The bosses searched for a candidate to oppose the president. They looked eagerly to Blaine, who had resigned as secretary of state for reasons never made clear, but he was plagued by illness and soon made a public statement that his name would not go before the Republicans' Minneapolis convention. The statement also mentioned nothing about Harrison, his record, or his renomination. The omission kept the opposition to Harrison alive, as the bosses turned next to McKinley and John Sherman of Ohio, the two candidates that Harrison's managers feared most.
Harrison did little to help his cause. He was distracted by the serious illness of his wife, a condition first diagnosed as nervous prostration. But as the Minneapolis convention neared, Harrison changed course and sent for his top political adviser, Louis T. Michener. After reviewing the attacks by the bosses and other critics, he declared, "No Harrison ever retreated in the presence of a foe without giving battle, and I have determined to stand and fight." With demonic toil, Harrison's managers struggled to round up delegates and to ward off Mark Hanna's efforts to forestall a first-ballot nomination for Harrison, which might then clear the way for his protégé, McKinley. But Hanna's strategy failed, and Harrison captured the nomination on the first ballot. A potent factor in his success was the belief of rank-and-file Republicans that they could again win with Harrison. The rejected bosses extracted a measure of satisfaction by vetoing the renomination of Levi Morton for vice president and substituting Whitelaw Reid, also of New York and publisher of the New York Tribune . The maneuver was laid to the New York delegation and Boss Platt.
With Grover Cleveland as the Democratic nominee, the election of 1892 became the only one in which the nominees of both major parties had served as president. Harrison did little campaigning, with Mrs. Harrison's health in continuing decline, her condition now diagnosed as pulmonary tuberculosis. In deference to Mrs. Harrison, who died midway in the election, Cleveland too did not campaign. The Democratic platform's strongest words were reserved for the McKinley Tariff, which it denounced as the "culminating atrocity of class legislation."
Harrison's cause was gravely injured by a strike at the Homestead Works of the Carnegie Steel Company when twenty men were killed in a battle between locked-out workers and armed Pinkerton detectives. A military force was posted to guard the nonunion labor that was brought in. Harrison's image with labor worsened when he dispatched federal troops to the Coeur d'Alene mines in Idaho in July 1892 at the governor's request. The strike was crushed, and union miners retreated into the mountains.
In the 1892 election, Cleveland avenged the defeat he sustained in 1888. He secured a popular majority of slightly under 375,000 votes and won 277 electoral votes to 145 for Harrison and 22 for Populist party candidate James B. Weaver. Although the Republican party spent $6 million on the campaign, nearly double its outlay for 1888, Harrison, the results implied, failed to respond efficiently to the problems and concerns of labor and farmers in the severe recession of 1893. Their dissatisfactions were reflected in the rapid growth of the Populist party. The McKinley Tariff and the steep increases it wrought in the living costs of the general public helped assure Harrison's downfall.
After completing his presidential term, Harrison returned to Indianapolis and resumed his law practice, which he limited to important and often remunerative cases. He delivered a series of law lectures at Stanford University, which were published in 1901 as Views of an Ex-President . The former president, at sixty-two, remarried. His bride, Mary Lord Dimmick, was the daughter of the first Mrs. Harrison's sister and had attended her aunt during her final months of illness. They had one child, Elizabeth. In 1899, Harrison represented Venezuela in the arbitration of its dispute with Great Britain over the British Guiana boundary. He died of pneumonia at his home in Indianapolis on 13 March 1901. The last Civil War general to serve as president, Harrison lived to see his policies vindicated in the Spanish-American War, the termination of the 1893 economic crisis, and Republican recapture of the presidency after Cleveland's term.