No one should have been surprised when Hillary Clinton’s popular percentage in the 2016 was lower than President Obama’s from 2012. In all 13 elections since 1932 when a political party has sought a third or higher term, that party’s nominee has received a lower popular percentage than the party’s nominee from the previous cycle. In those 13 elections the nominee of the party in power lost an average of 7.86 percentage points from the previous election. In addition, the party seeking a third or higher term has won only four of those elections while losing nine of them. Below is a recounting of the 13 elections in question:
2016: 48.02% for Hillary Clinton, down from 51.01% for Obama in 2012.
2008: 45.60% for John McCain, down from 50.73% for Bush in 2004.
2000: 48.32% for Al Gore, down from 49.23% for Clinton in 1996.
1992: 37.45% for George Bush, down from 53.37% for Bush in 1988.
1988: 53.37% for George Bush, down from 58.77% for Reagan in 1984.
1976: 48.01% for Gerald Ford, down from 60.67% for Nixon in 1972.
1968: 42.72% for Hubert Humphrey, down from 61.05% for Johnson in 1964.
1960: 49.55% for Richard Nixon, down from 57.37% for Eisenhower in 1956.
1952: 44.33% for Adlai Stevenson, down from 49.55% for Truman in 1948.
1948: 49.55% for Harry Truman, down from 54.72% for Roosevelt in 1944.
1944: 53.39% for Franklin Roosevelt, down from 54.72% for Roosevelt in 1940.
1940: 54.72% for Franklin Roosevelt, down from 60.80% for Roosevelt in 1936.
1932: 39.65% for Herbert Hoover, down from 58.22% for Hoover in 1928.
We can debate the reasons for the third term decline. Voter fatigue, scandal, or even better candidates from the opposition party may be factors, but there is no doubt that the declines occurred. So, don’t bet on a party seeking a third term.
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