The U.S. presidential election of 1908 was not a close race. Popular incumbent President Theodore Roosevelt, honoring a promise not to seek a third term, chose William Howard Taft as his successor. The Democrats nominated William Jennings Bryan, who had been defeated in two previous contests for the presidency. Taft defeated Bryan in a landslide.
Despite the odds, Bryan campaigned aggressively and remained popular in Nebraska, even among political opponents. “Scotts Bluff county went democratic for once last Tuesday,” said the Gering Courier on June 5, 1908. “William Jennings Bryan was the guest of the county last Tuesday, being greeted at Scottsbluff by an enormous crowd, and at Gering by a very satisfactory turnout, . . . The crowd at Scottsbluff is estimated at from two to four thousand people. They came in from the east, west, north and south, and made a day of it, being well entertained in various ways.
“The speaking at Scottsbluff was in charge of Attorney Morrow, who first introduced Hon. A. F. Mullen of O’Neill, who has a congressional bee in his bonnet, and he was followed by Judge Edgar Howard, the spectacular editor of the Columbus Telegram, who likewise entertains congressional aspirations. Neither occupied very much time, realizing that they were small potatoes beside the democratic oracle, and Mr. Bryan spoke about one hour.
“As the Courier has frequently conceded and is willing to concede again, Mr. Bryan is a great man and a great speaker, but we truly believe that many people went away with much of the idolatry knocked out of their minds, some saying so frankly. But such ought to remember that Mr. Bryan is merely a human being after all, who has had a wonderful lot of advertising, and they ought to begin to learn that hero worship is usually a long-range product.
“If some believed that Mr. Bryan was not at his best Tuesday, we assure you that he was fully up to his standard as we have heard him on several occasions. He is smooth, witty and wordy, and has the knack of telling a good story so its application is easily apparent, but so far as any new subject matter or any startling pronouncements go, they were not there. Few of us have the brains or the speech sufficient to presume to enter into an argumentative discussion of the things Mr. Bryan said or left unsaid, but after it is all analyzed we think he said as much at Gering in five minutes as he did at the Bluffs in an hour.”