Since Republican Abraham Lincoln was elected in 1860, with the exceptions of (a) the turbulent post-Watergate Carter-Ford election of 1976, (b) the Johnson-Goldwater election in 1964 (in which the memory of an assassinated president, John F. Kennedy, was effectively on the ballot) and (c) the four consecutive FDR terms (during which the nation faced both the Great Depression and a world war), no Democratic presidential candidate has carried a majority of the nation's popular vote. That is a span of 144 years, 36 presidential elections and only six electoral majorities (and those only during times of great national tragedy and strife).
So what can we expect from the Democratic Party in the future? Unfortunately, probably more of the same: promoting policies and programs that have repeatedly failed to resonate with a majority of the electorate, and a failure to listen to the majority of voters.
It is sometimes said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. So much for an effective two-party system.
The latest score is presidents 5, senators 0.
Since 1932 senators have lost to incumbent presidents five times out of five: John Kerry to George W. Bush this year; Robert Dole to Bill Clinton in 1996; Walter Mondale to Ronald Reagan in 1984; George McGovern to Richard M. Nixon in 1972; and Barry Goldwater to Lyndon Johnson in 1964.
Governors and former governors, on the other hand, have not been shut out. Since 1932 they have been nominated to run against incumbent presidents eight times, and when they have been nominated, they have batted .500. The four winners were: Mr. Clinton over George H.W. Bush in 1992; Mr. Reagan over Jimmy Carter in 1980; Mr. Carter over Gerald Ford in 1976; and Franklin Delano Roosevelt over Herbert Hoover in 1932.
The four losers were: Adlai Stevenson to Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956; Thomas Dewey to Harry S. Truman in 1948; Dewey to Roosevelt in 1944; and Alf Landon to Roosevelt in 1936.
Only two sitting U.S. senators have ever won the presidency, neither over incumbents: John F. Kennedy in 1960 and Warren Harding in 1920.
Before 1932, in contests between incumbents and senators (or former senators) and governors (or former governors), Charles Evans Hughes, with gubernatorial experience, lost to Woodrow Wilson in 1916; Benjamin Harrison, a former senator, beat Grover Cleveland in 1888; Henry Clay, with both senatorial and speaker of the House experience, lost to Andrew Jackson in 1832; De Witt Clinton, with senatorial and mayoral (New York City) experience, lost to James Madison in 1812. Charles Pinckney, with both senatorial and gubernatorial experience, lost to Thomas Jefferson in 1804. So, counting Pinckney twice, the record was 1-3 for senators and 0-2 for governors.
Every election is unique. Nonetheless, the political advantage of the home-team incumbents against senators is clear, while against governors it is doubtful.
JAMES M. THUNDER