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%).
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.
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.
The first presidential primaries were held in 1912 following a series of progressive reforms aimed at great popular participation in the electoral process.
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.
2004 Bush II won all the primaries with 98.1% of the vote.
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.
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)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.
1972 Nixon won all 18 primaries and 86.9% of the vote.
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.
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.