The William Blount faction of Tennessee politics wanted to nominate Jackson for the Presidency soon after his return from Florida. The faction convinced the legislature to back Jackson. To groom him for higher office, the Blount group ran him for the U.S. Senate again–defeating the current leader of the Sevier faction as an added bonus. Jackson won by a vote in the legislature, and he set off for Washington again.
Jackson's service in the Senate–twenty-six years after his first term in that body–showed that he had gained little knowledge of the political process but had measurably advanced in political ability. He quietly mended his relationships with several key Senators and worked behind the scenes to advance his Presidential quest.
Jackson's candidacy for President gained several key backers early on. Pennsylvania signed on and other key states in the North and South also signaled their support. Jackson's appeal was almost universal: he stood as an example of the everyman, an orphan who overcame humble beginnings in the backwoods of the Carolinas to became a self-made businessman and war hero. Jackson faced two main opponents: John Quincy Adams from Massachusetts and William H. Crawford of Virginia, who had been seeking the Presidency since 1816. Others, such as Henry Clay of Kentucky, were also-rans. In 1823, Crawford suffered a stroke, and though it initially looked like he might drop out of the race, he ended up persevering.
In the fall of 1824, Jackson decisively won a plurality of the election, with his 152,901 votes topping Adams's 114,023, Clay's 47,217, and Crawford's 46,979. None of the candidates, however, won a majority in the Electoral College–Jackson earned ninety-nine votes, Adams eighty-four, Crawford forty-one, Clay thirty-seven–and the election was thrown into the House of Representatives as the Twelfth Amendment dictates. In this scenario, each state delegation received one vote and the winner had to receive a majority of thirteen states. Clay, as the fourth candidate, was eliminated.
A frantic behind-the-scenes battle for the Presidency began. Every candidate and his supporters buttonholed members of Congress and crusaded in the press to win the election. To receive Clay's support, Adams secretly promised Clay a position as Secretary of State. Jackson tried making similar deals with Crawford, and Clay's supporters even floated a similar deal with Jackson–even though Clay had made his deal with Adams. In January, Clay announced his support of Adams, denying that he had been promised anything in return.
On February 9, 1825, the voting in the House began. Adams held twelve states, Jackson had seven and Crawford held four. Crawford positioned himself as the swing candidate, and New York held firm as the swing state. Adams won the election on the first ballot, though, when a single delegate in New York switched to Adams.
Even though Jackson lost the presidency despite winning the plurality of the popular and electoral vote, he took his loss in stride–until Adams announced Clay's appointment. Jackson exploded in rage labeling Clay the "Judas of the West" and railing against the "corrupt bargain" that had been struck. Jackson quickly set out to form an opposition party to the Adams administration. John C. Calhoun, the elected Vice President, threw his support to Jackson soon after the "corrupt bargain" was announced. The new coalition formed a Washington newspaper, the Telegraph, to further their cause. Jackson returned to Tennessee to prepare for the 1828 election. The Tennessee legislature nominated him for the Presidency again, and his campaign was off.
Jackson resigned from the Senate and began working full-time to defeat Adams. Jackson established himself as a moderate on almost all subjects, from the tariff to internal improvements. Martin Van Buren later decided to join the new team, bringing the Crawford wing of the party on board. The swelling group became known as the Democratic Party.
The upcoming Presidential race would be unlike any other race before it. It would be dirty and personal, perhaps the dirtiest election in the history of American politics. Jackson's resolve only strengthened as Adams's newspapers began to spread gossip about Jackson's "immoral" wife. Jackson's party shot back with information that President Adams had served as a pimp for the Czar of Russia while he had served as minister there. Jackson's history in the military came under scrutiny, and stories were widely circulated about his dictatorial style and the executions of six of his militiamen for charges such as desertion. Furthermore, discovery that Jackson was a Mason almost sunk his candidacy in New York, as a widespread anti-Mason movement had begun to take root in that state. Jackson's friends in Congress passed a protective tariff act, which garnered Jackson votes in the Northeast and West.
When the results came in after election day in 1828, Jackson had widened his margin of victory over Adams, winning more than 650,000 votes to Adams's 500,000. Jackson also won 178 electoral votes to Adams's 83. The election had clearly captivated the American people like never before, as the number of voters had almost quadrupled since the 1824 election.
Despite his political victory, Jackson soon suffered a devastating personal loss. One month after the election, his wife, Rachel, died unexpectedly of a heart seizure. She was buried on Christmas Eve, and Jackson refused to leave the house for weeks afterward. He left for Washington in mid-January to start his term with a broken heart.