Last August, I posted an entry where I hypothesized that the 2016 election would most closely resemble the 1988 election.
While I stand by my reasoning at the time, new information — and the net result of the primaries — has caused me to rethink this position.
Indeed, now that we know that in November, the matchup will be between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, a strong argument can be made that this year is completely without historical precedent. Their respective ages alone can justify this argument.
Every election cycle, we have famous people running for president. But the degree of fame achieved by both candidates prior to their runs is a factor worth noting.
If we factor out years where the incumbent president sought re-election, there are only two years that come even close: 1844 and 1908.
In the former, the matchup was between James Polk and Henry Clay, both of whom had previously been speaker of the house.
In the latter, the matchup was between the departing president’s hand-picked successor (William Howard Taft) and William Jennings Bryan, one of the most famous ministers in the country and someone who had lost the presidency twice previously…
(Note that despite my previous statement about excluding incumbent presidents seeking re-election, I was still tempted to put 1892 in this list, since it was the only time in history that the matchup was between the sitting president and a former president…)
So I’m going to say 2016 will resemble one of those three years. I recently observed that this will be the first time since 1908 that the outgoing president has campaigned on behalf of his party’s chosen successor.
In 1908, William Howard Taft had previously served as Secretary of War and was an accomplished lawyer. That sounds a little like Clinton. William Jennings Bryan was a populist and, some would argue, a demagogue whose base included a lot of evangelical Christians. That sounds a lot like Trump.
It’s not a perfect comparison, I concede, but assuming both Clinton and Trump remain healthy and neither runs into legal troubles, it does look like 2016 will resemble 1908.
Regardless of whether we want this to supersede my blog entry about the 1988 election, though, one thing is true about both the 1908 and 1988 elections: the party in the White House stayed in the White House.
When you figure that many republicans are already looking to 2020, is that so unreasonable given everything else?