Douglas may have partially acknowledged his desperate situation, but it was not in his personality to brood, ponder, and moan. Douglas was a fighter…He took to the national stage the way he took to the Illinois stage: a herculean speech-making effort that would bring the population to his side by dint of his oratorical powers.
Douglas and his organization never exactly laid out their plan to capture the election, but certain parts of it can be deduced. He expected to reinvigorate the northern party and again win the northern states that had once hoisted the Jacksonian banner – Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and the Great Lake states. He knew Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey were more problematic, but not lost. He expected to take much of the South – Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, and Georgia. Perhaps his hopes were so high because of the illustrious people enlisting in his cause, like Alexander H. Stephens, and because his correspondence from these states was so promising. Early in the campaign, he misjudged the appeal of the Breckinridge Democratic Party, believing that the party could only win South Carolina and Mississippi. The rest of the South, he felt, belonged to the Constitutional Union Party. Behind these estimates was a reasoning based on the election of 1856. Then Buchanan had won because the Republicans had not captured the Fillmore vote (Know-Nothings), and many conservatives had voted for the Democrats. He would hammer a campaign message that he stood for conservatism and abhorred sectionalism, thereby swaying the Fillmore voters to his standard.