The election of 1888, only 12 years after the scandal of the election of 1876 with Rutherford B. Hayes, was another problematic and disputed election. The Republican candidate for this election was Benjamin Harrison, while the Democratic candidate was the incumbent President, Grover Cleveland. Benjamin Harrison was from Indiana, while Grover Cleveland was from New York.
In the election, Benjamin Harrison had a strong advantage over Grover Cleveland for a number of reasons, ranging from the fact that Benjamin Harrison was a Civil War soldier with a good record who was popular with former Union soldiers, to the fact that Grover Cleveland had made numerous enemies during his time in office, primarily for having tried to end a lot of corruptive practices.
This election was fairly tame, compared to the election of 1876, but it was significant because it represented one of the only times in American history that a presidential nominee lost the election, but won more popular votes than his opponent.
Grover Cleveland won 5,534,488 popular votes, while Benjamin Harrison won 5,444,892 popular votes. But Harrison won 65 more electoral votes than did Cleveland, which was more than enough to win the election for Benjamin Harrison. The only two times previous to this that a candidate had won the popular vote, while not winning the election, were the election of 1876 and the election of 1824.
This election was perhaps the least contested of all those three, however, as the 1876 election was wracked with controversy and dispute and behind-the-scenes dealings, while the election of 1824 was decided against Andrew Jackson by the House of Representatives, even though Andrew Jackson had won both more electoral votes and more popular votes because Jackson had not won an absolute majority.
The election of 1888 did not feature any of the vicious campaign tactics that characterized the election of 1876, and it did not feature the dispute of the election results after they came back, either. Though there was some possible manipulation in that Tammany Hall, a political machine which Grover Cleveland had stood against, might have been responsible for Cleveland losing New York, in the end, the election was considered fair and legal.
Benjamin Harrison successfully won 36 more votes from New York by edging out Grover Cleveland by a margin of popular votes less than 1%; those 36 electoral votes would have equated to a 72 vote swing and would have won Grover Cleveland the election. As it stood, Grover Cleveland only came as close as he did in the electoral race because the race was so close in popular votes; he won 24 of his electoral votes from states where he won only 1% more popular votes than did Benjamin Harrison.
This election, while an oddity in American history for being an election in which a candidate who won more popular votes did not win the Presidency, was still a perfectly legitimate election and it stands out as such amidst the other elections of the same nature, such as the election of 1876, or the election of 2000.