William McKinley won the Presidential election of 1896 because voters liked his approach to ending the deep economic depression the country was in at the time. In addition, his campaign manager, Mark Hanna, outspent McKinley's opponent, Democrat William Jennings Bryan by five to one, running what some consider the first modern campaign.
Historians now consider the 1896 Presidential election to be one in which the country realigned itself politically. A sharp division was drawn between the urban and industrial areas of the North and Midwest and the more rural areas considered "peripheral" in the South and West, with the North and Midwest "Metropole" areas voting heavily for McKinley. While some lingering attitudes stemming from the Civil War may have affected the vote, most people in 1896 voted based on the different economic policy proposals by the two candidates, with their concerns fueled in part by the financial panic of 1893. McKinley came out strongly in favor of industrial growth and maintaining the gold standard, while Bryan painted himself as the hero of the working man fighting against wealthy overlords, and campaigned for a new money standard in which silver would join gold as the basis for U.S. money. McKinley won the election with 57 percent of the electoral vote.