Charles Hughes’s Vicious Campaign
During his first term, Wilson shepherded a series of popular, progressive laws that put him in a prime position to dominate the next election. Still, he believed that the only reason he won the 1912 election was because Theodore Roosevelt ran as the candidate for the Bull Moose Party, thus splitting the Republican vote. Without the split, he was certain that he was going home—and not without reason.
The rift in the Republican Party wasn’t completely repaired by the 1916 election, but they put aside their differences for the time being, determined to win the White House. Even Roosevelt came crawling back, but he was rejected as a candidate in favor of Charles Evans Hughes, an associate Supreme Court justice and former governor of New York. Rather than split the vote again, Roosevelt opted to just sit this one out.
The Hughes campaign came out guns blazing against Wilson, attacking his decision to stay out of the conflict in Europe that was quickly brewing into World War I and remarrying so quickly after his wife passed away in 1914. Even though Hughes was seen as a kind of political mannequin with no personality to speak of, Wilson knew that the reenergized Republican Party had his number.