In every US election, someone loses. If you include the smaller parties- such as the Greens, Libertarian and the Reform parties, there is more than one. Often, if one is on the opposing side of the candidate, then they will argue the people who have lost the most are the American people.
There are reasons why every candidate has lost, and in the age of technology, it is easier to document the feelings of the American people. Since the first election with a televised debate- 1960, until now, there have been varying reasons as to why people like Walter Mondale, Barry Goldwater and Hillary Clinton didn’t get to sit pretty at the Oval Office. These are the elections we will be looking at.
1960- Kennedy v Nixon
The only person on this list who had the honour of later winning an election, Richard Nixon, had enjoyed two terms as Vice President under the popular Dwight D. Eisenhower. Against the wishes of aides, and even Eisenhower himself, he managed to hold onto the ticket in 1956. Eventually, Nixon got onto the 1960 ticket, with Henry Cabot Lodge Jr as his running mate.
It was an extremely close election, with around 100,000 votes in it. So why did Nixon narrowly lose, only to win eight years later?
- Persona- Richard Nixon is not a man we associate with charisma and personality. He was paranoid, sour and dull, he may have been convincing in his infamous ‘Checkers’ speech, but he wasn’t exactly known for his star personality. Unfortunately for him, he was going up against the young John Kennedy. Whilst Nixon was happily married to Pat, he was not affectionate in public, and his daughters were teens. Comparatively, Kennedy had the young and equally attractive Jackie, along with tiny tot Caroline and the baby bump that would later be JFK Jr. Kennedy, young and handsome, was excellent with people, and was happy to engage with as many potential voters as he could. On the campaign trail, his trademark Bostonian accent carried into the excited crowds. Most notably, this came to a head on the first televised debate. Nixon, already ill, refused make-up. He sweated from the hot lights, and looked comparatively tired against the youthful Kennedy. Nixon won on radio, but Kennedy did on TV, and that was where the audience was that night.
- Change- Whilst Eisenhower was still fairly popular; he still represented the old guard. Nixon did too- older, more reserved, a fixture in US politics for decades. Contrast with Kennedy, who whilst he had spent 13 years on the Hill, was not nearly as experienced as Nixon. Whilst experience is obviously important, being a long time politician often makes someone stale, as though they’ve been disconnected from reality for years- see 2016 election.
- Civil Right-As Bob Dylan sang a few years later, the times they are a changing. Civil rights were becoming a huge part of American society, with the Dr. Reverend Martin Luther King shaping up to be an influential leader. Whilst the Republican Party was known as the part of abolishing slavery, the African-American community had shifted towards Democrats under the Roosevelt administration. Whilst Nixon had a good reputation on civil rights during his later term, and advocated for Native-American rights due to his high school gym teacher, he didn’t seem overly enthusiastic. Contrast with Kennedy, who risked alienating his Southern Democrats by advocating for more civil rights. His main goal was scored only a week before the election. King had been arrested in Georgia, after a sit-in with fellow activists. There was uproar, due to the peaceful nature and his popularity, and Kennedy seized the opportunity by placing a telephone call to Coretta, the wife of Dr. King. His brother, and eventual Attorney-General, Bobby Kennedy got King released. This caused huge waves of news, and Kennedy was painted as sympathetic to the movement.
1964- Johnson v Goldwater
After the tragic death of Kennedy, the exuberant Texan Lyndon B. Johnson took over as President. He was allowed a year in office before the election, during which he passed legislation such as the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. As well as tax cuts and other legislation, Johnson’s slogan was ‘A Great Society.’
Barry Goldwater, an Arizonian Senator and libertarian hero, lost by a landslide. Johnson, to his credit, ran a hell of a campaign, but so did Goldwater. In the end, he only had 52 electoral votes to Johnson’s incredible 486. What happened?
- Kennedy- The nation was stunned when Kennedy was cut down by an assassin’s bullet on that fateful day in November 1963. Even if some didn’t like him, he was still relatively popular, and the death of the nation’s leader brought the USA’s citizens together. Johnson managed to pass Kennedy’s pet projects in Congress, and spoke fondly of the man. Essentially, Johnson was just piggybacking from Kennedy, taking advantage of the sadness that the people still felt over the loss of a beloved leader.
