pageok
pageok
pageok
More on the Lack of a Democratic Tsunami:

A reader in the comments:

Consider the ratio of winners' votes to runners'-up votes in the last 25 Presidential elections.

Obama won a clear victory with a ratio of 1.13 over McCain. (63.0 / 55.8 = 1.13)

But by any reasonable historical standard, this election was actually fairly close.

The average over the last 25 elections has been 1.30. For the last 12 its 1.22....

Winner RunnerUp Ratio Contest

2000 0.479 0.484 0.98 Bush - Gore

1960 0.497 0.496 1.00 Kennedy - Nixon

1968 0.434 0.427 1.01 Nixon - Humphrey

1976 0.501 0.48 1.04 Carter - Ford

2004 0.507 0.483 1.04 Bush - Kerry

1916 0.492 0.461 1.06 Wilson - Hughes

1948 0.496 0.451 1.09 Truman - Dewey

2008 0.52 0.46 1.13 Obama - McCain

1992 0.43 0.377 1.14 Clinton - Bush

1944 0.534 0.459 1.16 Roosevelt - Dewey

1988 0.534 0.456 1.17 Bush - Dukakis

1996 0.4924 0.4071 1.20 Clinton - Dole

1940 0.547 0.448 1.22 Roosevelt - Willkie

1980 0.507 0.41 1.23 Reagan - Carter

1952 0.552 0.443 1.24 Eisenhower - Stevenson

1956 0.574 0.42 1.36 Eisenhower - Stevenson

1928 0.582 0.408 1.42 Hoover - Smith

1932 0.574 0.397 1.44 Roosevelt - Hoover

1984 0.588 0.406 1.44 Reagan - Mondale

1912 0.418 0.274 1.52 Wilson - Roosevelt

1964 0.611 0.385 1.58 Johnson - Goldwater

1972 0.607 0.375 1.61 Nixon - McGovern

1936 0.608 0.365 1.66 Roosevelt - Landon

1920 0.603 0.341 1.76 Harding - Cox

1924 0.54 0.288 1.87 Coolidge - Davis

It's only because the last two elections were so close that this one seems remarkable. I don't know that I'd call it "fairly close," but it certain isn't a blowout, landslide, tsunami, etc., by historical standards, but just a mundane victory.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. More on the Lack of a Democratic Tsunami:
  2. Senate Races:
Per Son:
Dave:

Quit yer qq'ing and start pew pewing. The Republicans got pwned, and all the stats in the world cannot change that fact.
11.5.2008 2:53pm
Steve:
Right, so by the same logic, Bush-Dukakis was pretty close. This argument is getting pretty desperate.
11.5.2008 2:54pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Per son, do you realize that no one over thirty will take seriously any sentence that includes the "word" pwned?
11.5.2008 2:55pm
JohnK (mail):
"Quit yer qq'ing and start pew pewing. The Republicans got pwned, and all the stats in the world cannot change that fact."


What the hell is that ebonics? Do we even teach English in school anymore?
11.5.2008 2:59pm
Smokey:
John McCain is an honorable and very courageous guy who served his country well. But he is one of the worst campaigners in memory, worse even than Mondale or Dukakis.

After two Bush terms, the second of which was pretty disastrous, this election should have been a complete blowout for a Democratic candidate. The fact that Obama squeaked by with such a puny margin, and had such short coat-tails, shows how little mainstream America cared for him.

This election was much more a referendum on Bush and the economy than it was support for an inexperienced Socialist with no middle-America friends or acquaintances, and a platform of raising taxes and redistributing wealth from those producing the country's wealth to his favored special interest groups.

Obama is damned lucky he didn't face a competent opponent. But then, he's always been lucky that way.
11.5.2008 3:01pm
LN (mail):
So Obama has more of a mandate than GWB, but not nearly as much as Woodroow Wilson or Warren Harding. Good to know.
11.5.2008 3:01pm
Per Son:
Lol. I am just having fun - maybe you guys can try it. I find it interesting that as soon as there are silly words, JohnK assumes that it is ebonics - interesting.

It is gamer speak, and considering the average gamer is 33, many more know what it means.
11.5.2008 3:01pm
Donny:
So desperate.

