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1860, Bell

Paul Drye

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1860 was the election when the Republicans and Abe Lincoln broke through against a fractured Democratic Party (Northern Democrat, Stephen Douglas/Southern Democrat, John C. Breckenridge). The Whigs/Know-Nothings also ran as the Constitutional Union Party with John Bell as their candidate. I ran as Bell.

Real World:

Lincoln: 39.8%, 180 electoral votes, 19 states

Douglas: 29.5%, 12 electoral votes, 2 states

Breckenridge: 18.1%, 72 electoral votes, 9 states

Bell: 12.6%, 39 electoral votes 3 states (Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee)

In the game it turned out this way:


Lincoln didn't win quite so handily, but still won with a majority of the electoral college. Unsurprisingly, he's a juggernaut between his solid base in the north and his skills as a politician. He smashed everyone in the debates, for one.

With Bell I generally wrecked Breckenridge's day, pushing down into the deep south and basically flipping his college count with mine (as well as siphoning a few votes off of Lincoln in the "southern North", but not enough). I won 9 states and the second most number of electoral votes, 90. Historically, this might have meant a three-party system in the US from 1864 on, as in the real world the Whigs (pardon, "Constitutional Union Party") evaporated; here they put on a decent showing. With only 45 electoral votes total, it's possible the Democrats may have been the ones to disappear

My general strategy was to hammer Breckenridge while trying to support Douglas sufficiently that he kept Lincoln from an absolute majority in the college. Part one of the plan worked, but part two didn't. This is despite two strong attack ads by me on Lincoln, and a +9 scandal (instigated by someone else) at one point against Old Beardy. Lincoln does seem teflon-covered.


  • Despite the plethora of candidates, there's not a lot of room to maneuver in this election. Every state is immensely polarized except for the southern ones where Bell and Breckenridge are able to grab back and forth from each other. You could probably play Douglas well enough to be a spoiler, but an outright win for anyone other than Lincoln seems unlikely.
  • The warped logic of winning crushingly in states: note that I had the lowest popular vote of any of the four candidates, but still managed to do better in the college than anyone except Lincoln. Breckenridge had a ridiculous margin in Texas and won handily in his other victorious states, while I was usually coming in no better than +5 when I won. So he had the ballots but I had the electors.
  • On the other hand, Douglas kept losing to Lincoln by fractions, so that he somehow managed to get just 900,000 fewer votes than Lincoln and not even a tenth his electoral college votes. Ouch. Amazingly this is slightly better than he did in the real world (Lincoln actually took Maine, California and Oregon, while Douglas got New Jersey in return and won Missouri instead of Bell).
  • Would the Civil War happened under these circumstances? Damfino. I would guess some of the border states like Tennessee wouldn't have seceded. I note that the first one to go in real life, South Carolina, voted for the compromise candidate Bell in the game, 53% to 40%. Would they have started the dominoes falling under these circumstances?

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