- Civil Rights- Strangely for a Southern Democrat, Johnson was an advocate for civil rights, and was even pushier about the issue than Kennedy. Goldwater, however, was not, at least in legislative terms. If one reads his ‘Conscience of a Conservative,’ Goldwater states (paraphrasing here) that he strongly believes in racial equality (MLK himself stated that he did not believe Goldwater as a racist), he was strongly opposed to legislation- he absolutely abhorred the 1964 Civil Rights Act. He wanted society to change, not for it to be changed. At this point, civil rights were extremely important in the American psyche. Legislation had not reached its full potential, but Americans seemed to start to want it.
- Campaigning- The first of the three major campaign strategies against Goldwater occurred when a magazine published that many psychiatrics in the US had called Goldwater crazy, and that he was not mentally sound enough for the Presidency- creating the Goldwater rule. It may not have not been completely damaging, but mental health awareness in that time was almost nonexistent, and him having mental health issues would have tanked his campaign. Secondly, there was that catchy slogan- ‘In Your Guts, You Know He’s Nuts,’ the Johnson reply to Goldwater’s ‘In Your Heart, You Know He’s Rights.’
Finally, the 1964 campaign followed the Bay of Pigs invasion and Cuban Missile Crisis, right in the middle of the cold war. One day, Johnson dropped the infamous ‘Daisy’ advert. In the advert, a young girl plays with a daisy, plucking off the petals. As she counts down to 9, the voice changes to a man initiating a nuclear launch code. There is a flash, and the video finishes on a nuclear mushroom. Goldwater was a huge hawk on foreign policy, and there was the implication he was willing to use nuclear weapons. He was never mentioned in the Johnson ad, everyone knew what it was- and in a time where nuclear destruction was a very real possibility, it created fear in parents, and in everyone.
1968- Nixon v Humphreys
It seemed as though Nixon would never come back from that tight 1960 election, but lo and behold, he did. The sour, uncharismatic former VP managed to win by a margin of 110 votes, taking 32 states. With Maryland Governor Spiro Agnew as his running mate, Nixon swept to victory.
Humphrey, like Nixon, was an established VP, experienced in politics and had the boost of being fresh from the job. So why did he lose?
- The Johnson Effect- Johnson was rapidly losing popularity. Whilst popular, especially amongst progressives, on a domestic front, there was the little issue of the Vietnam War (which we will get onto later). The war was hugely unpopular (maybe why Goldwater’s push for Vietnam lost him votes), and people thought that Humphrey, as Johnson’s VP, would just be continuing. It’s a plausible theory, as many expect figures who are the same party as the incumbent to be continuing their policies. This is especially true with VPs (which is why Bush won in ’88), and sometimes Cabinet members (Secretary Clinton in ’16). Therefore, Humphrey had the stigma of a hugely unpopular President attached to him- Johnson himself was eligible to run, but chose not to because of this.
- George Wallace- Some will know Wallace from history- like the Stand in the Schoolhouse Door of 1963, and the assassination attempt in the next election year, or remember him from when Forrest returned the book to the African-American girl in Forrest Gump. In 1972, he won 5 states in the American Independent Party. A notorious segregationist who didn’t renounce his racism until later in life, Wallace may have taken votes from Humphrey. Remember that the Democrat Party was the party of the South at this time, and that segregation, however informal, was a part of their life. Yes, Nixon gained a lot of Southern seats, starting the Republican South, but there would still be Democrat loyalists- even with Johnson’s programme of civil rights. This meant that he had the potential to steal Humphrey’s votes.
- Vietnam- ‘Hey, Hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?’ This chant haunted Johnson, even when he was at home. The Vietnam War had started in the 50s, but it wasn’t seriously escalated until the Johnson administration. Even though most Americans would have been vehemently anti-Communist, many questioned why they were fighting a war thousands of miles away, one not related to them, where most would have no knowledge about. Over 50,000 US soldiers were KIA, which is a huge amount in any war. People questioned why their sons, brothers, husbands etc were being slaughtered needlessly, whilst others were horrified at the massacres against the innocent people of Vietnam. It could even rival Iraq as the most unpopular in American history. Nixon campaigned on a de-escalation of the conflict, and even if Humphrey fought hard against Vietnam, he was part of the administration which sent thousands of GIs to die. In the end, it killed Humphrey’s chances.