Aside from the questionable methodology, we don't even know the final vote count yet.
11.5.2008 3:04pm
Cold Warrior:
Agreed. No tsunami, but not exactly a squeeker either. One improvement: I think the better ratio is the obvious one, percent of total vote. Your method grossly overstates the magnitude of Clinton's 92 plurality win by ignoring the Perot vote.
11.5.2008 3:05pm
Jestak (mail):
If you compare 2008 to "all elections," you are correct, it is fairly close. However, all elections are not alike. It makes no sense, to me, to compare an election like 2008 with those where popular incumbents win by a landslide. I'd suggest that the valid comparison is to elections where the out-of-power party candidate wins the Presidency. This is the 7th such election since World War 2. I'd say that Obama's victory is pretty clearly more decisive than Kennedy's in 1960, Nixon's in 1968, Carter's in 1976 or Bush's in 2000. It is clearly less decisive than Reagan's in 1980 or Eisenhower's in 1952, and probably very closely comparable to Clinton's in 1992.
11.5.2008 3:07pm
LN (mail):
Smokey, it's true that Obama had a number of advantages. But what about McCain?

He ran against the most socialist candidate ever, someone who explicitly campaigned on bankrupting the coal industry, putting chlidren into labor camps, "spreading" America's wealth, finishing off Israel, and taking away guns from citizens.

Obama tried to make it a fair fight by adopting a ridiculous set of policies -- almost cartoonishly evil, I would say. And the American people still chose him over McCain.
11.5.2008 3:07pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
Jestak, I'll buy that, though in 76 the dems wound up with significantly better margins in the House and Senate.
11.5.2008 3:12pm
Donny:
What does the overall margin have to do with the magnitude of the election?

In 1976, Dems picked up 1 house seat and 0 Senate seats. This year the Dems will have picked up at least 20 house seats and 5 Senate seats.

Of course, we don't know the final margins, because they're not done counting.
11.5.2008 3:22pm
einhverfr (mail) (www):
I don't think either candidate was really considered to be a True Republican. So by my count, it is an anti-Republican landslide......
11.5.2008 3:25pm
Sarcastro (www):
FEAR THE COOLIDGE MANDATE
11.5.2008 3:34pm
Jestak (mail):
David, you are of course correct about the size of the Democratic congressional margins in 1976, but those were, as Donny notes, unchanged from the previous Congress (and they were as large as they were because 1974 was the "Watergate election").
11.5.2008 3:37pm
Aultimer:

JohnK (mail):

What the hell is that ebonics?

How quaintly racist of you, gramps!

It's actually a geek thing ("leet-speak" or "133t5p34k" in the vernacular). Try this on your next blog "937 0ph m4h 14vv|\| |
11.5.2008 3:43pm
CB55 (mail):
How about that Bush II mandate and the margins of victory?!
11.5.2008 3:51pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
David, you are of course correct about the size of the Democratic congressional margins in 1976, but those were, as Donny notes, unchanged from the previous Congress (and they were as large as they were because 1974 was the "Watergate election").
yes, it would have been remarkable if Carter could have made substantial gains in in the House in 1976 after '74.

I'd say Clinton '92 is the best analogy. And Clinton thought he had a mandate to nationalize health care, and we know how that worked out.
11.5.2008 3:56pm
Rhode Island Lawyer:
By recent election standards it's a pretty strong showing. Comparing the results to the average of the past 25 elections is a bit like comparing the number of complete games by the league-leader in 2008 to the average number of victories of the league-leaders over the past 100 years. The games of baseball and politics have changed so much that such comparisons don't amount to much.
11.5.2008 4:08pm
Morat20 (mail):
If we're going to play games and use House and Senate figures, it's probably worthwhile to count in the 2006 numbers in some way.

2006 was a really awful year for Republicans, and the Democrats picked up a LOT of low-lying fruit -- and some surprisingly high stuff, although I imagine they expected to lose TX-22 and it's ilk back.

So to follow that up 2 years later, with another 5 Senate seats and a dozen or two more House seats? They got all the easy House seats in 2006, and they just posted rather nice back-to-back Senate pickups.

Looks like a Tsunami to ME -- leastwise, I wouldn't have wanted to be a GOP office-holder in either election.
11.5.2008 4:28pm
Asher (mail):
Any time a Democrat wins Indiana, North Carolina, and Virginia, it isn't a mundane victory.

