Stark differences in economic philosophy defined the 1896 campaign. Ohio governor McKinley built a coalition of Eastern business patrons to push hard for the gold standard. Bryan, a fiery populist, sought looser money, which would have inflated prices for farmers struggling in a depressed economy. "You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold," Bryan famously declared. Bryan hit the rails to press his case cross-country; McKinley drew pilgrimages to Ohio. Presidential historian Richard Norton Smith says McKinley's win "confirmed the conservative nature of the American republic."
Next 1912: Split Decision