Elections Since ’88

Recent History

By the time Gov. Romney made his way to the stage, he had intended for a celebration, to delivery one of the least prepared concession speeches in modern Presidential politics, he knew that he had only pulled just two states away from Mr. Obama’s 2008 coalition. And they, Indiana and North Carolina, were uninspiring, having been solidly red for at least a generation before. The successful reelection campaign can lull you into the belief that the political map doesn’t change much, and when it does, it shifts at a geological pace, unobservable over the course of a single life. This is decided untrue.

The Electoral College can lurch wildly, and it has even recently.  Consider George H. W. Bush’s victory in 1988 compared with his loss four years later:  After 12 years in the White House, there was Republican fatigue, a sense that the President was more concerned with a soft landing for the Russian economy than a recession at home, and even Bush’s propensity to appear less in touch than Mr. Magoo when confronted with the majesty of a supermarket scanner.  All were excuses aired the night Mr. Clinton stole 22 states from the President and with them his job, but these scapegoats fail to appreciate that Bill Clinton created a more coherent Democratic vision for the country since JFK and was beginning the 20 year process of molding his party into a larger, more sexually restrained, version of himself.

It is true, and equally saddening, that when incumbent Presidents loss reelection they tend to do so painfully (would you even agree to be President if you knew you would be so thoroughly rebuked by your own people?), but the wave election of the New Democrats in 1992 is by no means an outlier in American history, and in many ways representative of how the Electoral College is often quite plastic.  The map shown above represents the outcomes of each statewide Presidential election of the past 7 Presidential cycles, and a sort of baseline when attempting to peer through he fog that floats between the present and 2016.