Throughout the nineteenth century, political parties attempted to mediate local, state, and national conflicts to forge a winning electoral coalition. The question here is whether party leaders felt that success depended on offering clear divergent positions to their voters. In other words, to what extent did the parties present alternative programs to the electorate—at any specific time or over time? This study examines the growth of the two-party system in nineteenth-century America by focusing on the interaction of the elites of the Democrats and Whig/Republicans in forging their electoral message. The methodology includes a content analysis of national and state party platforms during presidential election years 1840 through 1896 to show when and where parties emphasized certain issue proposals. Ultimately, this is a story of interparty polarization—over time, the two major parties tended to emphasize the same issues and offer divergent positions in their platforms.