The main issue of the 1888 election was the question of whether to raise or lower the tariff. The Democrats wanted to lower the tariff, while the Republicans wanted to raise the tariff. This made it one of the first elections since the Civil War to show clear economic differences between the two parties. It was the first real issue that truly divided the Democrats and Republicans.

Grover Cleveland
Grover Cleveland

Grover Cleveland was renominated by the Democrats to run in the election, while Benjamin Harrison, grandson of the former President William Henry Harrison, was nominated (on the eighth ballot) as the Republican candidate. Both Cleveland and Harrison were strongly supporting the Democratic and Republican views, respectively, on whether or not the tariff should lower or raise.

Benjamin Harrison and the Republicans argued that if the tariff were to lower, it would wreck business prosperity. They used this argument to gain support from workers and businesses. Harrison also raised many campaign funds from these big businesses. He received much support from all the workers of businesses who did not want to risk possibly losing their jobs. Harrison also attacked Harrison's repeated vetoes of the pension bills that would allow the veterans to vote. This made him get more support from the war veterans.
Benjamin Harrison
Benjamin Harrison


Harrison took a less active method of campaigning during this election: the "front porch campaign." He stayed near home, and through word of mouth and imaginative pretexts, many were drawn to hear him speak.

Grover Cleveland mainly focused on the tariff problem. He strongly supported the idea of lowering the tariff, because he thought that unnecessary taxation was unjust taxation. Since he was competing against the big businesses in the larger states, this made him less popular in those states, although he still had many supporters considering he was still the president at that point.

outcome of the election
outcome of the election
The election itself was one of the closest elections in American history. Although Cleveland's popular vote exceeded Harrison's by more than 100,000, Harrison won the electoral majority with 233 votes while Cleveland got only 168. This was mainly because Harrison appealed to the big businesses and gained support from many of the Northern states.

Afterward, Harrison went on to develop the first Billion-dollar Congress and keep Republicans in control of both houses of Congress.