Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
November 1, 2004
POLITICS: Strong Incumbents, Strong Challengers
Looking at the RealClearPolitics 3-way polling averages, 11 out of 12 have Bush with between 47 and 51% of the vote, and 8 of 12 have Kerry with between 47 and 49% of the vote. The latest Rasmussen tracking polls are consistent as well, showing Bush leading 47.9-47.1, 48.1-47.1, and 48.8-47.4 over the past three days (the most recent listed last). Which means, essentially, that we have both an incumbent and a challenger who have a fairly solid base of support entering the last two days of the campaign. I think most of us will agree that it is highly likely that Bush will poll at least 47% on Election Day, and equally highly likely that Kerry will poll at least 46% and probably at least 47% - thus, at least a decently close election remains likely, although we could still have a decisive popular-vote majority and/or an Electoral College landslide.
Recognizing the limits of historical analogies, what can we determine from this? I decided to take a look at the final election results for elections dating back to 1824, when they started keeping records of the popular vote. There have been 25 elections in that period in which an incumbent has stood for re-election; 16 have been re-elected, 9 have been voted out of office.
Strong Incumbents, Weak Incumbents
What's interesting - and, in fact, what shows the limitations of historical analogies - is how few incumbents have lost races without a complete collapse in their support. Besides Ford, the other four incumbents to lose since 1900 got completely abandoned at the polls: Carter in 1980 got 41%, Hoover in 1928 got 39.6%, Bush Sr. in 1992 got 37.4%, and Taft in 1912 got 23.2% and finished third. Besides Cleveland and van Buren, the other two 19th century incumbents to lose also showed weakly, in both cases against candidates who beat them in the popular vote four years earlier: Benjamin Harrison drew just 43% in his 1892 rematch with Cleveland, and John Quincy Adams drew just 43.6% in his 1828 rematch with Andrew Jackson.
The average margin of victory for successful incumbents? 54.9 to 41.1 overall and 54.9 to 40.9 since 1900. The average margin of victory for successful challengers? 49.5 to 41.2 overall, and 48.5 to 37.8 since 1900.
Strong Challengers, Weak Challengers
Strong Incumbents, Strong Challengers
If you look at matchups of a strong challenger against a strong incumbent, there's only two historical precedents, both of them bad for the incumbent: 1888 and 1976.
In other words: tomorrow, history leaves us on our own. It's our job to make it.
Posted by Baseball Crank at 4:00 PM | Politics 2004 | Poll Analysis | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)