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Millard Fillmore

After succeeding Zachary Taylor following that president's death in office, former Vice President Millard Fillmore attempted to reach the executive office again in 1856 under the American Party banner.

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Election Year: 1856

Percent of the Popular Vote: 21.6

Just as race relations compelled anti-desegregation politicians Strom Thurmond (1948) and George Wallace (1968) to run for president on third-party tickets, the rights of black citizens was also the pivotal issue a century prior in the 1856 election. At the same time, the political landscape was undergoing a major transition. The formerly dominant Whig Party had begun dissolving, and a new, pro-abolition group called the Republican Party was on the rise to challenge the established Democratic Party, which preferred to leave slavery up to states to decide [source: Ernst and Sabato]. With that topsy-turvy political backdrop, the middle-ground American Party nominated former President Millard Fillmore, who graduated from vice president to the executive seat after Zachary Taylor died in office in 1850, to campaign on its anti-immigration platform. Fillmore and his nicknamed "Know Nothings" -- a moniker that referred to the secret way in which the party was organized -- didn't hold much appeal to slave-holding Southerners but diverted enough electoral votes away from the Republicans to deliver the presidency to Democrat James Buchanan [source: Heidler, Heidler and Coles]. Maryland was the only state that sided with Fillmore and the Know Nothings.

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