Monday, February 13, 2012

Lincoln was a modern campaigner, of sorts

Illinois marks the 203rd anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth on Sunday, and scholars note that the 16th president's shrewd sense of politics and knack for retail campaigning may serve as a lesson for candidates seeking offices from the Statehouse to the White House this year.

Lincoln cut his teeth as a campaigner based in the small pioneer town of New Salem, where he practiced the fine art of door-knocking along the woodsy 19th century campaign trails just north of Springfield.

Later, as Lincoln was on the verge of becoming the national standard-bearer for the still-young Republican Party, the savvy politician made use of what might have been the equivalent of the social media of his day: a pamphlet of partisan news clips that included coverage from both the Democratic-leaning Chicago Times and the Republican-leaning Chicago Press & Tribune of his 1858 debates over slavery with opponent Stephen A. Douglas.

"It would be like Newt Gingrich wanting to publish the earlier debates in South Carolina," said Michael Burlingame, a nationally renowned Lincoln scholar now based at the University of Illinois at Springfield. "I think it indicates Lincoln thought he won the debates."

Burlingame's comments were featured in an February 12, 2012, Chicago Tribune article.

Read the article online