The War of 1812 was the major political issue during the presidential campaigns in this election, which was the first presidential election to take place during a war. Disputes over the territorial expansion of the United States into the Northwest Territory caused conflicts with the British Empire as well as within the United States. Meanwhile, a war against Napoleon and his French Army raged across Europe, involving most major European nations making international policy an important issue.
The Democratic-Republican Party named incumbent President James Madison as their presidential nominee and Governor Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts was chosen as his running mate. The United States had declared war on Great Britain before the Federalists had finalized their nomination. The Federalist Party disagreed with the war on the British, and around September they announced their support of DeWitt Clinton as their candidate. Jared Ingersoll of Pennsylvania was chosen as Clinton's running mate.
In the 1812 presidential election, James Madison received about 50 percent of the popular vote, while DeWitt Clinton attained about 47 percent of the overall popular votes. James Madison received 128 electoral votes, and DeWitt Clinton received 89 electoral votes. The other candidate, Rufus King of the Federalist Party, received about 2 percent of the popular vote, but did not win any electoral votes. With a majority of the electoral votes, James Madison was elected to his second term as President of the United States.
The electoral votes for the 1812 election were distributed as follows: