HAD Hearst's career between 1903 and 1909 consisted solely of his congressional activities, he would have been little talked about outside of Washington. But, as already indicated, Congress was the least of his interests during those stormy years. And in actuality he was the most discussed man in America, with the single exception of Theodore Roosevelt. Those hard-working progressives in Congress, LaFollette and Beveridge, were unknown in comparison with Hearst, and even Bryan was almost forgotten in the noisy notoriety of his successor. For there can be no question that for half a decade Hearst really achieved his program of succeeding Bryan as the leader of the forces of popular discontent. In 1904 he rolled up 263 votes toward nomination for president in the Democratic national convention; in 1905 he came within 3,472 votes of being elected mayor of New York City; in 1906 he was defeated for the governorship of New York State by less than 60,000 votes; in the presidential campaign of 1908 he created an independent third party. Though these movements failed, all but the last came so near to success as to indicate a vast amount of popular support behind the candidate.
What was the cause of this support? What was the cause of Hearst? These were questions constantly asked in the newspapers and magazines of the period. Though many editors remained baffled by the problem, those who gave it the closest study came to practically identical conclusions which might be summarized by saying that the Hearst boom was a product of