Posts Tagged ‘Presidential elections’

Fantasy League U.S. presidential elections

March 1, 2019

Click to enlarge. Source Philip Kearney Cartography.

Could Bill Clinton have beaten Donald Trump?  Could Ronald Reagan have beaten Barack Obama?  Who would have won if Bill Clinton had somehow been able to run against Hillary Clinton.  George H.W. Bush, the elder, against George W. Bush, the younger?

A cartographer-blogger named Philip Kearney calculated hypothetical results, based on the percentage of the popular vote each candidate won in each state the first time they ran.  The answers to the questions are “no,” “no,” “Hillary” and “Bush 41.”

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The influence of third-party candidates

August 6, 2016

040116-Third-Party

If you go further back in history, the other notable alternatives to the Democrats and Republicans were the Populist (or People’s) Party in 1892, Theodore Roosevelt’s Progressive Party in 1912 and Robert (Fighting Bob) LaFollette’s Progressive Party in 1924 and Henry A. Wallace’s Progressive Party in 1948.

All of these parties except Henry Wallace’s actually carried states.  TR’s Progressives actually received more popular votes and electoral votes than incumbent Republican President William Howard Taft.

The most successful third-party and independent candidates—Theodore Roosevelt, George Wallace and Ross Perot—were celebrities before they ran.

The Populists definitely influenced the major parties.  Democrats in 1896, 1900 and 1908 nominated William Jennings Bryan, who advocated most of their reform platform.

Theodore Roosevelt was not a spoiler.   Public opinion in 1912 favored progressive reform, and Woodrow Wilson, the victor, probably would have received much of the vote that went to TR.

Henry A. Wallace, interestingly, received almost as many popular votes as Strom Thurmond.  They each got about 2.5 percent (as did Ralph Nader in 2000).   But, because Henry Wallace’s votes weren’t concentrated geographically, he didn’t receive any electoral votes (nor did Nader).

It’s noteworthy how few votes Thurmond needed to carry four states—Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and South Carolina.   I wonder how much was due to apathy and how much to voter suppression.   I read somewhere that in the 1928 election, the total votes cast in the former Confederate states were less than the voter turnout just in New York state.

Thurmond’s and George Wallace’s candidacies, along with Barry Goldwater’s candidacy in 1964, were part of the transition of the South from predominantly Democratic to predominantly Republican.

Ross Perot may have been a spoiler.   Bill Clinton’s 1992 victory was narrow, and I think Perot took away more votes from George H.W. Bush than from Clinton.  Perot’s emphasis on balancing the budget may have influenced Clinton, but his opposition to NAFTA most certainly did not.

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Pennsylvania and the electoral college

September 16, 2011

Pennsylvania Republicans are considering a plan to change that state’s winner-take-all system for awarding electoral votes for President.  Instead of the state’s 20 electoral votes going to whichever candidate carries Pennsylvania, 18 of the electoral votes would go to whoever gets a majority in each of the state’s 18 congressional districts, with the remaining two going to whoever carries the state.

PA congressional districts

Only two states—Maine and Nebraska—award their electoral votes this way.  All the rest go with winner-take-all.  The Pennsylvania Republican thinking is that Democrats normally carry Pennsylvania as a whole, but Republicans carry many individual congressional districts, so that the change would work to their advantage.  In fact, because of the way Pennsylvania congressional districts are gerrymandered, a Democratic Presidential candidate could gain a majority of the state’s popular votes, while the Republican candidate got a majority of the electoral votes.

If it were up to me, I would have each state direct its electors to vote for the Presidential candidate who won a majority of the national popular vote.  But there is a certain rough balance in the present system.  Each state gets a vote in the Electoral College equal to its members of the House of Representaives and the Senate; that is, a number based on population plus two more.  Small states have more representation that their population warrants, but the winner-take-all system makes the large states more influential because a larger bloc of votes is in play.

If Pennsylvania gets rid of winner-take-all, this might be good for the Republican Party nationwide, but it would reduce the influence of Pennsylvania in national elections.  For this reason I don’t think the change is likely to happen.

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Five great 20th century Presidential landslides

February 18, 2011

In 1920, Republican Warren G. Harding won 404 out of 531 electoral votes

Republican Warren G. Harding won 60.32 percent of the popular vote in the 1920 Presidential election, with a margin of victory over Democrat James M. Cox of 26.17 percent.  Harding swept the Northeast, Midwest and West, losing only the Democratic Solid South.

Republicans were the normal U.S. majority party from 1900 through 1928.  They won six of eight U.S. Presidential elections.

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Richard Nixon’s rule

January 2, 2011

A person should not run for President unless what they were saying on the campaign trail was markedly different from what the other candidates were saying.

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Soul brothers: Carter, Clinton, Obama

September 15, 2010

Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton were white men who were Governors of Southern states.  President Barack Obama is a black man who was a Senator from a Midwestern state.  Yet in their politics and policies, they are more alike than they are different.

All three ran for office as outsiders.  They had little or no experience on the national scene, but they turned that liability into an asset.  They said they would break with politics as usual in Washington, and bring about a new era.  Once in office, they claimed to transcend partisanship, and to have got beyond traditional liberal vs. conservative thinking.

In fact, none of them represented a break with the past.  They filled their Cabinets from the ranks of the Washington establishment.  They weren’t exactly failures.  They all had certain accomplishments.  But neither Carter nor Clinton was a transformative President in the way that Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush were, and I expect the same will be true of Obama.

Presidents Carter, Clinton and Obama have been outstanding in their intellectual mastery of the details of policy and government – much more so than Presidents Reagan and George W. Bush.  But Reagan and Bush knew something more important.  They knew their own minds.  They had guiding philosophies which informed their judgments and the judgments of their superiors.

Carter and Clinton were pragmatists, as is Obama. They rejected “ideology.”  Their aim, like Obama’s, was to support whatever produced the best results.  But in practice, they seemed to flounder.  In contrast to the Reagan and Bush administrations, their administrations lacked direction.  Pragmatism was un-pragmatic.  It didn’t work.

Reagan and Bush met the “elevator speech” test; you could state their principles to somebody on an elevator before the person got off at the next floor.  Their basic principle was that government was evil and its activities should be minimized, except in regard to national security and preserving order, in which case its powers should be absolute.  I don’t agree with this philosophy, but it is understandable.  I could not give an elevator speech explaining Carter’s philosophy, nor Clinton’s, nor Obama’s.

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