The Republican Party easily and unanimously renominated incumbent President Ulysses S. Grant as presidential nominee. Grant's first term vice president, Schuyler Colfax, was up for renomination, but he lost the bid to Henry Wilson of Massachusetts, who became Grant's new running mate.
The Liberal Republicans broke off from the national Republican Party in 1870 in response to what they considered government corruption of the Republican Party. The party's convention met and elected Horace Greeley, an editor for the newspaper the New York Tribune, as the party's presidential candidate in the 1872 election. Benjamin Gratz Brown was selected as his running mate.The Democratic Party also backed Greeley, so they did not split the anti-Grant vote and risk losing.
During the 1872 election, Victoria Woodhull became the first woman to be nominated for President of the United States. A civil rights advocate from Ohio, Woodhull ran as a representative of the Equal Rights Party with former slave, Frederick Douglass, as her running mate. Women's rights advocates, like the National Woman Suffrage Association that had been formed a few years prior to the election, supported Woodhull's run for office. Before the vote, Woodhull was determined to be ineligible for the presidency because she would not yet reach 35 years of age by Inauguration Day.
Many women attempted to vote in the 1872 election, including Susan B. Anthony, who was arrested and fined. Woodhull herself was arrested before the election for publishing in her newspaper an article about a political figure's affair, which was deemed obscene.
Election Day was held on November 5, 1872, and resulted in Grant winning about 56 percent of the popular vote to Greeley's 44 percent. Grant won the electoral vote by an even wider margin, with 286 votes to the 66 that would have gone to Greeley. On November 29, 1872, Greeley died before the electoral votes he won had been cast. To date, Greeley is the only presidential candidate to have died during the electoral process.
Greeley won six states on Election Day. Since he died before those states had cast their electoral votes, all but three of the electoral votes he won were cast for other Democratic candidates. Three electoral votes were cast for Greeley despite his death, but these votes were not counted in the official vote. The Democrats that received Greeley's electoral votes were his running mate, Benjamin Gratz Brown, Thomas A. Hendricks, Charles J. Jenkins, and David Davis. The vice presidential electoral votes were divided between Benjamin Gratz Brown, Nathaniel P. Banks, George Washington Julian, Alfred H. Colquitt, John M. Palmer, Thomas E. Bramlette, William S. Groesbeck, and Willis B. Machen.
President Grant was reelected and resumed office after the official vote count. His vice president, Henry Wilson, died in office on November 22, 1875.