Thursday, October 09, 2008

Broader Agreement

George Will's column today is notable not just because it opens by citing former Orioles manager Earl Weaver -- a welcome addition to any political pondering. It also points out what a recent thing it is to consider America virulently divided in some eternal 50.1%-49.9% death grip:
Obama is competitive in so many states that President Bush carried in 2004 -- including Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, Colorado and New Mexico -- it is not eccentric to think he could win at least 350 of the 538 electoral votes.

If that seems startling, that is only because the 2000 and 2004 elections were won with 271 and 286, respectively. In the 25 elections 1900-1996, the winners averaged 402.6. This, even though the 1900 and 1904 elections -- before Arizona, New Mexico and Oklahoma attained statehood, and before the size of the House was fixed at 435 members in 1911 -- allocated only 447 and 476 electoral votes, respectively. The 12 elections from 1912 through 1956, before Hawaiian and Alaskan statehood, allocated only 531.

In the 25 twentieth-century elections, only three candidates won with fewer than 300 -- McKinley with 292 in 1900, Wilson with 277 in 1916 and Carter with 297 in 1976. President Harry Truman won 303 in 1948 even though Strom Thurmond's Dixiecrat candidacy won 39 that otherwise would have gone to Truman. After John Kennedy won in 1960 with just 303, the average winning total in the next nine elections, up to the 2000 cliffhanger, was 421.4.


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