When Teddy Roosevelt had a “bully” time in Columbus, Ohio


President Teddy Roosevelt waves his hat.

Photo: Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

It’s uncommon for an ex-president to campaign for another term, but when it happened a century ago, Columbus played a small role.

Context: Then-Vice President Teddy Roosevelt ascended to the presidency after Ohioan William McKinley was assassinated in 1901, serving two terms before being replaced by another Ohioan, William Howard Taft.

  • In an age before presidential term limits, he later regretted leaving office, and newspapers speculated he might challenge Taft in the next election.

Flashback: Those rumors reached a fever pitch as thousands greeted Teddy’s arrival in Columbus on Feb. 21, 1912, for a speech at the Statehouse.

  • Supporters hoped he would use the opportunity to announce his candidacy, but Teddy instead gave a more general speech advocating for progressive policies.
  • Then he visited a friend’s Town Street home for lunch before heading back to New York.

What he said: The next day, a reporter asked how Ohio treated the former commander in chief.

  • “Bully,” Roosevelt replied. “I had a first-class time.”
  • “Your Columbus speech has aroused a good deal of comment,” the reporter continued.
  • “Good, sound doctrine,” he coyly answered.

The intrigue: The visit was his last major public appearance before jumping in the presidential race five days later.

  • Whereas former President Trump announced his 2024 candidacy in an hour-long address, Roosevelt issued only a six-word statement: “We’re in the fight. That’s all.”
  • He wound up losing the election that year while running for the Progressive “Bull Moose” Party.
A headline previewing Teddy Roosevelt's arrival to Columbus in February 1912.
From the Feb. 20, 1912, edition of the Zanesville Times Recorder, via Newspapers.com

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