Also, I think it's extremely clear if you look at the exit polls in Deep South states that race cost Obama a bigger margin in the popular vote. You can also look here at the map of counties where McCain outperformed '04 Bush.
11.5.2008 4:40pm
GSC:
But Clinton in '92 only won 43% of the vote, the Democrats gaines 0 Senate seats, and actually lost 9 seats in the House. Simply not comparable to what happened yesterday. Yesterday was closer to 1980 (compare Obama's 53% of the total vote to Reagan's 51%) although the GOP did gain 12 Senate and 35 House seats. I am not claiming it was as big a shift as 1980, but the result is closer. We can find various weird stats to downplay yesterday's Obama/Democratic victory, but it was quite significant.
11.5.2008 5:44pm
Visitor Again:
Obama ran his entire campaign as the candidate of change. McCain latched on to that same theme after Obama proved its success in the primaries and campaigned as a maverick who would bring us real change. Both candidates rejected the Bush regime, seeking to distance themselves as far as possible from what it has done over the past eight years. The desire for change was obviously the biggest factor in the election. All those who voted for Obama and for McCain--the overwhelming majority, perhaps 99 percent of the electorate--support change. Since that is as vague a concept as there is--encompassing anything that is different from the way things have been done--Obama has a mandate to do whatever he wants. Case closed.
11.5.2008 5:47pm
Xanthippas (mail) (www):

I don't know that I'd call it "fairly close," but it certain isn't a blowout, landslide, tsunami, etc., by historical standards, but just a mundane victory.


This is inaccurate. Moments in history must be considered in context. D-Day was not a minor operation simply because so many more soldiers died in the Battle of the Somme.
11.5.2008 6:33pm
LM (mail):
DavidBernstein:

Jestak, I'll buy that, though in 76 the dems wound up with significantly better margins in the House and Senate.

Bush is still working on how to turn on the tape recorder.
11.5.2008 7:29pm
bbbeard (mail):
I think you are all missing the point, which is that, after victory, Reagan, and even Bush 41, did not face the polarized electorate that is Clinton's real legacy. In the years since Bush 43 won his majority, he has found the nation basically ungovernable, in part because his opposition has stoked the worst partisanship I have seen in my lifetime. They have literally called for his assassination, called him a drunk, a torturer, "Hitler"... in the middle of a war they have called his commanding generals liars, likened our troops to Nazis, accused them of terrorism and murder, and on and on. You know as well as I do that this has been going on.

And now we are coming off a campaign where the winning candidate has made fun of his opponent's disabilities, called the VP candidate a "pig", viciously pursued -- with government resources -- private citizen who had the temerity to ask him an unscripted question, and recruited state prosecutors to persecute his critics. His minions literally demanded DNA tests of her newborn son, and made up a fictional abuse-of-power scandal that only unraveled the day before the election. And on top of this he has long-standing ties to anti-Semites and terrorists -- associations that he lied about to hide? And he has deemed any opposition to him 'racist' -- even discussing his ties to Communists has caused his supporters to cry "racism!"

Why on earth would you think that this bitter divide will not persist into the new administration? Do you think that bringing back the "Fairness Doctrine" [sic], regulating blogs, and assembling a "civilian security force" will calm things down?

Step back and take a look at where we are -- and that 53% will look mighty thin. When it sinks in that we have elected a Communist fellow-traveler to lead the Free World, there will be hell to pay.

BBB
11.5.2008 8:08pm
Jestak (mail):

But Clinton in '92 only won 43% of the vote, the Democrats gaines 0 Senate seats, and actually lost 9 seats in the House. Simply not comparable to what happened yesterday. Yesterday was closer to 1980 (compare Obama's 53% of the total vote to Reagan's 51%) although the GOP did gain 12 Senate and 35 House seats. I am not claiming it was as big a shift as 1980, but the result is closer.


Reagan in 1980 and Clinton in 1992 won three-way races, so their percentages of the overall popular vote can't be directly compared with Obama's without taking that into account. If you compare percentages of the two-party vote won, Clinton and Obama both won about 53%, while Reagan won a little over 55%.
11.5.2008 8:31pm
Smokey:
bbbeard,

Excellent post, and absolutely correct. Just shows you what can happen in any country where the dominant media becomes a propaganda organ for one side.

If the media had done its job and demanded that Obama give some answers to questions relevant to his qualifications for president and his shady associations, and had hounded him half as much as they hounded every Republican from Reagan forward, the result would have been different.

