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A Century Of GOP Intraparty Wars Sets Stage For Cleveland Convention

This year's campaign is headed toward an epic clash of Republicanism at the Cleveland convention this summer. But it's not the first time the party has been rocked by turbulence ahead of its convention. Again and again since 1912, splits between establishment GOP figures and the party's most ardent conservatives have hobbled the party's performance in November.

Here's a look at the drama that has come before:

1912

A view of the 1912 Republican National Convention at the Chicago Coliseum in Chicago, Ill. AP hide caption

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A view of the 1912 Republican National Convention at the Chicago Coliseum in Chicago, Ill.

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Theodore Roosevelt returns four years after leaving the presidency to challenge the man who succeeded him with his blessing: William Howard Taft. Losing at the convention, TR runs as a Progressive, splits the Republican Party and brings about the election of Democrat Woodrow Wilson.

1920

Ten names are placed in nomination at the Chicago convention, but none can get a majority. Ohio Sen. Warren Harding is interviewed by party leaders at 2 a.m. and nominated the next day on the 10th ballot. He wins in November, restoring Republicans to the White House.

Delegates at the 1924 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. AP hide caption

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Delegates at the 1924 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio.

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1928

Herbert Hoover extends GOP dominance into third White House term.

1932

As Great Depression deepens, FDR defeats Hoover in a landslide.

1940

After Wendell Wilkie was nominated in Philadelphia in 1940, Wilkie adherents in the New York delegation tried to take the state banner into the parade and Dewey friends to keep it out. AP hide caption

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After Wendell Wilkie was nominated in Philadelphia in 1940, Wilkie adherents in the New York delegation tried to take the state banner into the parade and Dewey friends to keep it out.

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Republicans assume they can deny FDR a third term but their convention is split between an Eastern establishment moderate (Thomas E. Dewey of New York) and a conservative (Robert A. Taft of Ohio, son of the former president). On the sixth ballot, the delegates turn to a third option. He is Wendell Willkie of Indiana, a public utility executive with no political experience who has risen in polls despite have entered no primaries. Willkie loses to FDR in an Electoral College landslide.

1948

Dewey, who had been the nominee in 1944 (losing to FDR), returns as the front-runner. But he is once again opposed by Taft, the champion of the party's hard-core conservatives. It takes three ballots, but Dewey prevails, frustrating Taft's loyalists. In November, Dewey is upset by a resurgent Harry Truman, who has been president since FDR's death in 1945.

1952

Moments before a night session of the Republican National Convention in Chicago in 1952, the seats of New York delegates were covered with "Ike" straw hats for Dwight Eisenhower. AP hide caption

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Moments before a night session of the Republican National Convention in Chicago in 1952, the seats of New York delegates were covered with "Ike" straw hats for Dwight Eisenhower.

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Taft forces come to Chicago confident their turn has come. But the Eastern establishment has found a new hero, a war hero, in Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, who has been serving as president of Columbia University in New York. The convention begins with a series of fights over rules and credentials, most of them regarding delegates from the South. Eisenhower comes up a few votes shy during the first ballot, but a shift away from a third candidate breaks a near-tie and frustrates the Taft faction once more.

1960

Ike's vice president, Richard Nixon, has the votes to be nominated but there are two high-profile "favorite son" candidates: New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller and Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater. These inheritors of the Dewey-Taft rivalry both step aside for Nixon. "Let's grow up, conservatives," says Goldwater. "If we want to take this party back — and I think we can someday — let's get to work." Nixon loses narrowly in November to Democrat John F. Kennedy.

1964

Barry Goldwater's acceptance speech in 1964 declared war on moderates. AP hide caption

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Barry Goldwater's acceptance speech in 1964 declared war on moderates.

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Goldwater's "someday" comes in the very next cycle, as his wins in key primaries in the West unhorse Rockefeller and the Eastern establishment. Rockefeller leads a walkout from the convention and Goldwater's acceptance speech declares war on moderates. Goldwater loses 44 states in November.

1968

Nixon unites the party factions well before the convention, turning back an eleventh-hour bid from California Gov. Ronald Reagan. Nixon then wins one term narrowly and a second in a 49-state landslide before resigning in disgrace in 1974 because of the Watergate scandal.

1976

Reagan returns to challenge incumbent President Gerald R. Ford (Nixon's vice president) for the nomination, reviving the Dewey-Taft wars of a generation earlier. With a late surge in Southern and Western primaries, Reagan cuts Ford's lead. But his attempt to break the convention open with rules changes comes up short by 111 votes. Ford wins on first ballot but loses in fall to Democrat Jimmy Carter.

1980

Reagan loses Iowa to moderate George H.W. Bush, but wins New Hampshire, wraps up nomination in May and takes Bush as running mate. Reagan serves two terms, winning the second with 49 states.

1988

Explicitly religious conservatives emerge as a major bloc, but Bush holds off a big field of primary challengers. Dividing the votes of conservatives, Bush wins on first ballot and takes 40 states in November.

1992

George H.W. Bush shakes his fists during a speech to supporters in 1992 at the Republican National Convention in Houston. Doug Mills/AP hide caption

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George H.W. Bush shakes his fists during a speech to supporters in 1992 at the Republican National Convention in Houston.

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Incensed by Bush's acceptance of tax increases in a budget deal, Patrick Buchanan challenges his renomination. Summoning the spirits of Taft, Goldwater and Reagan, Buchanan still fails to block a second Bush nomination but weakens the incumbent. Billionaire Ross Perot runs as an independent on Bush's right, helping Democrat Bill Clinton win with just 42 percent of the popular vote.

1996

Buchanan again leads the charge from the right, but several others split the conservative bloc, and insider Bob Dole, the Senate majority leader who was Ford's running mate 20 years earlier, wraps up the nomination in March. He loses to Clinton in November.

2000

Once again a large field forms, with 10 early candidates vying for the votes of "movement conservatives." Establishment voters coalesce around Texas Gov. George W. Bush, forcing out "maverick" challenger John McCain by the second week of March. Bush loses the popular vote to Vice President Al Gore but wins the Electoral College after the Supreme Court shuts down a recount in Florida.

2008

McCain returns and dispatches rival Rudolph Giuliani, former mayor of New York, early in the establishment lane. Again there are 10 early contenders for the conservative mantle, but most drop either before or after the first primaries. Baptist minister Mike Huckabee is the last of them, withdrawing in early March. McCain names a conservative favorite, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, as his running mate. Their ticket gets less than a third of the Electoral College vote.

2012

Mitt Romney and vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan are on stage with their wives at the end of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. in 2012. Jae C. Hong/AP hide caption

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Jae C. Hong/AP

Mitt Romney and vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan are on stage with their wives at the end of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. in 2012.

Jae C. Hong/AP

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney renews his 2008 bid, this time as an insider favorite more than a conservative option. He easily dispatches other contenders to his left while more than half a dozen conservatives take turns leading in the polls. One, former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, wins Iowa and extends the struggle into May before conceding. Restive conservatives at the convention in Tampa are only partially placated by the choice of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as running mate.

Correction March 14, 2016

A previous version of this story incorrectly said George W. Bush lost the Iowa caucus to Ronald Reagan in 1980. In fact, it was George H.W. Bush.