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History suggests 2016 will be a bad year for Democrats

With the help of David Leip’s Atlas of Presidential Elections, I have compiled the popular vote and percentage of the total vote the presidential candidate of the party which would govern for each of nine electoral “cycles” going from 1912 through 2008.  (Available below the jump.)

By electoral cycle, I mean a series of the three elections starting with the one which caused a shift in partisan control of the White House, i.e., in 1912, the partisan control shifted from Republican (William Howard Taft) to Democratic (Woodrow Wilson).  Sometimes, in the third election in the cycle, partisan control would switch back as it did in 1920, 1960, 1968, 2000 & 2008.  Other times, the incumbent party would retain the White House as happened in 1928, 1940 and 1988.

In each case, a distinct pattern emerges.  The party which comes to power in the first election will gain votes and increase its percentage of the vote in the second, then see a decline, sometimes substantial, in the third.

There are, however, only two exceptions.

In the second election in the 1920s cycle, 1924, Calvin Coolidge won fewer votes (and a smaller percentage of the vote) than he did his erstwhile running mate Warren G. Harding four years previously.  Four years later, Herbert Hoover would get more votes than either of his two partisan predecessors, but a lower percentage than did Harding.  That said, the pattern holds if we begin the cycle in 1924 and end it in 1932.  Increase from 1924 to 1928, decline in 1932.

In the 1990s cycle, Al Gore got more votes in 2000 than Bill Clinton had in 1992 or 1996, but, in the first two elections in that cycle, there had been a major third party candidate, Ross Perot.  The pattern does hold when you calculate the dominant party’s percentage of the two-party vote.

One minor exception:  In 1920 (third election of the 1910s cycle), Democrat James Cox got more votes than did Woodrow Wilson in 1912 and 1916, but that’s because 1920 was the first election when women were allowed to vote.

So, why I am sharing all this with you?  To show that there is historical pattern here which suggests that  Republicans stand in good stead for 2016.  No president, until this week, has ever won reelection with fewer votes than he had in his initial election.  And save for 1928*, his party has always seen a drop-off (usually quite significant) from the second to third election in the cycle.

Obama didn’t get that popular vote bump that Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson (running as Kennedy’s successor), Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush got.  His party is likely to see a further decline in 2016, though the example of Herbert Hoover in 1928 does provide some hope that they might break the pattern.

Below, I provide the presidential election year, the number of votes the candidate of the dominant party (for the cycle) received and his percentage of the popular vote.

1912  (6,296,284; 41.84%)  1916 (9,126,868; 49.24%) 1920 (9,139,661; 34.15%)

1920 (16,144,093; 60.32%); 1924 (15,723,789; 54.04%); 1928 (21,427,123; 58.21%); 1932 (22,821,277; 39.65%)

1932 (22,821,277; 57.41%) 1936 (27,752,648; 60.80%) 1940 (27,313,945; 54.74%)

1952 (34,075,529; 55.18%), 1956 (35,579,180; 57.37%); 1960 (34,108,157; 49.55%)

1960 (34,220,984; 49.72%); 1964 (43,127,041, 61.05%) 1968 (31,271,839; 42.72%)

1968 (31,783,783; 43.42%); 1972  (47,168,710; 60.67%); 1976 (39,148,634; 48.02%)

1980 (43,903,230; 50.75%); 1984 (54,455,472; 58.77%); 1988 (48,886,597; 53.37%)

1992 (44,909,806; 43.01%)*; 1996 (47,400,125; 49.23%)*; 2000 (51,003,926; 48.38%)

2000 (50,460,110; 47.87%);  2004 (62,040,610; 50.73%); 2008 (59,950,323; 45.60%)

*You could also say 2000, but there was a third party presence in 1996.  If we look at the dominant party’s percentage of the two-party vote in 1996 (54.73%), then the pattern holds.  (And if you go by two-party percentages, Wilson actually saw a decline from 1912 to 1916 no matter which major party you count as the second major one in 1912.)

FROM THE COMMENTS:  David offers an instructive critique of my optimistic assessment:

Learning from the past is good but thinking that it somehow reflects the future is misguided. Republicans won’t win again until they recognize and correct the reasons why a large portion of their base stayed home and didn’t vote in one of the most polarizing elections of the last 30 years.

I’ll quibble with the first sentence and agree with the second.  Republicans do need figure out why a huge chunk of our base stayed home this year.  In a subsequent post, I will be suggesting that the national and state parties do focus groups, identifying GOP voters who shoed up in ’08, but not ’12.



