Big Losers and Donald Trump

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Republican William Howard Taft lost his bid for re-election in 1912 to Democrat Woodrow Wilson , thanks to the candidacy of former Republican president Theodore Roosevelt, who ran on the Progressive ticket. Because of TR’s entry into the race, Taft won only 23 percent of the popular vote (he took 52 percent in the election of 1908), against Wilson’s 42 percent and TR’s 35 percent. Taft’s reverse coattails helped the GOP lose ground in the House and Senate. The GOP, which had won 41 percent of House seats in the election of 1910, dropped to 31 percent in 1912. And in the Senate the GOP went from 54 percent to 46 percent.

The next big loser was Democrat James Cox, who took only 34 of the popular vote in 1920, while Republican Warren G. Harding took 60 percent. With Harding’s big win, the GOP ran its House majority from 55 percent to 69 percent, and its Senate majority from 51 percent to 61 percent.

Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt won re-election in 1936 with 61 percent of the popular vote. FDR’s Republican opponent, Alfred Landon, won only 37 percent. The GOP’s share of House seats dropped from 24 percent to 20 percent. In the Senate, the GOP went from 26 percent to 17 percent. Both results are low-water marks for Republican representation in Congress.

Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson duplicated FDR’s feat by winning in 1968 with 61 percent of the popular vote. Republican Barry Goldwater garnered only 38 percent. The GOP’s shares of House and Senate dropped by 8 percentage points (from 40 percent to 32 percent) and 2 percentage points (from 34 percent to 32 percent).

Republican Richard Nixon won re-election in 1972, taking 61 percent of the popular vote to Democrat George McGovern’s 38 percent. Nixon’s win led to a mild GOP resurgence in the House, from 41 percent to 44 percent. But the GOP lost ground in the Senate, dropping from 45 percent to 43 percent.

The  most recent election that resembled a landslide victory was in 1984, when Republican Ronald Reagan won re-election with 59 percent of the popular vote. Democrat Walter Mondale managed 41 percent. Reagan’s big win helped the GOP increase its share of House seats from 38 percent to 42 percent. But the Senate went the other way, with the GOP share dropping from 55 percent to 53 percent.

It seems that ticket-splitting has become more usual. And that’s a good thing if, as expected, Donald Trump loses to Hillary Clinton in November. It doesn’t seem, as of now, that Trump will be a loser on the scale of Taft, et al., but a loser nonetheless (in two meanings of loser). The only thing that will keep Trump from joining the really big losers is the identity of his opponent, who in saner times would already be in jail — with her husband.

There’s still hope that the Republican convention will yield a nominee other than Trump, but that’s a faint hope at this point.