Trailing by 5 points, can Trump surpass Reagan?

Trailing by 5 points, can Trump surpass Reagan?

President Ronald Reagan at the Rochester War Memorial, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, 11/02/84. Scanned courtesy of the Rochester Public Library’s Local History Room. From November 1st, 1984: Ronald Reagan five days before his 49 state landslide. And Jesse Jackson at MCC. And a liberal enclave.

Much attention has been paid to the 2020 Democratic Party presidential primaries. Biden’s Super Tuesday II victories marked a clear turning point in the race, but one that will continue for at least some time.

Much less attention is paid to the Republican primary campaign whose outcome was irrevocably sealed when the Senate voted to acquit President Trump in the impeachment trial.  So far, Trump has gained every delegate but one, totaling 93.8% of the vote (as of 3/11). Former Massachusetts Governor William Weld won one bound delegate in Iowa, and did relatively well in Massachusetts (9.3%) and New Hampshire (9.0%).

2020 Republican Party presidential primaries as of 3/11. BLUE = Trump. (Wikipedia) On Trump’s 2016 primary campaign in Rochester, see Next stop Albany. On the road with the Trumprenuers

On the Republican side, one question left is how well Trump will score historically in total percentage of primary votes. Ronald Reagan holds the record at 98.78% in 1984. Given that the primary season is about half over, for Trump to surpass Reagan seems mathematically impossible.

1984 Republican Party presidential primaries. Popular vote: Ronald Reagan 6,484,987 (98.78%); unpledged delegates 55,458 (0.85%); Harold Stassen: 12,749 (0.19%); Ben Fernandez 202 (0.00%) (Wikipedia)

In second place is George W. Bush with 98.1% in 2004. Trump leads over FDR (92.9%, 1936) and Barack Obama (89.9%, 2012).  Relatively low totals do not augur well in the general election. In 1980 and 1992, Jimmy Carter and and George H.W. Bush tallied 51.13% and 72.8% respectively; both lost their reelection bids.

This review looks at presidential incumbents having won one or more terms: Obama (2012), Bush II (2004), Clinton (1996), Bush I (1992), Reagan (1984), Carter (1980), Nixon (1972), Eisenhower (1956) and FDR (1944, 1940, 1936). Truman (1948), Johnson (1964) and Ford (1976) are not included.

Globally, landslide national elections are not uncommon. As seen in “I would sooner vote for Josef Stalin”– Max Boot, 2016; “I foresee very lively election campaigns” — Josef Stalin, 1936 from 1937 – 46, Josef Stalin won victories that topped Reagan in 1984.

As Trump would say, Stalin was a “winnah,” voted the Supreme Soviet in ’37, ’46 and ’50. Each time topping 99% of the vote. ’50 was Mr. Steel’s best at 99.7, making a nice little rally after only 99.2 in ’46.

“Stalin casts his vote in first Soviet election”, 17 December 1937. Stalin won more than 99% of the vote. From  “I would sooner vote for Josef Stalin”– Max Boot, 2016; “I foresee very lively election campaigns” — Josef Stalin, 1936

The first presidential primaries were held in 1912 following a series of progressive reforms aimed at great popular participation in the electoral process.

1912 Republican Primaries. BLUE = Taft; Green = La Follette; Olive = Roosevelt; Shaded = no primary (Wikipedia)

Theodore Roosevelt won 51.1% of total votes, but was denied the nomination at the Republican convention, later running as the Bull Moose candidate. (see 1860/1912 Redux?)

For many decades thereafter, primaries played a limited role in the nominating process. From 1968 onward, primaries increasingly dominated the presidential selection process.

2012 Obama won all the primaries with 89.9% of the vote. He did face limited opposition in the south.

Democratic presidential primary results by county 2012


SEE At a seat from the President’s table five years later

2004 Bush II won all the primaries with 98.1% of the vote.

Bush won all the primaries and 7,853,863 total votes. California’s Bill Wyatt gained 10,847; Missouri’s Blake Ashby got 1.145.

SEE May 24th, 2005 when President Bush spent political capital in Greece.

1996 Clinton won all the primaries except North Dakota where he was not on the ballot. Clinton also failed to qualify for the ballot in Michigan. Clinton won 89% of all votes.