1972- Nixon v. McGovern
In 1972, incumbent Richard Nixon ran again, as he was eligible for one more term. Having recovered some popularity with the electorate, he continued with his first term VP, Spiro Agnew of Maryland.
Nixon won by an absolute landslide, something not even Reagan could manage. By gaining 520 electoral votes, he holds the record for them, and ties with Reagan for most states won- a whopping 49, McGovern stealing Massachusetts and DC. Why did McGovern lose?
- Economy- Inflation was an incredible 47% when Nixon came to office in 1969, and his prime focus was on reducing it. This included suspending dollar convertibility, a 10% import surcharge and freezing wages and prices. It was incredibly hard to pass because of a Democratic controlled Congress. This was extremely successful- the stock market had a record day rise, at 33 points. Americans felt protected, and the Democrats could offer no credible alternative.
- Foreign Policy- Though the Vietnam War had not yet ended, Nixon had taken credible steps to end it, and it was winding down, with direct US involvement finishing the next year, and the Fall of Saigon ending it officially in 1975. A hugely unpopular war, Nixon gained popularity for finally ending US involvement. Furthermore, his 1972 visit to China, still ruled by Mao, allowed for improved Sino-American relations, as Mao liked Nixon and considered him more impressive than Kissinger and other Americans. US-Soviet relations were also improved, as Nixon made an attempt to defrost the Cold War.
- Broken Democrats- Though McGovern won the nomination, many of the establishment was angry- he’d won through grassroots support. Hubert Humphrey actually won more votes in the primaries, and George Wallace was not too far behind. Humphrey used the rallying cry of ‘amnesty, abortion and acid’ to describe McGovern, trying to discredit his liberal views in more conservative Midwestern states.
1976- Ford v Carter
Gerald Ford never expected to be President, he dreamed of being Speaker. Vice President for 8 months, he’d replaced Spiro Agnew, who had resigned to avoid corruption charges. Watergate was really kicking off at this point, and he found himself as President when Nixon resigned. Ford had known it was coming after more damaging tapes were released, but it was still unexpected.
In 1976, the incumbent lost to Jimmy Carter, a fellow nice guy from the other side. Incumbents usually have a distinct advantage, but Carter won by a neat margin, even if Ford got more states.
- Campaign Blunders- Ford’s steady lead fell when he made a blunder regarding the Soviet Union, stating that Eastern Europe was not dominated by it, also insisting Poland that did not feel dominated by the Soviets. He was immediately mocked, and even worse, he stuck by his words for at least a week. Furthermore, his WW2 veteran ticket mate, Bob Dole, called all 20th century wars ‘Democrat wars,’ and that the casualties were the size of cities. He came across as harsh and cold, especially against Mondale.
- Ford’s Unpopularity- Ford presided over a term of unprecedented economic decline, with the economy in his term tanking hard at many points. Unfortunately for him, he was unable to properly handle it, and many Americans were feeling the pinch. The Republican Party was unpopular (Watergate had damaged the Party), but more importantly, he was still hugely criticised for the Nixon pardon, which had dogged him throughout his term. Even to this day, years after his death, it is his legacy.
- Watergate- Ford had no involvement with Watergate, and is seen by many as a much better man than his predecessor. Unfortunately, Watergate was when America lost respect for its highest office, and the Republican Party, so Ford was tarnished with that brush. Of course, his pardoning of Nixon made it worse, but even if he hadn’t, Watergate was still on America’s mind.
1980- Reagan v Carter
After 4 years, Carter had a similar legacy to Ford. He was a nice man, loved his country and its people, but was just not the right man for the job. The economy, like under Ford, was not too great, and America was tired. Ronald Reagan, a deep conservative, managed to attain 44 states and 489 electoral votes, meaning Carter lost by a landslide.
Let’s delve deeper, shall we?
- Economy- Unemployment was high, and so was inflation. Carter had been stuck with ‘stagflation’- high unemployment, inflation and slow growth. America was not growing, and Carter wasn’t helping too much either. Furthermore, the 1979 energy crisis was a huge issue in his term. When Iran’s government changed, the produce of oil dropped, creating low supply but high demand and even higher prices. Americans panicked, wasting oil as they queued up for hours to get gas in their cars.