  1. But…something weird happened in this election.
    The left learned this time that it can win an election at will on election day.
    There was all sorts of chicanery pulled by the leftists radicals this election and they managed to pull Obama out from certain defeat.

    They weren’t afraid of being caught because Holder had their backs and the unions had Obama watching their backs.

    This is a new animal that has just arrived on the scene that can’t be compared to anything before it.
    You have touch screen voting with it’s hackable software.
    You have same day voter registration.
    You have no I.D. to vote voting.
    You have the complicit media 100% in the tank for one party swaying the elctorate with propaganda over four years
    You have a sizable number of minorities that wasn’t around forty or fifty years ago and will be even larger in four more years.

    So,don’t count on this cyclical theory being applicable to the next election.

    Comment by ebayer — November 9, 2012 @ 4:42 am - November 9, 2012

  2. After watching a good, honest, decent man who loves his country get torn down and defeated by an opponent who lied openly and constantly, who had nothing to offer but smears, hate, and demonization, I find it quite impossible to be optimistic about any future election.

    Comment by V the K — November 9, 2012 @ 6:03 am - November 9, 2012

  3. Learning from the past is good but thinking that it somehow reflects the future is misguided. Republicans won’t win again until they recognize and correct the reasons why a large portion of their base stayed home and didn’t vote in one of the most polarizing elections of the last 30 years.

    Comment by David — November 9, 2012 @ 6:24 am - November 9, 2012

  4. But…something weird happened in this election.
    So,don’t count on this cyclical theory being applicable to the next election.

    Whoa, whoa, whoa…before we get all black helicopters and mind-control-drugs-administered-through-jet-trails paranoid, let’s point out a few facts:

    1) Not every precinct has touch-screen voting, and in the cases I’ve read this year where vote irregularities have occurred, the problems reported by voters have been unable to be duplicated by authorities. That’s not to say there aren’t potential issues, but it’s like casting voting machine maker Diebold (better known to most for ATM & banking hardware) as a Republican stooge designed to turn out votes for the GOP candidate [since that worked out so well in 2008 & 2012, perhaps George Soros should buy the company].

    2) Same-day registration has been going on a long time. When the National Voter Registration Act of 1993—commonly known as the “Motor Voter Act”—came into full effect, all states were required to offer voter registration services via DMV offices. Six states, however, received exemptions, with two (including my state) granted an exemption in exchange for at-the-polls registration. It’s not an ideal system, but it doesn’t seem to be a major problem, unless it’s coupled with ineffective purge and cross-reference operations.

    3) No-ID voting has been the norm; it’s only been in recent years that a push for at-the-polls positive voter identification has been prevalent. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but allegations of voter fraud have occurred for decades and may have already swung a presidential election (see 1960). So again, it’s not a new phenomenon.

    4) Minority voting is on the increase, to be sure; but is it really any different, in many respects than when women received the right to vote? As Dan mentioned, it likely did have an impact on the next presidential election of the time; but that has only increased throughout the years so that that minority has now become the majority in many instances.

    I know that a Perfect Storm argument is trying to be made here, but I’m not sure it’s quite as simple as that. You can have perfect compliance with all the laws and no hanky-panky going on and still have a superior GOTV effort, as appears to be the case with the 2012 election.
    (Yes, you can have both, too; but it’s a little harder to achieve, with such diminished enthusiasm.)

    Comment by RSG — November 9, 2012 @ 6:49 am - November 9, 2012

  5. Well if the democrats run a white guy on the ballot, I am not convinced 99% of voters in Phillie are going to vote for him. I am also not convinced they will show up in those numbers.

    That said, I think states right now who want voter ID should start writing their laws now. They should also all use the NH model as their model, because Holder signed off on that one.

    Part of the problem with the voter ID movement is states waited too long and things were tied up in courts to the point that there wasn’t time.

    I am also pretty certain PA’s ID law will be in effect for the next election cycle.

    Comment by Just Me — November 9, 2012 @ 7:00 am - November 9, 2012

  6. I am really not sure that I want to hear theories about how great the GOP is going to do 4 years from now.

    They once again offered a losing candidate whose primary qualifications were 1) it was his turn, and 2) electability.

    In fact, it was his turn to lose and he lost to the worst President in the history of the nation.

    It is a little bit too early to start making such assertions. Four years is an eternity and with four more years of Obama, it is an eternity of nightmares.

    Even if the GOP should take control in 2016, they are likely to offer such corrupt and inept “leaders” like Boehner and McConnell and Romney with no spine and no vision which means we get four more years of ever-increasing government from the GOP. That is not change to look forward to.

