The campaign of 1824 was more about the candidates' personalities and regional rivalries than partisan politics and divisive national issues. In fact, all the presidential and vice presidential candidates were from the same party.
- John Quincy Adams of Massachusetts, son of former President John Adams, had a formal and deliberate manner. He had served as a minister to the Netherlands, Prussia, Russia and Britain, a U.S. Senator, and as President Monroe's Secretary of State.
- Andrew Jackson of Tennessee was seen as more down-to-earth and a man of the people, a complete opposite of every other president. He was also extremely popular among the people as a war hero. Besides his military experience, he also served as a U.S. Representative, a U.S. Senator, and a state judge.
- William Crawford of Georgia was the chosen candidate of the last of the congressional caucuses, which had become unpopular with the people who saw them as undemocratic. He had served as a U.S. Senator, a minister to France, and was also both President Jefferson and President Monroe's Secretary of the Treasury. Presidents Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe all supported Crawford's campaign. However, his nomination by the unpopular caucus system hurt his chances considerably. About a year before the election he suffered a paralytic stroke which weakened him physically throughout the campaign.
- Henry Clay of Kentucky was a popular legislator who would later earn the nickname "The Great Compromiser" for his efforts to prevent what would become the Civil War. Like Jackson, he was seen as closer to the people than Northeasterners like Adams. He served as a state legislator, a U.S Senator, and a U.S. Representative.
- John Calhoun of South Carolina served as a state legislator, a U.S Representative, and President Monroe's Secretary of War. He later dropped out of the race and became the VP front-runner for both Adams and Jackson.
Supporters of each candidate focused less on issues and more on the character traits of their opponents. Adams was mocked for his slipshod appearance. Jackson was accused of being a murderer for some of his war exploits. Crawford was charged with misconduct in his official duties. And Clay was said to be a drunk.
When the votes were finally counted, Jackson led both in the popular vote and the Electoral College vote. However, he did not have a majority of the electoral votes so, following instructions set out in the Constitution, the House of Representatives would have to choose the President from among the top three electoral vote getters: Jackson, Adams, and Crawford. The also-ran, Clay, happened to be the Speaker of the House and there was much talk of whether he would use his influence as Speaker and as a former candidate to sway the vote. A rumor surfaced that Clay had approached the Adams and Jackson campaigns and offered his support in return for the post of Secretary of State. He flatly denied the charge, and no evidence was ever brought forward to prove it. When the House met to vote, it only took one ballot for them to declare Adams the President.
Jackson's supporters were upset and claimed that the will of the people had been ignored since he had won the popular vote. (While technically true, Jacksonians ignored the fact that the popular vote was not a true indicator of the will of the people in 1824. Hardly any state had all four candidates on the ballot; a lot of states didn't have three. And six states didn't even have a public vote - their legislatures chose the electors.) If they were upset now, they were outraged when several days later Adams named Clay his Secretary of State. "Corrupt Bargain" became the cry of protesters who believed their man had been robbed of the presidency. They would have their revenge four years later.