- Iran- For those who have seen the film Argo, you may be somewhat familiar with this story. During the revolution, a group of Iranian fundamentalist students attacked the American Embassy in Tehran, holding its workers hostage, with a few escaping. An attempt to free the hostages failed, killing soldiers. Eventually, the release was negotiated but the Iran decided on one last kick in the teeth- they were released minutes after Reagan’s inauguration, making sure that it didn’t occur in Carter’s administration.
- Invasion of Afghanistan- In 1979, the Soviets invaded the nation of Afghanistan. Horrified, Carter, supported by newly elected PM Margaret Thatcher, took a hard-line approach, which included sanctions and boycotting the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Unfortunately, his aid to Pakistan fell through. Fraud was rife in the aid system, and weapons often did not reach the Afghan resistance, making Pakistan a place of terrible violence.
1984- Reagan v Mondale
Reagan won by a landslide, taking 49 states and nearly all of the electoral votes- leaving former VP Walter Mondale with only 13. It is the biggest landslide in American victory, even if one includes the unanimously elected George Washington. No one doubted that the Americans wanted Reagan.
Why did Mondale fail so spectacularly and why did Reagan win so incredibly?
- Reagan- Reagan was a popular guy, and scholars still rate him highly. Essentially, Reagan kick started the conservative revolution, or ‘Reagan Revolution.’ To this day, conservatives essentially worship the man, even if they differ on economics. He also created the ‘Regan Democrats,’ blue-collar workers who would formerly vote blue, but had gone to the conservatives, an issue patterned in 2016 with Donald Trump and the rust belt.
- Campaign- Reagan’s ‘Morning in America’ is probably the most famous federal election in American history, perhaps rivalled by the infamous ‘Daisy’ advert discussed above. Known was the ‘Great Communicator,’ Regan’s status as a former actor gave him star appeal, and he was hugely charismatic. His joke about his age is one of the most legendary quips in a Presidential campaign, even getting a laugh out of Mondale. Conversely, Mondale failed to gain momentum, and his choice of Geraldine Ferraro became problematic when she became marred in controversy.
- Economy- Regan did everything he could for the struggling economy, with his version of economics ‘Reaganomics.’ By cutting taxes and fighting labour unions that were holding the country to ransom (see the famous PATCO incident), Reagan showed a tough stance. The Americans were rewarded with a reduction in inflation which had dogged Carter, as well as growth in GDP.
1988- Bush v Dukakis
Reagan’s VP, and father to a future President, and nominee (please clap for Jeb), Bush had enjoyed a golden career in politics. Even though he and Reagan didn’t get on personally, Bush took a low-level role as VP, often refusing to criticise Reagan. He was rewarded with two terms as VP, before he was nominated once Reagan’s term had expired.
Winning by a health majority, we look at why Bush beat Governor Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts.
- Reagan- Even though Reagan had been somewhat tarnished by the Iran-Contra scandal, he was still popular, having left office with high opinion ratings similar to FDR and later Clinton. As Bush avoided conflict with Reagan over their 8 years together, he was seen as an ally of Reagan, which helped him retain blue collar states and the conservatives, even though Bush himself is commonly seen as a moderate Republican.
- Campaign- Two things stuck against Dukakis, both of them related to crime. He was attacked through the famous ‘Revolving Door’ ad, which pointed to Dukakis’ soft stance on crime, with convicts going in and out of prison in the video. This related to the infamous Willie Horton case, where a murderer (Horton) was released on furlough for the weekend, where he assaulted a man, stole his car, tied up a man and then raped his fiancée in front of him. Most famously, however, came a question at a debate. Dukakis was asked if he supported the death penalty for a man who metaphorically raped and murdered Kitty Dukakis, the Governor’s wife. His response, that he always opposed the death penalty, followed by his reasons why, were hugely unpopular, as he came off as not caring about his wife. Dukakis himself said it lost him the election.
- Weakness- Though a long serving governor with success in his state’s economy, his stance on crime was questioned, as was his defence- hugely important, as the Cold War would not end for another couple of years. He promised to weaken programmes from under the Reagan administration, and also hugely mocked for his famous ‘tank’ photo, for which he was mocked even on the scene.
