not. Of course if the Progressives nominate you before we act, that blows our plans all up and destroys them; you know there is a lunatic fringe to the Progressive party—I use your own words.
Roosevelt: Rightly said.
Lodge: … It is going to be either you or Hughes, in my judgment. … It is very hard to get at the convention. You know these delegates are all elected independently and are uninstructed and they cannot be handed around and delivered. … The question is how many votes they can show for you, and that I do not know. …
Roosevelt: As far as my personal interests are concerned, if they do not nominate me I shall breathe a sigh of relief. I have no ambition to go into a purely political campaign. … I can earnestly say I am not interested in my personal welfare at all; but in international matters and in the present situation I know I am worth two of Hughes.
Late that evening John T. King, Republican national committeeman from Connecticut, made the same point to Roosevelt.
King: … I am very much afraid of this Hughes situation tonight.
Roosevelt: I think myself that is the way the thing is drifting.
King: Yes, very fast, and if [Hughes’s opponents] do not get a program pretty quick it is going to be almost impossible to stop it. … Here is the stand I am taking, Colonel: No matter whether the two conventions can get together or not as far as politics is concerned it is the duty of us fellows to stop Hughes by all means. Even though the Progressives and the Republicans cannot get together there is no sense in nominating Hughes. So let us go down on that principle.
Between them, Lodge and King had outlined the course which Roosevelt’s supporters were to follow for the rest of the week: to stop Hughes and to seek to build support among the Republicans for Roosevelt or for a candidate he could support; and simultaneously to hold off the eager Progressives from immediately nominating Roosevelt, behind whom the Republicans, in their convention, were not yet ready to unite.
Roosevelt spoke again with Lodge regarding a speech Hughes had given at a girls’ school. Then he brought up the question of who should place his name in nomination at the Republican convention:
Lodge: How are you, all right?
Roosevelt: Right as a trivet. Very much amused by Hughes’s speech. It is exactly like a Wilson speech to the Colonial Dames. … Now I wish to ask whether it would not be a good thing to have [Senator Albert] Fall of New Mexico ∗ nominate me? This was the same Albert Fall who, as Secretary of the Interior in the Harding Administration, became involved in the Teapot Dome oil-lease scandals and was forced to resign from the Cabinet. He was later tried and convicted in criminal court and sent to prison.
Lodge: He would do it very well.
Roosevelt: … Suppose you talk it over with Perkins now. I think that perhaps to have Fall nominate me would emphasize what I would like to have emphasized, that if you want the antithesis of Wilson you want to take me.
Perkins then took the phone and gave Roosevelt a rundown on the results of his own canvassing among the Republican delegates.