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Cleveland declined, and in 1855 he decided to move west.
As a reformer Cleveland had such prestige that the like-minded wing of the Republican Party, called "Mugwumps", largely bolted the GOP presidential ticket and swung to his support in the 1884 election.
Up to that point, Cleveland's political career had been honorable and unexceptional.
As biographer Allan Nevins wrote, "Probably no man in the country, on March 4, 1881, had less thought than this limited, simple, sturdy attorney of Buffalo that four years later he would be standing in Washington and taking the oath as President of the United States." It was during this period that Cleveland began a relationship with a widow, Maria Crofts Halpin, and later assumed responsibility for supporting her and a child born at the time.
The result was a political realignment that ended the Third Party System and launched the Fourth Party System and the Progressive Era.
Cleveland was a formidable policymaker, and he also drew corresponding criticism.
He won the popular vote for three presidential elections – in 1884, 1888, and 1892 – and was one of two Democrats (with Woodrow Wilson) to be elected president during the era of Republican political domination dating from 1861 to 1933.