1992- Clinton v Bush
After the success of the first Gulf War, Bush’s future seemed bright. His approval ratings were the highest in history, only beaten 10 years later when his son responded well domestically to the 9/11 attacks. The Soviet Union had dissolved, and the Berlin Wall had fallen. Unfortunately for him, the honeymoon period was over, and it showed.
Bill Clinton, a young and charismatic Democrat did a JFK, beating an incumbent Republican. So how did Clinton do so well?
- It’s the Economy, Stupid- On a domestic front, Bush wasn’t doing so well. The economy was not doing so well, as there had been an inherited deficit from the Reagan years. Infamously, Bush had stated ‘read my lips: no new taxes.’ Nobody likes high taxes on themselves, and low taxation is a very Republican (and conservative) policy, so when Bush went back on his word and jacked up taxes, there was uproar from his base.
- Campaigning- Clinton is a charismatic man, no doubt about that. In the campaign, he made sure to meet many voters, including a bus tour into his schedule. Contrastingly, many believe that Bush’s campaign was half-hearted, and that the elder candidate didn’t put enough energy into it. One such example came at a debate. Clinton spoke earnestly, going right up to the person asking the question and answering them directly. Bush, however, kept looking at his watch, seemingly bored- seen as extremely disrespectful to the audience.
- Perot- Third party campaigns never do hugely well- with Teddy Roosevelt’s bid doing the best, but this was a hugely influential one. Ross Perot, a billionaire Texas salesman, entered the race, critical of the main parties. Though he did not win any electoral votes, he managed an impress 19% of the vote. Though Clinton was a fiscal conservative, his message of deficit reduction and making the government more efficient was a Republican message, even if his other views- such as tax increases and being pro-choice- were not. Perot got more votes from Republicans and Independents, indicating he’d stolen votes from them, not the Democrats as a rule.
1996 – Bush v Dole
Things initially weren’t going great for Bill Clinton, especially when Republicans gained control of both Houses in the middle of his first term in the so-called ‘Republican Revolution’ headed by the author of ‘Contract with America’ Newt Gingrich. Soon enough, however, he gained traction, and managed to win.
Let’s see why Dole lost.
- It’s the Economy, Stupid (Part 2) – Under Bill Clinton, the economy started improving, with the dot com bubble beginning to grow under his term. A fiscal conservative, he cut taxes for millions of low income families and SMEs, but showed his Democrat colours by raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans. He also signed NAFTA, allowing for free-trade, a policy popular with Republicans, but polarising in his own party.
- Crime- Nearly everyone wants the government to be tough on crime, mostly in terms of imprisonment, though others will prefer rehabilitation. Clinton expanded the death penalty, something hugely controversial in most modern nations, but something normal in America, and something that shows toughness on crime. Furthermore, he signed a 1996 bill to curb illegal immigration, something that many people in the USA want cut, in whichever way.
- Youth v Experience- Bob Dole, a WW2 veteran, was 73 years to Clinton’s youthful 50. In campaigns, Clinton seemed youthful and excited, ready to engage as he had four years previously. Nothing that attacks on Reagan’s age didn’t work, Clinton avoided them, instead calling his ideas old as opposed to his person.
2000-Bush 43 v Gore
Though it was the second closest election in history (1960 beat it), it always seems like the closest. The recount in Florida was controversial- especially as Bush’s brother, Jeb (please clap) was Governor of the state, and its closure by the Supreme Court even more so. It’s another 2016- the one with the fewer popular votes won, and controversially so.
So why did Bush pip Gore to the post?
- Clinton- Clinton left office with high approval ratings and approval from experts, similarly to Reagan. Unfortunately, one thing managed to stick slightly to Slick Willie- sex scandals. His relations with Monica Lewinsky, an intern young enough to be his daughter, was infamous. It wasn’t his only scandal- Paula Jones and Gennifer Flowers came forward, along with others, but he wasn’t nearly impeached by those. Bush promised integrity and a return of dignity to the White House- he had a loving family, one who had helped him stop drinking heavily. The son of a former President, and part of a political dynasty, he knew the stakes.
