The immediate outcome of the remarkable joint-debate between the two intellectual giants of Illinois was, that while the popular vote stood 124,698 for Lincoln, to 121,130 for Douglas - showing a victory for Lincoln among the People - yet, enough Douglas-Democrats were elected to the Legislature, when added to those of his friends in the Illinois Senate, who had been elected two years before, and "held over," to give him, in all, 54 members of both branches of the Legislature on joint ballot, against 46 for Mr. Lincoln. Lincoln had carried the people, but Douglas had secured the Senatorial prize for which they had striven - and by that Legislative vote was elected to succeed himself in the United States Senate. This result was trumpeted throughout the Union as a great Douglas victory.
During the canvass of Illinois, Douglas's friends had seen to it that nothing on their part should be wanting to secure success. What with special car trains, and weighty deputations, and imposing processions, and flag raisings, the inspiration of music, the booming of cannon, and the eager shouts of an enthusiastic populace, his political journey through Illinois had been more like a Royal Progress than anything the Country had yet seen; and now that his re-election was accomplished, they proposed to make the most of it - to extend, as it were, the sphere of his triumph, or vindication, so that it would include not the State alone, but the Nation - and thus so accentuate and enhance his availability as a candidate for the Democratic Presidential nomination of 1860, as to make his nomination and election to the Presidency of the United States an almost foregone conclusion.
The programme was to raise so great a popular tidal-wave in his interest, as would bear him irresistably upon its crest to the White House. Accordingly, as the idol of the Democratic popular heart, Douglas, upon his return to the National Capital, was triumphantly received by the chief cities of the Mississippi and the Atlantic sea-board. Hailed as victor in the great political contest in Illinois - upon the extended newspaper reports of which, the absorbed eyes of the entire nation, for months, had greedily fed - Douglas was received with much ostentation and immense enthusiasm at St. Louis, Memphis, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington. Like the "Truimphs" decreed by Rome, in her grandest days, to the greatest of her victorious heroes, Douglas's return was a series of magnificient popular ovations.
In a speech made two years before this period, Mr. Lincoln, while contrasting his own political career with that of Douglas, and modestly describing his own as "a flat failure" had said: "With him it has been one of splendid success. His name fills the Nation, and is not unknown even in foreign lands. I affect no contempt for the high eminence he has reached. So reached, that the oppressed of my species might have shared with me in the elevation, I would rather stand on that eminence than wear the richest crown that ever pressed a monarch's brow." And now the star of Douglas had reached a higher altitude, nearing its meridian splendor. He had become the popular idol of the day.
The Great Conspiracy: Its Origin and History by John A. Logan, pages 83-85
A. R. Hart & Co., Publishers, New York, 1886