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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / People socially distance while waiting in line to vote at Chattanooga Valley Nazarene Church on Tuesday, June 9, 2020 in Flintstone, Ga.

Perhaps it's years of experiencing presidential elections — age, some might say — that entice people to compare one election with another.

Indeed, when individuals compare anything new they experience with something that happened to them before, they feel more comfortable about the new experience.

The two experiences are never exactly the same, but the similarities offer a point of departure.

Such is the case with November's expected clash between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.

Four months ago, the fall battle was being compared to the 1972 re-election campaign between Republican President Richard Nixon and Democratic Sen. George McGovern. Before Watergate was a blip on the radar screen, the then-president was sailing toward a second term on the strength of bringing home troops from Vietnam and successful forays into China and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. His opponent, meanwhile, was thought by many to be the most liberal candidate ever to receive a presidential nomination.

In the election, Nixon rolled to what was then the largest Electoral College landslide in United States history, 520-17, amassing 49 states to McGovern's one (plus the District of Columbia). His popular vote majority was nearly 18 million votes.

In February, Trump had survived everything Democrats had thrown at him — including a partisan impeachment charge — and, with a roaring economy at his back, appeared headed to an easy victory over the survivor of two dozen Democratic contenders.

Then came the COVID-19 virus, and everything changed.

More recently, with the advent of protests, rioting and looting following the death of a black man at the hands of a white Minneapolis police officer, comparisons have been made to 1968 when Nixon was running for his first term against Vice President Hubert Humphrey.

That year, Nixon ran as the candidate of "law and order," the same phrase Trump is using in saying he plans to prevent "domestic terror" in cities. Nixon, as the "outsider" candidate of the moment (he had been a congressman, senator and vice president), could afford to make the argument. Humphrey, who was in office, was seen as having to "own" the current Lyndon Johnson administration policies, including protests from the then-ongoing war in Vietnam and following the assassinations of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy.

It's a little trickier for Trump, who is in no way responsible for the actions of a Minneapolis policeman but, like Humphrey, is in office and to an extent has to "own" any fallout from the protests and violence following George Floyd's death.

In the election, Nixon defeated Humphrey with a solid Electoral College majority, 301-191 (with 46 votes going to American Independent Party candidate George Wallace), but won only 43.4% of the popular vote to Humphrey's 42.7%, one of the closest elections in U.S. history.

However, we also see parallels to 1992, when incumbent President George H.W. Bush lost to Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton.

In the year before the election, in February 1991, Bush achieved an 89% approval rating following the end of the Operation Desert Storm, which was then the highest ever presidential rating in a Gallup poll.

"There are plenty of problems to go 'round," he wrote his nephew, John Ellis, not long after the Gallup rating, "but the critics can never take away this wonderful feeling of pride and patriotism that has swept the U.S. of A."

As it turned out, they could. A year later, Clinton, who would be the first baby boomer major party nominee, backed by a supportive national press, made voters believe a mild recession was the worst thing since the Great Depression and that Bush, a relic of the Greatest Generation, was woefully out of touch. By the time the election was held, the recession had been over 20 months.

Emblematic of the out-of-touch charge was the oft-cited incident in which the president at a National Grocers Association meeting in Orlando, Florida, remarked, "Isn't that something," at a bar-code reading scanner. The media portrayed the remark as astonishment at the only relatively new technology, but was not the truth, which was — according to then-Chief of Staff John Sununu — a rather dry remark at the scanner being able to read a label that had been torn into five pieces.

Trump in February was like Bush in 1991 and was thought to be a shoo-in for re-election. Biden, who was emerging as the likely nominee when the virus stopped life as we knew it, wasn't relatively little known like Clinton but was as little regarded as the Arkansas governor was then. At 77, he has been a government lifer, has few significant accomplishments to show for such a long career in office and is so gaffe-prone his handlers try to keep him out of the public eye as much as possible.

But, given the virus (like Bush's recession) and the protests (like Humphrey dealt with), Trump is seen as responsible. Time will tell if that responsibility translates into votes for Biden.

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