- Compassionate Conservatism- Similarly to David Cameron, who used compassionate conservatism to rebrand the party to win in 2015, Bush’s implication of being more moderate than the likes of Reagan portrayed a compassionate image. Before 9/11, he had planned to focus on education, something his librarian wife was passionate about, and he focused on this in the campaign, promising to drive up standards. He also pushed for helping minorities, who usually voted Democrat (especially African-Americans and non-Cuban Hispanics), though like many Republicans, he opposed quotas and affirmative action.
- Florida- The recount was a factor. Florida is very interesting, as it’s a swing state- sometimes Democrat, sometimes- like in 2016- Republican. At the time, it had 2 Democratic senators, but only 1 Congressman to the Republican 5, as well as a Republican Governor. It is a split between more conservative Hispanics and Whites against the liberals, as well as other minorities. It looks like Bush would have won anyway even if the recount went forward, but it most definitely helped him.
2004- Bush 43 v Kerry
In 2001, three planes crashed into buildings in the USA, and another- likely aimed at the White House or Capitol Building, was downed by the brave passengers. What happened next was one of the biggest and most controversial foreign policies in American history. Honestly, it overshadowed anything domestic. Whilst Afghanistan was by no means small, Iraq was the big one.
We all know the legacy of the war, so how did Bush manage a second term?
- Iraq- Though the Iraq War was never exactly beloved, it still held approval ratings above 50% at varying points between its start and the 2004 election. Bush’s speech endorsing it gave it its initial popularity, and a small majority believed that military invasion was the way forward. It was from 2005 that the approval ratings went into freefall, so one can infer that if Bush was eligible for a third term in ’08, he would have lost soundly due to its sheer unpopularity, even amongst House Republicans who voted for it. A few days before the election, a clip was played on al Jazeera, from Bin Laden, who taunted Bush about his 9/11 reaction, which increased his lead.
- The Personalities- Ok, Bush was a gaffe master, beating out Joe ‘Bunch of Malarkey’ Biden and perhaps even Dan ‘Potato/Potatoe’ Quayle. Kerry, however, had controversy from Vietnam- he had served, but after he returned, he became a noted anti-war activist, appearing before the Senate on a few occasions. The Bush campaigned pushed this issue, with his opposition questioning the legitimacy and record of his time. Though the Vietnam War is not popular, America loves its veterans. Kerry, going against impartiality for a moment, is also an incredibly boring speaker.
- Kerry- Bush is known for his gaffes, but he takes after his mother when it comes to put downs. When listing the countries in the tiny 2003 coalition, Kerry forgot a certain European country, to which Bush replied ‘you forgot Poland.’ With only 4 members of the coalition, it was decided to attack Bush, but it bounced back onto Kerry, who was made to look stupid. He also made a comment about Vice President Dick Cheney’s daughter Mary when talking about gay rights, as she is a lesbian. Cheney attacked him for using his daughter’s sexuality for political purposes.
2008- Obama v McCain
In 2008, the Iraq War was deeply unpopular, but Bush was saved by the term limit. Now was the time for change. In the primaries, it was either going to be a woman- Hillary Clinton, or an African-American- Barack Obama, for the Democrats. Up against him was John McCain, a war hero and moderate Republican.
Barack Obama made history when he became the first African-American President, with a Catholic Vice President to boost. How did he achieve this?
- Image- Obama was young, fair faced and African-American. A former Senator and congressman, he represented a new era. All previous presidents had been white men, and when Obama was born, he wouldn’t have had equal rights as an African-American (though technically mixed, as his late mother was white). To many, this was the culmination of many years of change- whether they voted for him or not, it was a historical moment. Comparatively, McCain was ‘pale and male,’ a typical white Republican who many tired of. Sarah Palin, McCain’s ticket mate, was initially popular, but she fell short after it was shown she was out of her depth after some very odd interviews. Experience was going against youth and excitement, and McCain just didn’t have that momentum.
- Iraq- In terms of foreign policy, McCain is probably the biggest hawk in the House, and perhaps one of the biggest in the Republican Party. At this point, the Iraq War was hugely, huge unpopular, its approval ratings at an all time low, mirrored by Bush’s. McCain had supported the initial conflict, and also wanted it to be escalated, as compared to Obama, who had always opposed it.
