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21st Century Presidential Elections by Down-Ballot Effect


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I created two new categories in my Presidential Election Landslide Algorithm. One measures downballot effectiveness by measuring the % of of US Sen, US Reps, Govs switched parties in the same election. Another category measures the same divided by voter turnout %, since a high turnout victory is more impressive. 

Here are the 21st century by downballot effectiveness x turnout

  1. Obama def. McCain, 2008
    1. This is by far the most effective election win that translated to downballot victories. It isn't even close. You have to go back to 1980 to find a better one. Huge sweeps in both the US Senate and US House lift Obama's downballot effectiveness to among the better ones all-time. 
  2. Bush def. Kerry, 2004
    1. Despite being #2 here, his score is actually rather middling. 
  3. Biden def. Trump, 2020
    1. While he gets a positive score overall. His lost some US Reps, despite keeping the House. This hurts his score. 
  4. Obama def. Romney, 2012
    1. Similar to Biden's score, except Obama lost a governor. 
  5. Trump def. Clinton, 2016
    1. Believe it or not, Trump has a positive score here, even if barely. Despite loses for his party in both the US Senate and US House, he made some gains in Governorships. 
  6. Bush def. Gore, 2000
    1. This is among one of the historically bad down-ballot elections for a winning president. He had loses in governorships, US Senators, and US Reps. His score is negative. Had Gore won this election, his down-ballot score would be placed behind Obama's victory but above Bush's 2004 victory.

Historically best and historically worst down-ballot victories:

  • Best (w/o x by turnout): FDR def. Hoover in 1932
  • Best (w/ turnout): Lincoln def. Douglas & Breckinridge in 1860
  • Worst (w/o x by turnout): Madison def. Pinckney in 1808
  • Worst (w/ turnout): Cleveland def. Blaine in 1884

Note: Cleveland's situation reflects that many Republicans voted Cleveland rather than for the "scandalous" Blaine, but kept voting Republican elsewhere. Had the scandal not emerged, Blaine probably would have won big. Madison is among one of the worst presidents for his party. Probably a lot of this is due to a lack of charisma and the early stages of the War of 1812. Lincoln's victory was helped with a split in the Democrats. FDR's victory is outstanding by any measure. 

Update to Greatest/Worst Victories of all time

Top 10 Strongest Election Victories:

  1. LBJ def. Goldwater in 1964 (67 pts)
  2. FDR def. Landon in 1936 (66 pts)
  3. Nixon def. McGovern in 1972 (60 pts)
  4. (tie) FDR def. Hoover in 1932 (49 pts)
  5. (tie) Lincoln def. McClellan in 1864 (49 pts)
  6. Reagan def. Mondale in 1984 (46 pts)
  7. Harrison def. Van Buren in 1840 (39 pts)
  8. Harding def. Cox in 1920 (36 pts)
  9. Grant def. Greeley in 1872 (34 pts)
  10. Eisenhower def. Stevenson in 1952 (30 pts)

Top 10 Weakest Election Victories:

  1. Adams def. Jackson in 1824 (-73 pts)
  2. Hayes def. Tilden in 1876 (-56 pts)
  3. Adams def. Jefferson in 1796 (-35 pts)
  4. JFK def. Nixon in 1960 (-34 pts)
  5. Bush def. Gore in 2000 (-32 pts)
  6. Madison def. Clinton in 1812 (-29 pts)
  7. Wilson def. Hughes in 1916 (-25 pts)
  8. Cleveland def. Blaine in 1884 (-23 pts)
  9. Trump def. Clinton in 2016 (-20 pts)
  10. Obama def. Romney in 2012 (-19 pts)

Note: Biden's victory is at -13. Washington's 1792 victory is actually rather weak, despite winning every EV because turnout was only 6% and he lost downballot races. Monroe's 1820 victory suffers from much of the same but to a lesser degree. Obama's 2008 victory and Coolidge's 1924 victory both score 5 pts. This seems about right considering both were rather weak "landslides" but weak for different reasons. Lastly, while Nixon and Reagan had stronger landslides when running for reelection, their initial victories are historically more important as both elections created more historical flips both in states won and in down ballot offices flipped. 



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