10 September 2012

The electoral tidbit of the "2"


The electoral tidbit of the „2“...

Our elections cycles started with the number 8 (1788) and since the four year presidential calendar in our Union has never once been interrupted (which is unique in the world, btw), then the cycles either have an "8", a „2“, a 6“, a „0“, or a „4“ or  as the end -digit.

The following US-presidential elections have ended in a „2“: 1792, 1812, 1832, 1852, 1872, 1892, 1912, 1932, 1952, 1972, 1992 and soon, 2012. When election 2012 has passed, then 12 election cycles will have happened with a „2“ as the end-digit.

The interesting factoid is that all of these elections were Incumbent re-election campaigns, except both „52“s: 1852 and 1952. So, for 10 of 12 elections in years ending with „2“, an incumbent was on the ballot up-for election. Look:

YearTypeWinning CandidateWinning margin %„Swing“Inc. Win?Notes
1792Inc.Washington (Federalist)EC only---Yes1st President. 1st president re-elected. No popular vote at that time.
1812Inc.Madison (D-R Inc.)EC only---Yes
1832Inc.Jackson (D-inc)+17.81%+5.56%Yes1st President re-elected since inclusion of the popular vote
1852OpenPierce (D)+6.95%------
1872Inc.Grant (R)+11.80%+6.27%YesFirst incumbent to win re-election after the Civil War.
1892Inc.Cleveland (D)+3.01%+2.18%NoCleveland won the PV in 1888, lost in the EC to Harrison. Came back in 1892 to defeat Incumbent Harrison (R) and win a non-consecutive 2nd term.
1912Inc.Wilson (D)+14.44%(+22.97%)NoIncumbent Taft (R) defeated in 3-way election.
1932Inc.Roosevelt, FD (D)+17.76%(+35.18%)No
1952OpenEisenhower (R)+10.85%(+15.33%)---First General to be elected President since Grant.
1972Inc.Nixon (R - Inc)+23.15%+22.45%Yes2nd largest landslide in history by winning %, 4th by % margin.
1992Inc.Clinton (D)+5.56%(+13.29%)NoIncumbent Bush, Sr. ® defeated in 3-way election reminiscent of 1912.

How to get the most out of this table.

The winning margin (%) is self-explanatory. The „swing“ is the difference between the the margin % of incumbent election cycle and the one before. If the „swing“ is in parentheses, then this means that the incumbent did NOT win the election and the winning candidates „swing“ can only be measured as party to party, not name to name. But if you take that „swing“ value and turn it into a negative, then that would be the swing for the incument who lost.


George W. Bush, Sr. won in 1988 against Michael Dukakis by a+7.73% margin in the PV. He lost by -5.56% to Bill Clinton in 1992. This means that Bush's swing was -13.29% personally, as his name was on both ballots, but it was +13.29% for the Democratic Party and not for Clinton personally, as his name was only on the ballot in 1992. We can first measure Bill Clinton's „swing“ in 1996.

As we can all see, the results have been mixed, but it is very interesting to note that 4 of the 6 elections where an incumbent lost (since the inclusion of the GOP in the electoral college in 1856) were in a year that ended with „2“: 1892, 1912, 1932, 1992. Also interesting to note is that all four incumbents who lost in these years were Republicans, not Democrats.

So, it's a mixed bag: of the 10 elections in the „2“ cycle, 4 were incumbent wins, 5 were incumbent losses and 2012 remains to be seen.

This is in no way predictive of 2012, but I thought this factoid would be enlightening to see. In terms of incumbent wins, the „2“ cycle is currently tied with the „4“ cycle: both have 5 incumbent wins apiece. If Obama wins in 2012, then the „2“ cycle will take the lead in this statistic.

Incumbent cycles:

The „0“ cycle: 1800 (Adams / Jefferson) 1820 (Monroe), 1840 (Van Buren / Hayes) 1900 (McKinley), 1940 (FDR), 1980 (Carter/Reagan) (6, 3 wins, 3 losses)

The „4“ cycle: 1804 (Jefferson), 1864 (Lincoln), 1944 (FDR, 4th term), 1984 (Reagan), 2004 (Bush 43) (5, all wins)

The „8“ cycle: 1828 (Adams / Jackson), 1888 (Cleveland /Harrison) (2, both losses)

The „2“ cycle: (see table above – 5 wins, 4 losses 10 incumbent elections total)

The „6“ cycle: 1916 (Wilson), 1936 (FDR), 1956 (Eisenhower), 1996 (Clinton) (4, all wins)

So, enjoy the factoid!

PS. I would not want to be an incumbent running in a year ending with „8“!! Seems to be a bad luck year for incumbents.

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