- Recession- In 2008, bank Lehman Brothers went into bankruptcy, after lending to too many people who couldn’t afford mortgages. This, along with other factors, led to the biggest recession since the Great Depression. As many Americans found themselves losing their jobs and feeling the pinch, they looked for answers. McCain was also seen as out of touch, especially when asked when how many houses he had, which he responded to with ‘you’ll have to ask my staff.’
2012- Obama v Romney
The 2012 election was a lot closer than the 2008, with Obama getting a lower share of the popular vote and fewer electoral votes. It had been a heavy time- the economy was still undesirable, the Arab Spring had ignited, and race-relations were at a low and Sandy Hook, an incident which killed young children.
Romney had a chance, so why did he not manage to pull the reigns from Obama?
- Economy- In 2012, the economy was still recovering. In 2009, Obama signed a major stimulus bill, worth $787 billion, controversial to the fiscal conservatives; luckily, the Republicans had a minority in the House at this point. Furthermore, he set out to bailout certain industries, and set taxes at the lowest level for years. Whilst the economy was still not great, it at least looked as though he’d helped out.
- Voter Engagement- If 2008 was the start of the social media election, 2012 was really it. The Obama campaign was praised for its competence in technology, using it to make voting models, reach out to the young and create a wider social media footprint. Mostly, Obama did not reach out for independents and swing voters, instead focusing on the demographics that were becoming wider in society. Capitalising on his popularity with groups such as African-Americans (90%+ voted for him), young people and women, he reached out to those groups to vote for him, possibly saving him the election.
- Gaffes- This seems to be a popular theme. In this case, they both came from Romney. Firstly, there was when Romney was questioned on his plans to have women in high positions. His response ‘binders full of women’ was seen as sexist and out-of-touch, acting as though they were tokens to be selected. What was even more damaging, however, was a leaked video footage by a young worker at a restaurant. He made comments about the ‘47% of people on welfare,’ who would support Obama unconditionally, and who he didn’t care about because they were never going to make their own way. This was widely condemned, as it was him being seen as being elitist, rude against the poor and uncaring about a wide segment of the population he promised to care for. Essentially, this probably lost him the election.
2016- Trump v Hillary Clinton
Oh, 2016, that was an election. Everyone expected Hillary Clinton, the powerful former Secretary of State, Senator and First Lady, to win. On the night, Washington Post said she had a 95% chance of winning, and many expected to see the first woman President on that night.
No one really expected Donald Trump to do well. When he first announced his candidacy, many assumed that it was a joke. Then he started gaining momentum. He got the nomination. Then, like Phil Collins, against all odds, he won. How? The 2016 election is the most interesting, but in the interest of fairness, we shall have to narrow it down to three.
- A new type of vote- Ah Brexit, many thought you were going to be the biggest political event in 2016. What Brexit did was pull out the new voters, people who felt disenchanted who on the day thought ‘wait a second, I can vote on this.’ This is exactly why Trump swept the rust belt states like Pennsylvania. These blue collar workers felt tired, the Republicans and Democrats had let them down, and they felt Obama’s economic success had left them behind. With Trump, they had answers. They felt they could get their jobs back, as though places like the steel mills could live up to their former glory.
- Action- Whether you agree with Trump or not, at least he was steadfast in some of his ideas. The wall answers the important question of illegal immigration, something that is a huge concern to many Americans, considering the state of their immigration system. Further to that was the temporary Muslim ban. He also promised lower taxes and deregulation on industry to get the country working. Though he did not offer a proper replacement of Obamacare, the promise of replacement was there, and more likely due to a Republican Congress.
- Hillary- In an attempt to be impartial, I will not be too harsh on Mrs. Clinton (I will be saving that for a later article). Simply put, she is not popular. Even many Democrats believe that she is not a good politician, or even a good person. From the Benghazi scandal to the emails, she is not trusted on major areas of policy. Her persona is not exactly warm either, and many accuse her of being disingenuous. It seems to many that she didn’t want to be President to change things (or be their champion, as she put it), she just wanted to be President. In the end, Hillary Clinton, person or politician, is not a brand accepted by the American people, who want an end to the dynasties of old (maybe why Jeb- please clap- didn’t do too well). Trump may not hide his brashness and tough exterior, but Clinton doest pretend to be something she’s not. The American people saw through her.