    Comment by WarEagle82 — November 9, 2012 @ 7:23 am - November 9, 2012

  7. Gutter politics will continue as long as gutter politicians are rewarded.

    Comment by V the K — November 9, 2012 @ 8:23 am - November 9, 2012

  8. for all the scorn that the soviet union and communist thugocracies received I have to say NONE of those saw something like 99% of the vote for a candidate.

    Even real dictators are somewhat reasonable in their cheating

    Comment by susan — November 9, 2012 @ 8:47 am - November 9, 2012

  9. Politics is the gutter. ‘Our side’ better learn that and get in and start playing their game. I’ve been saying that for awhile and all I hear is ‘we can’t stoop to their level’. McCain was an ace at that to the point of not even defending his own running mate, but defending Obama more.
    Why couldn’t Romney go on the View with those hags? Or Jon Stewart? Hire the guy who wrote your speech at that Catholic black tie event, for those appearances. Or even talk radio, national and local? Oh we can’t do that because we don’t want them thinking Rush is going to give us talking points.

    Comment by Annie — November 9, 2012 @ 9:26 am - November 9, 2012

  10. Annie the people are right when they say ‘we cannot stoop at their level. We are different, we are better, they are subhumans. To them it is natural to call Ann Romney a f**** C*** B*** W**** (fill in with all the lowest insults you can possibly find).

    The most our side can do is call that broad cow Michelle Antoniette.

    The only way to go is cut all ties with those subhumans. Imagine all conservative churches stop volunteering for certain segments of the population that are actively calling us racists every minute. That will leave a mark.

    Help only when you are 300% sure you are helping a conservative, possibly one that also votes.

    Comment by susan — November 9, 2012 @ 9:45 am - November 9, 2012

  11. I agree, mostly, with Susan. We are better people, we need to be. That people like Richard believe that nothing should come between a man and his base impulses, doesn’t mean we should just give up and act on ours.

    The Doctor: If we fight like animals, we die like animals!

    Comment by The_Livewire — November 9, 2012 @ 9:49 am - November 9, 2012

  12. Dante (the divine comedy, Inferno) used to write

    Ye were not made to live like unto brutes, But for pursuit of virtue and of knowledge.

    Obama voters are brutes (or animals), they live their lives being a plague for others and parasiting (never concept has been more apt for them) on other living creatures.

    The way to go is to stop giving ‘blood’ to those creatures, and enjoy what happens when you deprive a parasite of its food.

    Comment by susan — November 9, 2012 @ 10:08 am - November 9, 2012

  13. No president, until this week, has ever won reelection with fewer votes than he had in his initial election.

    Yup. Obama lost support. Large amounts. It bodes very ill for him and his party.

    We’re hearing a lot about the GOP needing to fix its minority outreach. That’s true. Know what else? Democrats need even more badly, to fix their majority outreach.

    There was all sorts of chicanery pulled by the leftists radicals this election and they managed to pull Obama out from certain defeat.

    They weren’t afraid of being caught because Holder had their backs and the unions had Obama watching their backs.

    Then we’d better get to work on exposing/stopping that.

    Republicans won’t win again until they recognize and correct the reasons why a large portion of their base stayed home

    It’s looking like the ones who stayed home were Republican-leaning marginal voters; people whose turnout Obama intended to depress with all the “Romney will give your wife cancer” ads, that Romney barely bothered to defend himself against. Let that be a lesson to future nominees.

    The Left is drawing the wrong lessons from this election, as we speak. They think that negative and “small” campaigning, aimed at voter-microtargeting and driving down voter turnout, works. Because it just did. But it won’t forever. And in the meanwhile, it makes them even more the bad guys.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — November 9, 2012 @ 10:26 am - November 9, 2012

  14. I find it quite impossible to be optimistic about any future election.

    “Then the Emperor has already won.”

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — November 9, 2012 @ 10:30 am - November 9, 2012

  15. […] suggest that the Dems haven’t yet created that permanent new coalition they dream of: Gay Patriot and Pondering Penguin. Be Sociable, Share! TweetShare […]

    Pingback by Bookworm Room » Not everybody is weeping and wailing — November 9, 2012 @ 10:59 am - November 9, 2012

  16. In Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development most Democrat voters are in the “preconventional/premoral” stage of arrested moral development.

    They have an “egocentric deference to superior power or prestige.”

    They employ “objective responsibility” and have a “relativism of values to each actor’s needs and perspectives.”

