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What 1932, 1980 and 1992 can tell us about 2020

October 29, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

Thomas Balcerski takes a look at the one term presidencies of Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush and writes that each of the failed incumbents demonstrated a fatal character flaw during their reelection campaigns that didn't sit well with voters. Taken together, these embattled incumbents still provide a recipe for electoral disaster in American politics.

(CNN)With the 2020 presidential election less than a week away, the prospect once more looms of a challenger unseating an entrenched incumbent president.

If Democratic candidate Joe Biden were to win when the results are finalized, he would make Republican President Donald Trump just the 11th incumbent in American history to try, but fail, to secure reelection.

In the last century, only three regularly elected incumbents -- Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Carter, and George H. W. Bush -- have lost their reelection bids.

Hoover followed a rigid way of thinking about the Great Depression afflicting the nation in the early 1930s; Carter exhibited a lethargic attitude about the economic malaise of the late 1970s; and Bush seemed out of touch with the problems facing the average American in the early 1990s.

But when such crises occur during a sitting president's reelection campaign, voters have historically turned him out in favor of a challenger offering a new direction for the nation.

Times were flush in America when the nation elected Hoover -- touted as the "Great Engineer" -- as president in 1928.

An unprecedented 40 million Americans voted that November, yielding FDR an even larger popular victory than Hoover had won four years earlier.

As the 1970s yielded to the 1980s, the nation chose a new direction, handing Reagan a resounding victory over the incumbent Carter.

When combined with domestic challenges, such as the Los Angeles riots in the spring of 1992, Bush was the definition of an embattled incumbent president.

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