During his campaign for reelection in 1900, McKinley followed his natural inclination to let the record speak for itself. Garret Hobart, who suffered from a serious heart ailment, had died the previous November, and selecting the vice presidential candidate provided the only real excitement at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia. McKinley had quietly asked Root and Senator William B. Allison to consider becoming his running mate, but both had refused. In the meantime, sentiment for Theodore Roosevelt was growing. Though the president could not avoid misgivings about the Rough Rider, who had returned from Cuba a national hero, he did not wish to disrupt party unity by opposing his candidacy. McKinley therefore refused publicly to express a preference, saying only that his running mate should be the choice of the convention. Dismayed by this turn of events, Mark Hanna reportedly fretted that if Roosevelt were nominated, only "one heartbeat" would separate "that damned cowboy" from the White House. Nothing could stop the convention's ardor for Roosevelt, however, and when he received the nomination McKinley cordially sent his congratulations. As it turned out, the two made a good team. Roosevelt was a sparkling success on the hustings, allowing McKinley to remain in Canton as the dignified chief executive whose leadership had brought a return to prosperity as well as universal recognition of the nation's importance in world affairs.
For McKinley's opponent, Bryan, the campaign was a disappointing one after the exhilaration of 1896. Deprived of the silver issue by the return of prosperity, he persisted in calling for bimetallism and the inclusion of a silver plank in the Democratic platform. Yet it was imperialism that he hoped to make the paramount issue of the campaign. "History furnishes no example of turpitude baser than ours," Bryan warned, "if we now substitute our yoke for the Spanish yoke." Despite his eloquence, he was unable to persuade voters that American control over the former Spanish colonies remained a live issue after ratification of the Treaty of Paris. The upshot of a lackluster campaign was that McKinley increased his popular vote of 1896 by more than 100,000, and he captured 21 more electoral votes than he had won in 1896.