    “Right action is that which is instrumental in satisfying the self’s needs and occasionally other’s” (needs).

    They display a “naive egalitarianism, orientation to exchange and reciprocity.”

    These people are manipulated and led by employing the “Role Conformity” stage in which “action is evaluated in terms of intention” and the authority rewards “good-boy/good-girl orientation.”

    So, in these terms, the Democrats organize the sheeple and drive them to the polls. The sheeple go willingly and enthusiastically because they perceive and feel gratification both at the personal level and as a member of the cult/”community”/commune.

    “Fats” Waller sang some telling lyrics in Ain’t Misbehavin’: “Find out what they like and how they like it and let ’em have it just that way.”

    The clear message is basic marketing. Identify your target audience, find out what they want (or think they want) and give it to them.

    Now, in politics, you can’t often deliver immediately in a campaign. But you can easily feed the sheeple group a continuous dose of what they want to hear.

    It is not a positive notion that many people want to hear their sense of victimhood being validated, but it is entirely true. For the most part, blacks have a built in sixth sense for signs of discrimination, rejection based on race and probable racism. When a black hears over and over and over again that a candidate or party or group is racially insensitive or worse, it is a very natural reaction to be wary or that candidate or party or group.

    The same wariness model can be applied to liberal women, various Hispanic groups, gays, unions, economic classes, geographic regions, etc.

    Understand and never forget Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals. There are two lists of rules. The first is the practical guide for herding the sheeple. The second set of rules deal with the “ethics” of herding the sheeple. The first set of rules is how to demagogue and the second set is how to play “innocent” to demagoguing.

    Rules for Power Tactics:

    1. Power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have.
    2. Never go outside the experience of your people.
    3. Whenever possible, go outside of the experience of the enemy.
    4. Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules.
    5. Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.
    6. A good tactic is one that your people enjoy.
    7. A tactic that drags on too long becomes a drag.
    8. Keep the pressure on with different tactics and actions, and utilize all events of the period for your purpose.
    9. The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.
    10. The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition.
    11. If you push a negative hard and deep enough, it will break through into its counterside.
    12. The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.
    13. Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.

    Rules to test whether power tactics are ethical:

    1. One’s concern with the ethics of means and ends varies inversely with one’s personal interest in the issue.
    2. The judgment of the ethics of means is dependent upon the political position of those sitting in judgment.
    3. In war the end justifies almost any means.
    4. Judgment must be made in the context of the times in which the action occurred and not from any other chronological vantage point.
    5. Concern with ethics increases with the number of means available and vice versa.
    6. The less important the end to be desired, the more one can afford to engage in ethical evaluations of means.
    7. Generally, success or failure is a mighty determinant of ethics.
    8. The morality of means depends upon whether the means is being employed at a time of imminent defeat or imminent victory.
    9. Any effective means is automatically judged by the opposition to be unethical.
    10. You do what you can with what you have and clothe it in moral garments.
    11. Goals must be phrased in general terms like “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity,” “Of the Common Welfare,” “Pursuit of Happiness,” or “Bread and Peace.”

    If we plan to beat the Democrats at this game, we must come down to this level and forgo our moral development understandings in exchange for fighting dirtier than the enemy. It is trench and gas warfare. It is cultural terrorism. It is divide and conquer.

    Comment by heliotrope — November 9, 2012 @ 11:08 am - November 9, 2012

  17. The right could go down the alinksy path, but I don’t think they are willing to go there.

    Example: Under Obamacare, women/teenagers will have the right to subsidized birth control. This includes tubal ligation. If a nefarious rightist wanted to split the feminist and underclass coalition, they could go into underclass neighborhoods and offer a bunch of 18 years olds a grand or two in cash to go get sterilized (on the taxpayers dime). The outcry would be ferocious. Would the right be willing to go down in gutter that far? In my estimation, not yet.

    Comment by Stirner — November 9, 2012 @ 11:35 am - November 9, 2012

  18. I agree.

    For the first time this morning, I told someone who wanted sympathy for their situation that they needed to go to Obama to find it.

    The look on their face was absolutely priceless.

    They voted for a gutter politician. Let the gutter politician give them their sympathy and help.

    Comment by North Dallas Thirty — November 9, 2012 @ 11:41 am - November 9, 2012

  19. “The look on their face was absolutely priceless.”


