Bid for the Presidency
In 1880, Garfield was elected to become a senator. However, he would never take office because in the meantime he would win the presidency. He was chosen as the Republican nominee for president after much discussion. The Republican convention could not decide, even in thirty-three previous ballots, who would be their presidential candidate. Garfield's mild manner and continued support for one of the candidates under consideration allowed him to gain momentum for his own candidacy. On the thirty-sixth ballot he won the nomination as a compromise candidate between conservatives and moderates. Conservative candidate Chester A. Arthur was nominated as vice president. Garfield was opposed by Winfield Hancock in the presidential election.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS…
In his inaugural address, Garfield proclaimed: “The elevation of the negro race from slavery to the full rights of citizenship is the most important political change we have known since the adoption of the Constitution. … No thoughtful man can fail to appreciate its beneficent effect upon our institutions and people.”
The campaign was more about personality than issues, with both sides claiming that the other would bring corruption into the White House. The popular vote was extremely close, with Garfield receiving only 1,898 more votes than his opponent. However, he ended up with 58 percent (214 out of 369) of the electoral vote.