Election of 1888

Election of 1888

The Republicans in 1888 sensed an opportunity to regain the White House because President Cleveland had offended so many sectors of the electorate. James G. Blaine, the unsuccessful candidate in 1884, refused to run again. Benjamin Harrison, a former senator from Indiana and grandson of the hero of Tippecanoe, became the nominee. His prime assets were his famous name, a sterling record in the Civil War, popularity among former Union soldiers and his strength in the swing states of Indiana and Ohio.

The Democrats renominated the incumbent, whose principled actions had upset many voters, including:

  • The Democratic professional politicians who opposed civil service reform
  • Union war veterans, represented by the G.A.R., who resented the veto of pension legislation
  • Industrial leaders who opposed the president's call for tariff reduction
  • Farmers and debtors who disliked Cleveland's adherence to the gold standard.

As if these weren't sufficient to ruin his chances, Cleveland further destroyed his support in pivotal swing states by returning captured Confederate battle flags to the Southern states; Union veterans were incensed.

The campaign in 1888 set a new standard for corruption. Senator Matthew Quay of Pennsylvania used large sums of money to buy votes, which may have provided the margin for the Harrison victory. Cleveland won a majority of the popular votes, but failed to carry either Pennsylvania or his home state of New York.

Election of 1888
Candidates

Party

Electoral Vote

Popular
Vote

Benjamin Harrison (IN)
Levi P. Morton (NY)

Republican

233

5,444,892

Grover Cleveland (NY)
Allen G. Thurman (OH)

Democratic

168

5,534,488

Clinton B. Fisk (NJ)
John A. Brooks (MO)

Prohibition

0

249,819

Alson J. Streeter (IL)
Charles E. Cunningham (AR)

Union Labor

0

146,602


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