Friday, October 08, 2004
Andrew Sullivan is pushing numbers arguing that, in the end, this won't be a close race because races with incumbents have historically been blowouts, one way or the other. That's true as far as it goes, but in most of those races, the incumbent was either well ahead (1936-1944, 1956, 1964, 1972, 1984, 1996) through most of the campaign, or well behind (1932, 1992). Cases like this one, a close race throughout the campaign, are much rarer and the evidence is more mixed. In 1948, Truman came from behind to win by 49.6-45.0, not a squeaker, but surely no landslide. In 1976, Carter defeated Ford but only by 50.1 to 48.0. And in 1980, Reagan opened up a close race in the final week and won it 50.8-41.1. So there you have it, in the three races were incumbents were in tight campaigns, the outcome was one near tie, one modest victory, and one blowout. From that evidence I wouldn't want to predict the final margin of victory in this election.