When Abraham Lincoln campaigned for the presidency in 1860, the Republicans tried to capitalize on Lincoln's rise from humble beginnings with the nickname "Rail-Splitter," a reference to one of Lincoln's many colorful former occupations, which also included general store clerk, country lawyer, postmaster and surveyor.
Lincoln gained fame nationally during several popular debates in 1858 with his longtime rival, Stephen Douglas, primarily on the issue of slavery. Lincoln believed slavery should be abolished, while Douglas thought the decision should be left to individual states. Douglas, the 1860 presidential candidate of the Northern Democrats, would be one of three men Lincoln opposed that year, along with John C. Calhoun of the Southern Democrats, and John Bell of the Constitutional Union.
Lincoln benefited from the split within the Democrats; he earned less than forty percent of the popular vote, but due to his popularity in the free states, he was able to win an Electoral College majority.
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