Let's pause for a minute and compare today's politics with the1850's. What were the equivalents of the NRA, Pro Life, Immigration lobbies etc?
Many of the political lobbies that existed then exist today in different forms.
There were anti immigrant political movements like the 'No Nothing Party' or 'Liberty Party' Today we have the 'Minute Men' and anti immigrant lobbies at work in Arizona.
There were anti national bank groups like the 'LocoFocos' who were made up of a populist grouping of working men and reformers on the East Coast.
There was the Temperance movement that was popular in the Midwestern and southern states that wanted to ban alcohol. Many of their advertisements and pamphlets wouldn't look much different from the current anti smoking 'truth' ads we see on television.
Of course, there were Religious movements that wanted more involvement of various churches in government policy. These movements all had their own Pat Robertsen type personalities that would travel the country and fill social halls with the faithful.
Abolitionism was a major movement in the north and west. There were abolitionist newsletters that would rate candidates in regards to their adherence to the abolitionist mission, much like the special interests of today do.
The Pro Slavery lobby was the counter reaction lobby to the abolitionists. Slavery was one of the most profitable industries in the country at that time and candidates would be judged by how well they adhered to the slaveholders interests. As lobbyists, the large plantation owners would contribute money and resources to campaigns of those friendly to their industry. Many of the wealthiest men in the country owned huge, slave run estates and they made it their business to make sure that slave friendly newsletters were funded and anti slavery activists were chased out of town.
The rail road industry at this time had a huge impact not just on peoples lives but also on government policy. They'd constantly have representatives lobby to purchase cheap land in the newly conquered western territories from the government.
Capitalists and investors in different 'schemes' also would send men to the government to lobby for 'internal improvement' money for canals and tunnels. This is not so different from todays mad dash of contractors competing with each other to get access to the no bid contracts the government gives its friends.
Abortion was not an issue at this time as women had yet to be able to vote or have a general public voice, much less have the technology to even get a safe abortion.
Environmentalism also was not in the political lexicon at this time as nature was still largely looked at as an enemy to be conquered, not a friend to co exist with.
Gun rights wasn't much of an issue at this time either since cities were not as populated at this time and a rifle at least was much more of a multi purpose tool for hunting more than just the ultimate prey.
Much of that time looks different, but much of it seems all too familiar.