The presidential election of 1880 was a race between Republican James A. Garfield and Democrat Winfield Scott Hancock, resulting in a close popular vote count but a clear electoral vote winner. James A. Garfield won the election and became the twentieth President of the United States.
Incumbent President Rutherford B. Hayes did not attempt reelection, but former President Ulysses S. Grant did attempt to run for a third term, losing the Republican nomination to James A. Garfield of Ohio. Garfield, who had recently been elected Senator of Ohio, attended the Republican National Convention and spoke in support of nominating fellow Ohioan, John Sherman. The other delegates liked his speech and began voting for him instead, and soon he had won the party’s nomination. The convention then chose Chester A. Arthur to run as vice presidential candidate for the Republican Party.
The Democratic Party considered Samuel J. Tilden, who ran as the party nominee for president in the 1876 election. When he refused, Winfield Scott Hancock stepped up and received the party’s nomination, and William Hayden English became his running mate.
The Greenback Party nominated James B. Weaver as presidential candidate for the 1880 election, and Benjamin J. Chambers as his running mate. The Greenback Party had formed in Indiana in 1874 to fight back against monopolies and the fiscal policies of the two major political parties. The election of 1880 was the strongest year for the Greenback Party, with over 3 percent of the vote. The other third parties with candidates in the 1880 presidential race were the American Party and the Prohibition Party, neither of which received a substantial number of votes on Election Day, nor a single electoral vote.
The presidential campaigns of 1880 mainly focused on the issues surrounding the end of Reconstruction. The Morey letter, though it turned out to be fake, was a point of contention in this election. The letter may have come from the Democratic Party’s campaign, but it was supposed to be a letter from Garfield in which he advocated Chinese immigration, an unpopular view for the time.
The 1880 election resulted in the closest popular vote in history, but the electoral vote showed clearly that Garfield was the winner. Garfield and Hancock each won nineteen states, but Garfield had won the larger states, receiving a total of 214 electoral votes. Hancock’s votes from Georgia were controversial because they were not received by the deadline, but their exclusion from the total count would not have made a difference in the election’s outcome.
Garfield became the twentieth President of the United States. He was assassinated on July 2, 1881 by Charles J. Guiteau. Garfield’s presidential term was the second shortest in history at just 200 days, second only to the term of William Henry Harrison. Garfield’s vice president, Chester A. Arthur succeeded him.