Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Forget About an Electoral Landslide in 2016

I love going on 270-to-Win in my classes, showing students blowout Electoral College victories, like Richard Nixon's massive destruction of George McGovern in 1972. The map's almost hilariously red.

But then I tell students we don't get those kind of blowouts these days. The country's been pretty clearly divided between party strongholds for almost twenty years. I'll tell you though, unless Donald Trump really makes up some big gains in the key battlegrounds, the Democrats might well expand their map this year.

Still, though, it's not likely to be blowout.

See the New York Times, "Think the Clinton-Trump Race Will Be a Landslide? Hold Your Horses":

Donald J. Trump, after weeks of self-inflicted damage, has seen support for his candidacy in national polls dip into the 30s — Barry Goldwater and Walter F. Mondale territory — while Hillary Clinton has extended her lead to double digits in several crucial swing states.

Time to declare a landslide, right? Not so fast.

The vote may be more favorable to Mr. Trump than the worst-case-scenario prognosticators suggest for a very simple reason: Landslides do not really happen in presidential elections anymore.

It has been 32 years since a president won the popular vote by a double-digit percentage. That was when Mr. Mondale suffered an 18-point defeat to Ronald Reagan in 1984. It was also the last time there was a landslide among states, with Mr. Mondale winning only Minnesota and the District of Columbia.

There are a variety of factors that are likely to prevent a candidate today from rallying the huge, 60-plus-point majorities that swept Franklin D. Roosevelt into office in 1936, Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964 and Richard M. Nixon in 1972.

The country is too fragmented and its political temperature too overheated for any single person to emerge as a consensus choice for anything nearing two-thirds of the electorate. And that climate has led the political parties to become far more ideologically uniform than they used to be.

“The biggest difference between today and say, 1936 or 1964, is the composition of the two parties,” said Jonathan Darman, author of the book “Landslide: LBJ and Ronald Reagan at the Dawn of a New America.” Party identification used to be more fluid, making it less difficult for partisan voters to conceive of supporting someone of the opposite affiliation.

“The Republican and Democratic parties were much more heterogeneous than the parties we have today,” Mr. Darman added. “Party identification had a lot more to do with regional ties and family traditions than ideology.”
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