James A. Garfield


Was Garfield the front-runner for the 1880 Republican nomination?

No, he was not even on the radar screen. Former President Ulysses S. Grant emerged as a front-runner, along with James G. Blaine of Maine, who had nearly captured the nomination four years earlier in 1876. Another leading candidate was John Sherman of Ohio, whom Garfield voted for and served as campaign manager. Garfield attracted attention with his speechmaking abilities when he nominated Sherman. The convention went through thirty-five ballots, but none of the three leading contenders—Grant, Blaine, or Sherman—could garner enough votes. Garfield began to emerge as a compromise candidate and supporters of Blaine and Sherman voted for Garfield as someone who could defeat Grant. On the final tally, Garfield received 399 votes to Grant’s 306.


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