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In 1912, Wilson used his reputation as a progressive with strong southern roots to run for the presidency as a Democrat. He won this election with 435 electoral votes, beating Theodore Roosevelt (Progressive), and William H. Taft (Republican). He later ran for re-election. The U.S. presidential election of 1916 took place while Europe was involved in World War I. Woodrow Wilson campaigned for reelection on a pledge of continued neutrality in the Great War in Europe, while Charles Evans Hughes (the Republican candidate) called for a program of preparedness. Since Wilson had successfully pressured the Germans to suspend unrestricted submarine warfare, it was difficult for Hughes to attack Wilson's campaign.
Wilson decided that only a league of nations that would confront potential threats with the strength of its united military would help to keep world peace. He tried to act as a peacemaker in December 1916, when he asked the Central Powers and Allies to announce their terms to end the war. He appealed for "peace without victory" in an address the Senate on January 1917. But in this calling for peace, he was not including Germany. Wilson believed that Germany had wrongfully invaded Belgium (which was neutral) and unlawfully used it submarines. This did not rest well with the Germans, who now were beginning to believe that the United States' neutrality was not helping them. Because of this, the Germans declared on January 31, 1917 and stated that its submarines would freely attack any ship that was opposing its interests. This meant that no American ship would be safe.
During this period, American citizens were strongly supporting the Allies, but at the same time did not want to go to war.
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