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Greatest/Worst Election Victories Since 1788


vcczar
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I created an algorithm that looks at % states won, % of Electoral Votes won, % of Popular Vote, % of margin of PV vs other major party, % votes not going to 3rd parties and divided each category by voter turnout to calculate who that most all-encompassing impressive victory.  I applied a score for each category and weighed each category equally. The number below is just to show how close total score are. 

The Top 10 Greatest Electoral Victories in US History 

  1. LBJ def. Goldwater in 1964 -- 43pts
  2. FDR def. Landon in 1936 -- 42 pts
  3. Nixon def. McGovern in 1972 -- 39 pts
  4. Reagan def. Mondale in 1984 -- 27 pts  (kind of a shocker points-wise but PV and PV margin and turnout was lower than the above)
  5. Lincoln def. McClellan in 1864 -- 26 pts
  6. Grant def. Seymour in 1868 -- 25 pts
  7. Harrison def. Van Buren in 1840 -- 22 pts
  8. Harding def. Cox in 1920 -- 20 pts (hurt by sub-50% voter turnout)
  9. Madison def. Pinckney in 1816 -- 18 pts
  10. 4-way tie with 16 pts: Eisenhower def. Stevenson '56; Grant def. Greeley '72; Pierce def. Scott '52; Jefferson def. Pinckney '04

Note: You may ask: Where are the Washington, Coolidge, Hoover and other FDR landslides? Where's Obama? Washington was dealing with voter turnout of only about 10% and 6% in his elections respectively. He was the only choice on the ballot in many of those places. Despite this, he still had about 10% write-ins going against him in 1788 of the few that were allowed. Washington's elections aren't impressive when they're orchestrated. Coolidge's victory saw among the lowest voter turnout in the modern era. He's deeply hurt by that and by the fact that so many voters went 3rd party. Hoover and FDR '32 almost made the list but their turnout, while not terrible, undermined them a bit. Obama's great victory isn't that impressive, historically speaking. It's only impressive when looking at elections from 1992-2020. Recent elections have been among the least impressive election victories. Obama's score for 2008 is actually exactly 0 pts. 

Top 10 Weakest Electoral Victories in US History

  1. Adams def. Jackson in 1824 - negative 52 (This victory was so glaringly weak. Adams gets more negative points than LBJ gets positive points. Adams lost the PV and EV to Jackson, but as no one got the required EVs needed, the House decided the election for Adams). 
  2. Bush def. Gore in 2000 - negative 30 (lost PV)
  3. Adams def. Jefferson in 1796 - negative 25 (slim margin + low turnout)
  4. Hayes def. Tilden in 1876 - negative 20 (lost PV)
  5. Trump def. Clinton in 2016 - negative 20 (lost PV)
  6. Nixon def. Humphrey in 1968 - negative 18
  7. Taylor def. Cass in 1848 - negative 17 
  8. Harrison def. Cleveland in 1888 - negative 15 (lost PV)
  9. Clinton def. Bush in 1992 - negative 15 (Very low PV%; extremely high 3rd party voting)
  10. Kennedy def. Nixon in 1960 - negative 13

If anyone is curious, Bush '04 got negative 4 pts, Biden '20 got negative 3 pts. Obama '12 got negative 2 pts. This makes Biden's recent victory the 36th greatest electoral victory, according to my algorithm. That's quite unimpressive, historically speaking. The biggest mark against him was that he won only 50% of the states. What helped him was that turnout was extremely high, but overall margins, EVs, etc weren't high enough to really score on that turnout for this algorithm. 

Historically, every election of the 21st century, except for Obama's 2008 election win which netted 0 pts has been a negative score election victory. This shows how difficult it is to really score a home run, electorally speaking in presidential elections now. One has to go back to 1988, when Bush Sr scored 2 pts vs Dukakis in his relatively grand victory. It looks like Reagan's 1984 victory will be the last true landslide, so long as we remain as ideologically polarized as we are. 

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