However, being the second choice was the goal of our greatest President. One-term Congressman Abraham Lincoln sought to be the best alternative in the Republican nominating convention of 1860.
There was one favorite at the 1860 convention — Senator William H. Seward of New York. In addition to Lincoln and Seward, there were a number of politicians who were favorites in their regions of the country or with certain factions of the party.
Lincoln’s political team worked to ensure that Seward did not win on the first ballot. At the same time, they sought to ensure that Lincoln was the second favorite candidate of as many of the delegates as they could. This was no small feat since Lincoln had lost every political campaign, except one, he had entered. Still, Lincoln had gained fame throughout the country in debating Stephen Douglas two years earlier in the race for Illinois Senate — even though he had lost.
The strategy of being the second choice worked. Lincoln won the nomination on the third ballot as delegates turned away from their favorite candidates and voted for Lincoln.
Many commentators think Senator Marco Rubio could be trying a second place strategy for the 2016 Republican Presidential Nomination. With so many candidates running for President, it might work to be everyone’s second choice. As favorite candidates drop out, voters will turn to their second choice.
A variation of this strategy worked for Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas when he came in second place in the 1992 New Hampshire primary. Clinton had been hobbled by revelations of infidelity and questions about how he avoided the Vietnam War. Clinton campaigned tirelessly across the state and achieved second place. Since this was better than expected and first place had been won by the candidate from the neighboring state, Clinton celebrated like he was the winner. He called himself the Come Back Kid. Ultimately, this would lead to Clinton becoming the 42nd President of the United States.
Out of the Box Tools:
Fighting for Second Place
Playing the Long Game
Everyone’s Best Alternative