United States Democratic presidential primary 1996. Libertarian activist Roland Riemers scored a victory in North Dakota due to the fact that Clinton was not on the ballot. Clinton also failed to qualify for the ballot in Michigan. (Wikipedia)

SEE Among thousands at Kodak Hall, former President Bill Clinton mourns Louise


1992 Bush I won all thee primaries with 72.8% of the vote. Bush was challenged by conservative commentator Pat Buchanan, and during the early counting of the votes at the New Hampshire primary, it appeared Bush might actually lose. However, Buchanan faded by the end of the evening, and Bush won all the rest of the primaries. Bush’s margins in many of the primaries were not as large as expected, and led to the rise of Ross Perot as an independent candidate. (Wikipedia)

From Operation Desert Shield, 1991 Pacific Trading Cards. Factory Sealed. [From David Kramer’s collection purchased at Yankee Clipper in the Village Gate] See Farewell, President Bush (June 12, 1924 – November 30, 2018) 1992 Republican presidential primary candidates. George H. W. Bush, Home state Texas, Contests won 51, Popular vote 9,199,463, Percentage 72.8%; Pat Buchanan, Home state Virginia, Contests won 0, Popular vote 2,899,488, Percentage 23.0%. (Wikipedia)

SEE 27 years ago today when President George H. W. Bush visited Wilson Magnet High School

1980 Winning only 51.13% of the vote, Carter faced a strong challenge from Massachusetts Senator Edward Kennedy. Carter won 36 contests to 12 for Kennedy.

Results of the 1980 Democratic National Convention. BLUE = Kennedy; RED = Carter; BLACK = unpledeged. Popular vote: Carter, 10,043,016, Kennedy, 7,381,693, Percentage
Carter 51.13%, Kennedy 37.58%

SEE October 29th, 1980: Carter at a rally six days before the Reagan revolution. And when Bernie Sanders campaigned for Barry Commoner

1972 Nixon won all 18 primaries and 86.9% of the vote.

Republican presidential primary results 1972. RED Richard Nixon, home state California, contests won 18, popular vote 5,378,704 317,048, percentage 86.9%:   John M. Ashbrook, home state Ohio, contests won 0, popular vote 317,048, percentage 5.1% (Wikipedia)

SEE In ’72 when McGovern campaigned in Rochester before Nixon’s landslide victory

1956 Eisenhower cruised through the primaries, losing 3 elections — Ohio, Montana and South Dakota — where he was not on the ballot. Eisenhower won 85.9% of the vote.

SEE October 23rd and 24th, 1952 when Ike and Adlai were in town back to back. And School 29.

At the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Highland Park [Photo: David Kramer] See Ike’s secret visit to Rochester

1956 Republican Party presidential primary candidates. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Home state Kansas, Contests won 16, Popular vote 5,008,132, Percentage 85.9%; John W. Bricker, Home state, Ohio, Contests won 1, Popular vote 478,453, Percentage 8.2%; Joe Foss, Home state, Contests won, Popular vote 59,374, Percentage 1.0% South Dakota; S.C. Arnold, Home state, Montana, Contests won 1, Popular vote, 32,732, Percentage 0.6%

1944, ’40 and ’36. In 1944, the Democratic Party ran only 7 primary elections. Three term president FDR won 70.9% of the total vote. Ohio’s Joseph T. Ferguson received 8.34% and Virginia’s Harry F Bryd 5.51%.

In 1940, Roosevelt faced spirited opposition from several candidates who did not think a president should serve three term. FDR won 71.93% of votes. John Nance Garner of Texas was second with 9.55%

In 1936, Roosevelt won 92.9% of the vote and 37 of 38 contests. Favorite son Henry Skillman Breckinridge won New Jersey. Roosevelt would have faced a stronger challenge from Louisiana Governor Huey Long. In June 1933 Long split with Roosevelt to plan his own 1936 presidential bid in alliance with the influential Roman Catholic priest and rightwing populist radio commentator Father Charles Coughlin. Long, however, was assassinated in 1935.

1940 SEE FDR in Rochester three days before he won a third term

1940 Democratic Presidential Primaries. Popular vote, Roosevelt 3,214,555, Percentage 71.93%; (second place) John Nance Garner 426,700 – 9.55%

1936 SEE FDR in Rochester en route to a New Deal landslide, October 17th, 1936

1936 Democratic Presidential Primary candidates. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Home state, New York, Contests won 37, Popular vote 4,814,978, Percentage 92.9%; Henry Skillman Breckinridge, Home state, New York, Contests won 1, Popular vote 136,407, Percentage 2.6% (Wikipedia)

The Unfinished Portrait is a watercolor of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt by Elizabeth Shoumatoff. Shoumatoff was commissioned to paint a portrait of President Roosevelt, starting her work around noon on April 12, 1945. At lunch, Roosevelt complained of a headache and subsequently collapsed. The President, who had suffered a cerebral hemorrhage (stroke), died later that day. Shoumatoff never finished the portrait, but she later painted a new, largely identical one, based on memory. The Unfinished Portrait hangs at Roosevelt’s retreat, Little White House, in Warm Springs, Georgia, and its finished counterpart beside it. [Gift from Jeanne Jackson to Carol Kramer]


The Presidential Visits Series in its entirety: James Monroe to Donald Trump

About The Author

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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