A Place in the Present Where History Meets Fiction

Abe’s Advice for Campaigners and Future Presidents

October 21, 2012

Tags: Abraham Lincoln, Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Team of Rivals, debates, Emancipation Proclamation, Executive Order, Senator Charles Sumner, The Lincoln Letter

The first two debates are over. Tonight, Barack and Mitt throw down again. The campaign is in its third act. And what would Lincoln be thinking about it now? What advice would he give? Here are ten suggestions Lincoln might make.


Keep Your Counsel. Better to stay silent and be thought a fool than open your mouth and remove all doubt. Romney should remember this, even when he’s speaking before small audiences of like-minded people. It’s unlikely that Lincoln would ever say anything so damning about the American electorate as Romney did about the 47%. And there were no secret recording devices back then, no electronic gotcha opportunities. Still, Lincoln was careful to say nothing until he was ready to say it. For example, he would never allow anyone else to expound for him on Emancipation until he issued the Proclamation. And he was careful not to say it until the public was ready to hear it. When Senator Sumner urged him to free the slaves of the Fourth of July, 1862, he simply said, “Wait, wait, Senator. Emancipation is a thunderbolt that will keep.” (more…)