Democrats never really had a candidate to run against Abraham Lincoln in 1860, but they still managed to get three electoral votes with four going to the Republican.
Northern Democrats were backing Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois, Southern Democrats supported Vice President John Breckenridge, and a third faction backed former Tennessee Senator John Bell.
The New Jersey Democratic State Committee didn’t particularly like any of their choices.
At the Democratic National Convention in Charleston, New Jersey supported James Guthrie, a Kentucky Democrat who had served as U.S. Secretary of the Treasury under Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan. All seven of the state’s delegates vote for Guthrie on the first ballot. That put Guthrie in third place, behind Douglas and Virginia Senator Robert Hunter.
New Jersey stuck with Guthrie on the second ballot.
On the third ballot, 5 ½ New Jersey delegate votes flipped to Douglas, with 1 ½ sticking with Guthrie. That New Jersey vote remained the same through the 12th ballot.
On the 13th ballot, Guthrie’s New Jersey number went to five, with 1 ½ for Douglas and ½ for Senator Joseph Lane of Oregon. Guthrie lost ½ vote to Douglas on the next ballot, and New Jersey stayed that way through the 18th ballot.
Douglas could not get enough votes to win the nomination, and the convention adjourned after 25 ballots without a nominee.
Reconvening in Baltimore, Northern Democrats nominated Douglas and Southern Democrats held their own convention to choose Breckinridge.
The New Jersey Democratic State Committee decided that their electors would support whichever Democratic candidate had the best chance of defeating Lincoln.
Democrats forged a fusion ticket: three electors were pledged to Douglas and two each to Breckenridge and Bell.
“We intent to support the ticket and believe thereby that we are doing more to assist Mr. Douglas than we should support the ticket nominated by his uncompromising friends; for if that ticket is successful, and Mr. Douglas with the vote of New Jersey can be elected, and with it Mr. Breckinridge can be, then we say amen to his having it. If neither Mr. Douglas or Mr. Breckinridge can be elected with it, then rather far would be see Mr. Bell elected by it, than Mr. Lincoln should be president,” the state party said in a resolution passed in August 1860.