This election follows the Mexican War, which helped secure our “Manifest Destiny,” but also intensified the rivalry between Free States and Slave States. Can the country unite behind a single president?
For the Whigs, their leader Henry Clay maintains his prominence; however, many are considering another person as a more electable candidate. As such, they promote two war heroes of the recent military engagement: Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott. Daniel Webster, the leader of New England Whigs, maintains control of his region. John Clayton and John McLean are other prominent Whigs hoping to beat out the two inexperienced military
For the Democrats, James K. Polk fulfills his promise of not seeking a second term. With the acquisition of new territory, Lewis Cass, the land expansionist, is the front runner. However, James Buchanan, Levi Woodbury and John C. Calhoun challenge him for the nomination.
A relatively strong third party exists under the Free Soil Party, composed of an alliance between liberal Northern Democrats and abolitionists. Former president Martin Van Buren, who was unable to gain any influence into the conservative-dominated Democratic National Convention, has emerged as the front runner of this third party. The irony is that Van Buren was the grand architect of the party he abandoned. He is challenged in this nomination by three prominent abolitionists: John P. Hale, Joshua Giddings and Charles Francis Adams, the son and grandson of the previous Adams presidents.
This election allows for many what-if scenarios:
- What if rising Northern Whig, former governor William H. Seward ran?
- What if 1st-term US Rep for Illinois, Abraham Lincoln ran at age 39?
- What if Martin Van Buren had not left the Democratic Party and fought for delegates in the convention?
- What if James K. Polk broke his promise and ran for a 2nd term?
- What if former senator Franklin Pierce ran for president after having just served in the Mexican War?
- What if the single-issue Liberty Party ran, rather than having joined the Free Soil Party?
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