The abandonment of Reconstruction played a greater role in the outcome of the election. During the 1870s, popular opinion in the North swung away from maintaining Reconstruction governments, some of which fell because Republican infighting gave Democrats their opportunity to "redeem" those states; Grant's intention to uphold the laws was circumvented by more sophisticated opponents who combined outward compliance with outrageous subversion. In Mississippi, redeemers overthrew the carpetbag governor, Adelbert Ames, through quiet intimidation of black voters, avoiding the overt violence of earlier campaigns and working so skillfully that Grant refused to answer Ames's anguished pleas. "The whole public are tired out with these annual autumnal outbreaks in the South," Grant wrote—a statement callous but true.
When the votes were counted in 1876, Democrat Samuel J. Tilden had won a clear majority of the votes cast by whites, and Grant privately stated his belief that Tilden had won the election. But Republican strategists realized that the electoral votes of the remaining Reconstruction governments in South Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana would enable them to claim the election for Hayes, and illegal disfranchisement of blacks and fraud by whites in all three provided grounds for the case. Urged by party leaders to use the army to assist Republicans in the three states, Grant instead argued that "no man worthy of the office of President should be willing to hold it if counted in or placed there by fraud." As the outcome of the election hung in the balance, Grant withstood pressure to intervene and supported the electoral-commission plan devised by Congress that finally ended the stalemate. His position alleviated a potentially explosive situation.