Thomas Woodrow Wilson was an American statesman, lawyer, and academic who served as the 28th president of the United States from 1913 to 1921.
A member of the Democratic Party, Wilson served as the president of Princeton University and as the 34th governor of New Jersey before winning the 1912 presidential election. As president, he oversaw the passage of progressive legislative policies unparalleled until the New Deal in 1933.
He also led the United States into World War I in 1917, establishing an activist foreign policy known as “Wilsonianism.” He was the leading architect of the League of Nations.
Wilson was renominated at the 1916 Democratic National Convention without opposition. In an effort to win progressive voters, Wilson called for legislation providing for an eight-hour day and six-day workweek, health and safety measures, the prohibition of child labor, and safeguards for female workers.
He also favored a minimum wage for all work performed by and for the federal government.
The Democrats also campaigned on the slogan, “He Kept Us Out of War,” and indicated that a Republican victory would mean war with both Mexico and Germany.
Hoping to reunify the progressive and conservative wings of the party, the 1916 Republican National Convention nominated Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes for president. Republicans campaigned against Wilson’s New Freedom policies, especially tariff reduction, the implementation of higher income taxes, and the Adamson Act, which they derided as “class legislation.”
Though Republicans attacked Wilson’s foreign policy on various grounds, domestic affairs generally dominated the campaign.
By the end of election day on November 7, Wilson expected Hughes to win, but he declined to send a concession telegram until it was clear that he had lost the election.
The election outcome was in doubt for several days and was determined by several close states, ultimately coming down to California. On November 10, California certified that Wilson had won the state by 3,806 votes, giving him a majority of the electoral vote.
In the final count, Wilson won 277 electoral votes and 49.2 percent of the popular vote, while Hughes won 254 electoral votes and 46.1 percent of the popular vote.
Wilson was able to win by picking up many votes that had gone to Teddy Roosevelt or Eugene V. Debs in 1912. He swept the Solid South and won all but a handful of Western states, while Hughes won most of the Northeastern and Midwestern states.
Wilson’s re-election made him the first Democrat since Andrew Jackson to win two consecutive terms. Wilson and Marshall became the first presidential ticket to win two consecutive elections since James Monroe and Daniel D. Tompkins accomplished the same feat in 1820. The Democrats also maintained control of Congress in the 1916 elections.