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Republican Campaign
Just as he had controlled the vice-presidential selection, Garfield worked tirelessly behind the scenes to organize and direct every aspect of his campaign, down to scribbling personal notes to county chairmen across the nation. As tradition warranted, he did not go on a campaign speaking tour (see "Presidential Campaigning" in Campaigning), but instead conducted a "front-porch" campaign in which groups of supporters-Union veterans, businessmen, women suffragists, children, politicians, and others-visited him at his farm outside Mentor, Ohio. He avoided discussing issues with these crowds of partisan well-wishers, and ordered Republican campaign workers to do the same.

Republicans used a campaign book that included patriotic speeches and sayings by Garfield and other prominent Republicans, campaign songs, and reminders of the country's peace and prosperity under Republican leadership. Neglecting substantive issues, a major theme of the book and of the entire campaign was "waving the bloody shirt" by associating the Democratic party with secession and the Confederate cause. That strategy changed in September after the state election in Maine produced a Democratic-Fusion governor. Senator Blaine of Maine convinced Garfield to have Republicans emphasize the protective tariff against the allegedly free-trade Democrats (in reality, both parties were split on the issue).

Republicans also attacked Hancock's lack of political experience (he had never held elective office) and his supposed lack of understanding of the issues. A satiric Republican pamphlet called "A Record of the Statesmanship and Political Achievements of General Winfield Scott Hancock" contained blank pages. When the Democratic nominee told the Paterson, New Jersey, Daily Guardian (published October 8) that "the tariff question is a local question," he was skewered by Republicans and the press for his ignorance. In fact, he meant that the divisive issue should be decided by the voters through their elected representatives in Congress, a position taken by several politicians, including, as Democratic leaders eagerly pointed out, Congressman Garfield. Perception trumped reality, though, and Hancock's explanation only made matters worse.

While most Republicans did not directly attack Hancock's character, partisan rumors did circulate that Hancock had plotted to overthrow President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War and had engaged in corrupt business practices while stationed in Louisiana during Reconstruction.

Democratic Campaign
While the Republican campaign was primarily a 19th-century version of "Where's the beef?" *, the Democratic campaign centered around the tried-and-true strategy of mudslinging. Democrats revived charges of Garfield involvement in the Credit Mobilier scandal. They accused him of being a heartless thief: stealing from a Southern widow, not paying bills from common laborers, and refusing spare change to a homeless veteran. The most damaging slander was a forged letter in which the Republican nominee supposedly endorsed the Burlingame Treaty of 1868 and unlimited Chinese immigration. The letter also insinuated that labor was like any other product, therefore employers should buy it as cheaply as possible. It was published in Tammany Hall's newspaper, The Truth, a few weeks before the election and hit the West Coast, where Chinese immigration (see "Nativism" in Issues) was stridently opposed, like an earthquake. The fake letter probably cost the Republicans a senate seat in California and may have undermined support for Garfield in the Far West. He lost California and Nevada by slim margins and narrowly won Oregon.

* This commercial tag-line indicating the lack of substance in one's competitor was used by former Vice President Walter Mondale against his primary opponent Senator Gary Hart during a 1984 Democratic debate.

 
       
 
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