In the mid 1880's, the Republicans were angry at Chester Arthur for not having their back once he became President. Arthur was a consummate machine politician that came up in the stinking pit of corruption of NYC. He was brought to power by being a party man and following the system of reciprocal political favors the New York machine had in place.
He was actually the collector of the port of New York for eight years before Hayes removed him as part of his early efforts to reform civil service. It's strange then that Arthur pushed through reforms and refused to make many political appointments to his cabinet and the many patronage positions that were available in civil service. The republican party thrived on those patronage appointments as ways to earn the votes and the money of their loyalists.
Whether the motivation for Arthur's principled stand was out of his true desire to be his own man, a desire to carry out Garfield's legacy after he was shot to death by an assassin (Arthur came to power as Garfield's VP) or self preservation to prevent being a murder suspect in the president's death, the Republican machine was angry at Arthur's change in heart.
They were so angry in fact that they adopted a suicidal policy of revenge. The public was on the side of reform (unless they benefited from the graft), so when the party decided to not put Arthur on the presidential ticket after his partial term was up and nominate his rival, the machine politician James Blaine, the move backfired on them.
Grover Cleveland, the Democratic nominee ran on a platform of continued reform. Civil service reform had taken place under the Garfield/Arthur administration, but Cleveland wanted to further it. Blaine and the wise old men of the Republican party wanted to reverse it and distracted the public by bringing up Cleveland's love child "Ma, ma, where's my Pa?" and base charges that the Democrats would bring "Rum, Romanism and Rebellion" to the United States if elected.
It's nice to see that they got punished for their cynical strategy and gives me hope that we could do the same in this country with our out of touch politicians.