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Presidential Elections Haven’t All Been As Close As This One

In Profile: 100 Years In US Presidential Races
Keystone, Getty Images

Every four years we Americans elect our President. Sometimes, like this one appears to be, the vote is close, and sometimes it’s lopsided.

I have picked out five of the biggest blowouts in our electoral history. Keep in mind that I am in no way trying to influence your decision on today’s voting, but simply looking back on history all in fun.

Landslide #5: 1956

Winner: Dwight D. Eisenhower (incumbent Republican)
Loser: Adlai Stevenson (Democrat)
Popular Vote Tally: 57.4% to 42%
Electoral Vote Tally: 457 to 73

This was a rematch, as the same two candidates had squared off in 1952. That year, General Eisenhower had soundly beaten Stevenson, the governor of Illinois. The rematch was even bloodier, as Stevenson’s popular vote percentage dropped significantly the second time around.┬áIn his first term, Eisenhower had ended the Korean War and presided over a solid economy. He was a popular, grandfatherly figure and a political moderate who had the complete trust of the American people.

Landslide #4: 1936

Winner: Franklin D. Roosevelt (incumbent Democrat)
Loser: Alf Landon (Republican)
Popular Vote Tally: 60.8% to 36.5%
Electoral Vote Tally: 523 to 8

FDR scored the second highest popular vote percentage since 1820 in this election, which was never in doubt. Roosevelt’s second election victory came over Kansas governor and businessman Alf Landon. While the country was still in the depths of the Great Depression, Roosevelt had taken unprecedented steps towards relieving the burden on the American people. His New Deal programs, including Social Security and benefits for the unemployed, were generally popular with the public, and his fireside chats had calmed people and instilled them with hope.

Landslide #3: 1964

Winner: Lyndon Johnson (incumbent Democrat)
Loser: Barry Goldwater (Republican)
Popular Vote Tally: 61.1% to 38.5%
Electoral Vote Tally: 486 to 52

Have you noticed a trend? The biggest landslides in American history have all involved incumbent presidents, and 1964 is no exception. Johnson, however, had taken office only a year before election day after John F. Kennedy was assassinated. At this point, LBJ was mainly riding on his predecessor’s popularity. In 1964, the country was in no mood to go backwards. The economy was strong and the nation was at peace.

Landslide #2: 1984

Winner: Ronald Reagan (incumbent Republican)
Loser: Walter Mondale (Democrat)
Popular Vote Tally: 58.8% to 40.6%
Electoral Vote Tally: 525 to 13

1984 featured another popular incumbent beating down a hapless challenger. Ronald Reagan had taken office in 1981 during a period of high inflation, energy shortages, and popular pessimism. By election day in November 1984, the mood of the country had changed drastically. Reagan’s optimistic style and considerable communication skills made him a very popular figure. The American people felt comfortable with him at the helm, and they felt good about the direction the country was taking. He remains one of the most popular presidents of the twentieth century.

Landslide #1: 1972

Winner: Richard Nixon (incumbent Republican)
Loser: George McGovern (Democrat)
Popular Vote Tally: 60.7% to 37.5%
Electoral Vote Tally: 520 to 17

Richard Nixon used the powers of the presidency to smother his opposition and he rode that power to a historic victory. Nixon had enjoyed a good first term as president. The economy was rolling and the American people were generally happy. Plus, he had managed some considerable foreign policy achievements. Most notably, he was the first president to visit China, and he had significantly improved relations with that country.

Of course, it would later be revealed that some of Nixon’s victory was due to his criminal activities, which included wiretapping his enemies and breaking into the headquarters of the Democratic Party. Still, history cannot be changed, and the election of 1972 remains the biggest landslide in American history.

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