    Comment by susan — November 9, 2012 @ 12:26 pm - November 9, 2012

  20. NDT, that is what I mean by fighting back. In small ways and big.
    My point in my above comment, was that the GOP doesn’t even fight. Period. Everytime Bush took a breath, Reid and Pelosi, were in front of cameras pounding lied day in and day out. Where is the GOP on this regarding what Barry has done? You don’t have to give up your morals to point out in LOUD COLORFUL attention getting language, day in and day out, in fighting back.

    What do have instead? Sniveling misreading spineless politicians, on our side. Boehner needs to go. He should be primaried out.

    Comment by Annie — November 9, 2012 @ 12:40 pm - November 9, 2012

  21. The right could go down the alinksy path, but I don’t think they are willing to go there.

    Totally agree.

    The “right” is “burdened” with higher moral development and far stronger code of ethics. We can all revert, when necessary, to the primitive, but not because we prefer it. I have fuel, ammunition, a water supply system, food and medical supplies stored for a possible period of protracted crisis. I have liquor and cigarettes to trade to the hoi polloi. Gold and silver will be useful for trade with other levels prepared to weather a crisis.

    If some miracle resolution to our financial mess heads off Armageddon, what have I lost for the preparation? I sure don’t want to depend on the FEMA arm of government for my safety and security.

    I do not want to be a primitive, but I may not have the choice. Arriving at an intersection and being killed in a crash is no time to start talking about getting there a little bit later or a little bit earlier in order to have cheated reality.

    Most honorable people do not want to associate themselves with Alinsky or Democrat practices. To meet them head on and out do them is really quite unthinkable.

    Until the Republicans will put the Democrats on the constant defensive for the trash they throw, the Republicans will stay on the constant defensive receiving the trash the Democrats throw.

    My long comment @ #16 lays out the entire Democrat game plan. If you know and understand the game plan, you really should be able to check their every move. And you should be able to do it without resorting to their tactics. But first, you have to finally stand up their demagoguing and face them down every time they try to let a snake loose.

    Jessie Jackson made a fortune shaking down selected big corporations with his rent-a-mob racist tactics. Somewhere, sometime it becomes necessary to grow a spine and face down the grifters and political conmen.

    Comment by heliotrope — November 9, 2012 @ 12:44 pm - November 9, 2012

  22. Dan.

    I think you are making too much out of the voting. A real indicator or precursor is to look at the makeup of the legislature. In the 62nd Congress, (Taft´s last) The Democrats seized control of the House from the Republicans in 61st Dems 172 to 228. The Senate remained Republican with 51 but the Dems added 3 more with the admission of Arizona and New Mexico into statehood. In 1914 the Dems controlled both houses of the legislature. In 1918 the 66th Congress (Wilson´s last) both houses turned Republican with 220 representatives and 49 senators, an increase of 7. Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover enjoyed having both houses Republican during the roaring 20´s. In 1930, the House went Democrat going from 167 seats to 220 while the Republicans had a one vote majority in the Senate, 48 to 47 and one Independent. All during Roosevelt´s lifetime the Democrats controlled both houses. That´s how the Supreme Court got stacked with progressive jurists. Any reason to believe Obama won´t do the same. After WWII, Truman had to deal with a Republican legislature in the 80th Congress, which flipped back to Democrat in 1948. The 83rd Congress gave Eisenhower the luxury of Republicans controlling the legislature. The House made massive gains going from 119 seats to 221, while the advantage in the Senate was slight 48,47, and 1 Independent. The Democrats controlled the House all the way until Newt Gingrich and his Contract With America. Reagan had coattails to gain a majority in the Senate the 97th Congress until the 100th Neither GHW Bush nor Nixon ever enjoyed having his party in control. If Nixon had, maybe he would have finished out his second term. Does anybody in their right mind think that Dems in the Benghazi and now the Iran attempt on the drone coverup would ever tell Obama that there is a cancer on the presidency and that he should resign? I doubt it. I don´t think Democrats have any integrity.

    Comment by Roberto — November 9, 2012 @ 2:08 pm - November 9, 2012

  23. Roberto I agree. Democrats have no integrity, although they expect the GOP to have it (and as a voter I want the GOP to have integrity).

    I think the democrat leaders tend to be elitist and they often lack real compassion-they can fake it well, but they generally operate personally in a selfish manner.

    How many lavish vacations has Michelle Obama taken in the last 4 years? I haven’t taken a single, real vacation, because I can’t afford to go somewhere, put up the travel, hotel, and attraction fees.

    No Bush took vacations but his vacations were to his properties, Michelle just spends a butt ton of money and my tax dollars are paying for her secret service detail.

    Comment by Just Me — November 9, 2012 @ 3:55 pm - November 9, 2012

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