As Hayes predicted, the Republican party campaigned heavily on his administration. Neither candidate, however, was particularly enthused by the campaign: Garfield held too many independent views and Hancock knew little about government. Garfield spent much of his time behind the scenes wooing the Republican delegation from New York, without whose support the state would easily go to the Democrats.
The first fall election was held in Maine on September 13, and the Democrats gained a surprise victory in the gubernatorial race. The Republicans stepped up their nationwide campaign and Garfield eventually won the election, receiving 214 electoral votes to Hancock's 155. Garfield won primarily thanks to the larger Northern states and their large blocks of electoral votes. His victory with the popular vote was much closer. Congressman and Senator-Elect Garfield was now President-elect as well. On November 8, Garfield wrote to the Ohio governor, resigning his House seat so that he could concentrate on preparing for the presidency.