Less than 4,000 votes. That was the margin by which California voted for incumbent Democratic President Woodrow Wilson on Election Day 1916. If California’s 13 electoral votes had swung the other way, Republican challenger and Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes would have won. And considering that U.S. involvement in World War I would begin in April 1917, who knows just how consequential California’s decision was to the fate of civilization.
The article details the reasons why California voted the way it did. Pro-Wilson reasons included his policy of American neutrality in the war unfurling on the other side of the globe. Anti-Hughes reasons included a major gaffe in which Hughes refused to meet with California’s popular Republican governor Hiram Johnson while campaigning in the state.
Ah, the days when California was a state where presidential candidates campaign for votes and not just for campaign dollars.
Also the days when California made up a mere 13 out of the then-531 Electoral College votes, or just 2.4 percent. Today it makes up 55 out of 538 Electoral College votes, or 10.2 percent of the total. Although even that is actually a lower percentage than the 12.1 percent it makes up of the U.S. population.
The Real Reasons California Went for Wilson: Western Authority Says His Mexican Policy and the Support Women Gave Him Placed the State in the Democratic Column (PDF)
From Sunday, February 18, 1917