1872: Backed by Two Parties, But Loses Anyway
In 1872, incumbent President Ulysses S. Grant was still riding on a wave of popularity as the military commander whose leadership helped save the Union. But Grant's support for the rights of African-Americans and his insistence upon maintaining the military occupation of the vanquished Southern states rubbed some of the less enlightened members of his own party the wrong way. They wanted to pull out the troops and let the South return to self-rule, which essentially meant white control.
Those dissenters broke off into a splinter party, which they called the Liberal Republicans. They nominated Horace Greeley, the founder of the New-York Tribune, as their presidential candidate. The Democratic Party thought he sounded pretty good, too, and also picked him as its candidate, making Greeley the only man ever to run as the standard-bearer for two parties simultaneously.
But the strange alliance didn't do Greeley much good. First, Grant proceeded to win the popular vote 56 percent to 44 percent, and picked up 286 electoral votes [source: Miller Center]. Second, Greeley died a few weeks after the election, so he didn't even get the 66 electoral votes he'd earned. Instead, they were reallocated to four minor candidates [source: Library of Congress].