The Rushmore Report: Top Five Presidential Upsets

Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump by five points in the latest Real Clear Politics average. While the margin has come down a bit, and though Trump has a slim lead in a few outlier polls, Clinton’s lead has held steady since the debates. Even the recent revelations from her latest email dumps have not erased her lead. Many pundits say the race is over. Not so quick! Consider the top five upsets in presidential election history.

1. Thomas Dewey vs Harry Truman (1948)

The Chicago Daily Tribune headline famously declared “Dewey Defeats Truman,” but the incumbent Democratic president actually won by just over two million votes. The outcome remains the gold standard of foregone conclusions and head-turning upsets. Almost no one predicted a Truman win.

2. Grover Cleveland vs Benjamin Harrison (1888)

Harrison, the Republican nominee, defeated President Cleveland amid claims of voter fraud (sound familiar?) in New York and Indiana. Cleveland won the popular vote by more than 90,000, but Harrison carried the Electoral College, 233-168.

3. John Quincy Adams vs Andrew Jackson (1828)

The huge voter turnout helped defeat the incumbent, Adams, and put a “Westerner” in the White House for the first time. Jackson was the outsider of the day, when most presidents came from Virginia or Massachusetts.

4. John F. Kennedy vs Richard Nixon (1960)

The sitting Vice President was heavily favored throughout the campaign. The election tide turned on Kennedy’s polished good looks and eloquent delivery during the first series of televised national debates available to most of the nation. In the end, it was the Democrat, Kennedy, who won the popular vote by the slimmest of margins – 49.7 to 49.5 percent. The Electoral College went for Kennedy, 303-219. The win produced the nation’s first Catholic president.

5. George H. W. Bush vs Bill Clinton (1992)

The Republican incumbent, Bush, was riding high the year before the election, on the heels of the United States’ victory in Desert Storm. His approval rating peaked at a record 93 percent. But it was Clinton, a Democrat and relative unknown from Arkansas, who proved to be as masterful a politician as the nation had seen since Ronald Reagan. Then there was the third-party candidate, Ross Perot, who tilted the election to Mr. Clinton, by garnering 19 percent of the vote, with most of that coming from Bush’s base vote.

So is Trump leading, two weeks before the election? No.

Can Trump still win? Yes.

It’s happened before – it can happen again.


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