This election took place in the early stages of the Gilded Age. Railroad regulations, currency reform, tariff reform and civil service reform were key issues. The sitting president, Chester A. Arthur, had become president on the assassination of James A. Garfield. His presidency upset many in his own party and his reputation as a lazy administrator also did much to hinder a strong reelection campaign. As such, he faced many challengers. The Democrats also liked their chances of finally defeating the Republican party.
For Republicans, James G. Blaine, the leader of the moderate Republicans, known as “Half-Breeds,” was the front-runner. They favored a more bipartisan platform, but Blaine still suffered from a poor reputation due to previous scandals. The incumbent president was the favorite among former “Radical Republicans,” which were more conservative economically, but also more in favor of enforcing Civil Rights in the South. Many other major candidates such as George Edmunds, John Sherman, John Logan, and Joseph Hawley hope to win the nomination.
The Democratic front-runner is the popular Bourbon Democrat (fiscally conservative and strict constitutionalist), Grover Cleveland. His personal integrity was high, but rumors of a child out of wedlock negates what could have been a great strength against Republican front-runner Blaine. Cleveland faces challenges from other Bourbon Democrats, as well as Populist Democrats and Southern Democrats.
The Greenback Party led by Benjamin F. Butler and the Prohibition Party led by John St. John
This election has man what-if scenarios:
- What if General William Tecumseh Sherman had not refused to run for president?
- What if General Philip Sheridan had agreed to run?
- Robert Todd Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln’s son, was urged to run. What if he had?
- What if Benjamin Harrison ran for president 4 years earlier?
- What if Walter Gresham had run 4 years earlier?
- Former President Rutherford B. Hayes fulfilled his promise to not run for reelection in 1880. What if he ran in 1884 after sitting out for a year?
- What if former president Ulysses S. Grant had run for president despite failing health. Could he rally the conservative wing of the party so that they can defeat the Half-Breeds?
- What if Civil Rights activists pushed Frederick Douglass to run for president?
- Samuel J. Tilden nearly won the election of 1876. With the platform of the Bourbon Democrats at an all-time high, what if this early proponent of the platform ran again, despite failing health?
- What if former Confederate general Wade Hampton ran as the nominee of Southern Democrats?
- What if Richard P. Bland, the leader of the Silverites, ran as the nominee of Western, Populist Democrats?
- What if former general George B. McClellan ran for the nomination again after having served as a governor. Can he win the nomination two decades after he secured it in 1864?
- Can former general Winfield Scott Hancock win nomination in 1884?
- What if populist James B. Weaver challenged Benjamin F. Butler for the Greenback nomination?