You might not believe that a person could recall a presidential election at the age of seven, but I do. In fact, I vividly remember my parents discussing Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower’s campaign against Democrat Adlai Stevenson in 1952 and recall listening to the radio newscasts describing the campaign leading up to Ike’s 66.4% electoral college victory. A sound thrashing, for sure. (We didn’t own a television in ‘52. In fact, we didn’t own a TV set until 1955).
“I Like Ike” became a famous phrase in 1956 as Eisenhower and Stevensen squared off again. The result was even worse for Stevensen. Ike posted a 72.4% landslide victory.
In 1960 everything changed. The dashing PT-109 war hero, John F. Kennedy captured the White House for the Democrats with a 15.6% electoral college win over Republican Richard M. Nixon. This was the race that many said turned during televised debates. Kennedy was freshly tanned from campaigning in the South and Nixon looked like death warmed over – complete with his infamous five o’clock shadow and beads of sweat sneaking through his pancake TV makeup.
Kennedy’s Vice President – Lyndon B. Johnson – made a campaign swing through Vermont in November of 1963 and I was a senior in high school, and also working for radio station WSNO in Barre, Vermont. As luck would have it, I was in the right place at the right time with a microphone and interviewed Johnson twice that day – A day that’s easy for me to remember – it was October 22nd, one month to the day before Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas, Texas. It was just a whistle-stop campaign event that was over in a matter of a few hours, but one that’s impossible to forget.
LBJ, it seemed, took a liking to me – obviously a teenager wearing headphones and holding a microphone – and actually walked over to my assigned area at the Statehouse in Montpelier to say his formal goodbye to Vermont via my radio station.
This was also my very first encounter with the United States Secret Service! Several burly agents checked me out for at least ten minutes before allowing me “press credentials” and the chance to get those two interviews. I would meet up with their brethren several years later as a full time police officer in Stowe, Vermont.
Johnson won the ‘64 election with a whopping 80.6% electoral college advantage over Republican Barry Goldwater.
The 1968 election resulted in one of the closest presidential elections on record. And for the first time in ages, a third party candidate played a major role in the outcome. It was Richard Nixon vs Hubert Humphrey, with George Wallace playing the role of spoiler.
Nixon won but Humphrey might have if Wallace had stayed out of the race. In the end it was Nixon posting a 20.4% win, which looked big, but when you consider the fact that Wallace polled 8.6% of the electoral college votes, it was much a much closer battle. Nixon carried his home State of California, for instance, but only by about 5% of the vote. Wallace won 6% of that California vote and had those votes gone to the Democrat, Humphrey would have won the election. There were several similar state races that wound up in Nixon’s column, but could have gone to Humphrey if Wallace had not run.
In ‘72, Nixon destroyed George McGovern with as totally lopsided 93.4% victory. McGovern only carried Massachusetts and the District of Columbia (DC is almost 100% solid Democrat territory and always has been).
In ‘76, Democrat James Carter defeated Republican Gerald Ford by 10.6% of the electoral college vote, but it was a much closer race than that margin indicates. The two were separated by just 1.6 million popular votes.
The 1980 race saw Republican Ronald Reagan pulverize Carter’s re-election bid with an enormous 81.8% shellacking.
‘84 was even worse for Democrat Walter Mondale and the first female Vice Presidential candidate, Geraldine Ferraro. Mondale won just 2.4% of the electoral college vote as Reagan rolled up a 95.2% tsunami. Mondale avoided a 50 State sweep by Reagan by winning Minnesota – but just by a whisker – and, of course, won the District of Columbia easily.
In 1988 it was George H. W. Bush (or Bush 41 as he’s commonly known) victorious over Democrat Michael Dukakis. It also featured the first appearance of Ron Paul as a third party candidate in a presidential election. He received only 431,750 votes.
William Jefferson Clinton was the Democrat’s standard bearer in 1992 and he – with tremendous help from third party candidate H. Ross Perot – made Bush a one-term President. Perot – the ultra-conservative candidate – garnered almost 20 million votes and it’s thought that most of those votes would have normally gone to Bush. Perot didn’t win any electoral college votes, but he certainly took some away from Bush.
In ‘96, Clinton won re-election with a whopping 40.8% advantage over Republican Bob Dole, and again it was H. Ross Perot playing the spoiler role. This time, Perot won just enough votes in several key states to hand the win to Clinton. The actual popular vote – with Perot’s total sliding over to Dole’s column – would have seen Clinton with 47,400,125 votes to Dole’s 47,284,157 and, of course, many changes to the electoral college.
The 2000 election caused a groundswell of political discussion to eliminate the electoral college system, and that’s because Democrat Al Gore won the popular vote but lost the electoral college vote in the now infamous “Supreme Court decision” which awarded the Florida vote to Republican George W. Bush – and thus, the election. “Bush ‘43” wound up with a 1% victory.
In 2004 it wasn’t quite as close. Bush won re-election over Democrat John Kerry by a margin of 6.5%.
In 2008 I guess we all know what took place. Democrat Barack Obama pulled a major upset by defeating Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Democrat party primary and went on to defeat Republican John McCain rather easily. Obama’s margin of victory was 35.6%. In so doing, Obama became the first black candidate to win the U.S. Presidency.
There you have it!
15 presidential elections and the results thereof.
A special tip of the hat to Dave Leip for the statistical data, which you can access by clicking right here.
Email the author at: GoldenEagle4444@GMail.com and follow me on Twitter @GoldenEagle.