Instead, they were his cheerleaders, big time.
11.5.2008 9:30pm
Xanthippas (mail) (www):

If the media had done its job and demanded that Obama give some answers to questions relevant to his qualifications for president and his shady associations, and had hounded him half as much as they hounded every Republican from Reagan forward, the result would have been different.


Does it ever stop being somebody else's fault? I'm just curious.
11.5.2008 10:05pm
bbbeard (mail):

Does it ever stop being somebody else's fault? I'm just curious.



I think we could ask the same question of you, X.

BBB
11.5.2008 11:02pm
Dero:
It's a big enough mandate to work with. If the democrats gain more seats in 2010 though, then we'll know just how significant this election has been. (very rare that parties gain seats for 3 elections in a row)
11.6.2008 1:39am
jgshapiro (mail):
Professor:

Come on. Get real. I think this is a pretty solid win by any estimation. There is nothing mundane about it.

Consider that a certain percentage of voters were never going to vote for someone black, and still aren't. And then look at the fact that Obama got 52% of the vote, there is a 6+ percent margin in the popular vote, and a 100+ margin in the electoral vote.

In other words, notwithstanding the headwinds faced by any black candidate (Democrat or Republican), he got a higher percentage of the popular vote than anyone in 20 years, and a higher percentage of the electoral vote than anyone in 24 years. If you look at just non-incumbent wins, his was the largest popular vote percentage or electoral vote margin in 28 years.

And all of this comes after two elections that were very close, and two more before that where the winner could not get a majority of the vote - even in 1996 when he was running as the incumbent.

For God sakes, we lost Florida, Ohio, Colorado and Virginia. And Indiana! Has Indiana ever voted for a Democratic president before? We did not pick up a single state that we did not get in the last election.

I don't know how you spin this into anything other than a drubbing. I think your efforts would be better spent asking why this happened than in denying that it did.
11.6.2008 10:30am
Edward Wiest (mail):
More to the point, it seems to me, is that the Democratic Party (post-Civil War) rarely wins Presidential elections by landslide margins. Since 1900 the chart shows only FDR (beneficiary of DoA GOP opposition in 1932 and 1936, an earnest but inexperienced Willkie in 1940 and WWII incumbency in 1944) and Johnson (JFK sympathy and perceived Goldwater extremism) ever exceeded 53%; more telling neither Wilson nor Clinton (beneficiaries of anti-GOP splinter parties) got a majority either term, and JFK and Truman (thanks to Dixiecrats) never broke 50% in their only run. In fact, apart from the FDR and LBJ landslides, only Obama and Carter (barely) have exceeded 50% since 1900.

By this measure, Obama's 52+ percent this year looks pretty good--for a Democrat. It runs far behind, however, Hoover's 58% for an open White House slot in 1928 (even more than the 55-57% the unbeatable Eisenhower got in two tries). FWIW, notwithstanding all the changes in party ideology and constituencies over the last 150 years, the Republican brand that defeated Stephen Douglas and George McClellan still seems to be viewed as the preferred Presidential choice absent disasters such as the Depression, Watergate, or intra-GOP infighting. How 2008 will be judged is an open question.
11.6.2008 11:00am
nenikhkamen:
@jgshapiro:

It is clearly a win (unlike 2000 and probably also 2004), but it is far, far, far from being a drubbing.

Your claim that Obama has won the highest percentage of the electoral vote in 20+ years is wrong no matter how you qualify it.

Right now Missouri and North Carolina have yet to be officially called, but it seems fairly certain that Missouri will be called for McCain and North Carolina for Obama.

If this happens, the final Electoral College vote will be 364 to 174. Bill Clinton in 1992 won 370 votes (challenging an incumbent president) and in 1996 won 379 votes. So Obama's Electoral College victory is only the largest since 1996, which, given that that was only three elections ago and the two in between were two of the most-closely fought elections in our history, is hardly impressive. (Even if Obama wins Missouri, his win would only tie Clinton's in 1996.)

If you really don't believe me that this victory is no more impressive than Clinton's 1992 win, just go to the New York Times election results website and look at the county by county comparison of this election to 1992 (under the Voting Shifts tab). All that red (much of the country) is counties that voted more Republican in 2008 than in 1992 (i.e., they offered less support to Obama in an open election than they did to Clinton running against an incumbent).
11.6.2008 12:07pm