What happened to the electoral college blowouts?

I was in elementary school the last time a Presidential candidate claimed more than 400 electoral votes. So from my perspective, it seems like the Democrats always win certain states, the Republicans others, with a relatively small handful of swing states deciding the election. But apparently this is a recent phenomenon. In the 20th century, a candidate claiming 400+ electoral votes was the norm, not the exception. Even 500+ EVs was not unheard of.

Here’s a list:

Year – EV total of winner
2004 – 286
2000 – 271
1996 – 379
1992 – 370
1988 – 426
1984 – 525
1980 – 489
1976 – 297
1972 – 520
1968 – 301
1964 – 486
1960 – 303
1956 – 457
1952 – 442
1948 – 303
1944 – 432
1940 – 449
1936 – 523
1932 – 472
1928 – 444
1924 – 382
1920 – 404
1916 – 277
1912 – 435
1908 – 321
1904 – 336
1900 – 292

Even with all the conditions working in his electoral favor (tremendously unpopular current President, floundering economy, unpopular war waged by the current administration, etc.) the most optimistic projection for Barack Obama is high 300 EV numbers like Clinton had.

My question is, what the heck happened? Did America become far more polarized, and if so, why? Or have the candidates become more moderate, so that neither one ever seems that bad to the majority of the electorate? Or am I wrong in thinking that map-sweeping blowouts like Reagan in '84 or Nixon in '72 are essentially impossible in today’s political climate?

Since the subject is politics and there’s unlikely to be a single definitive answer, I took a guess and stuck this in Great Debates.

Why, a crackdown on party activity on campus, of course! :smiley:

You may be seeing it this time, but my guess is that a few big states became reliably D and Texas and and a host of rural areas reliably R. Some of that was a result of district border manipulations, some a result of different parties glommiing onto wedge issues and creating culture wars.

In today’s divided America it is hard for a Democrat to win a Texas and and Republican to pull off NY and/or California.

Reagan and Nixon both took California, but they were California residents -Reagan was Governor and Nixon was a Rep/Senator. And because of California’s 55 EVs, if the Republicans take it, it makes the victory a blowout.

There’s more to it than that. In '84 Reagan won every state except Mondale’s home state of Minnesota. In '72 Nixon won every state except Massachusetts.

Those results would be utterly inconceivable today. Wouldn’t they?

My take was there was a period starting with Nixion when the South began to drift away from the Dems, but when places in the NE and West Coast were still open to the GOP. This gave the Republican’s the chance to get basically every state. Today, New England and the West Coast are reflexively Dem while the deep South and Great Plains states are solidly Republican, so even a popular president of one party or the other is likely to pry away every state from his opponent.

Don’t forget the huge population shifts.

New York went from being #1 state in 1960 and will probably be 4th by the 1990 census. Florida and Texas climbed to the top and California took over number 1 by 1964

Illinois had a series of bad Republicans with scandals. The ex governor is in prison now. This had shifted Illinois solidly in Democratic country where it was pretty much 50/50 before.

America is basically a slightly to the right center country when it comes to politics. People are not voting for Obama cause they like him. They are against GW Bush. The same way Nixon benefited in 1968 because people hated Johnson so much they voted against Humphrey

Welcome to the future, time traveler! :wink:

I believe NY will still be the third-most populous state in 2010, according to projections. Looks like it’ll lose electoral votes, though. But I think your theory about Obama is far off-base. He’s certainly benefited from Bush’s unpopularity, but I don’t think the facts support your idea at all. You could’ve said it pretty safely about Kerry, though.

The Big Sort

It’s quite conceivable that a competent, well-liked Republican could win a similar blowout. Reagan was immensely popular and the United States was doing very well in 1984, and the Democrats nominated Walter Mondale, who, while he was a very fine man, was widely (and correctly) assumed to be a sacrificial lamb. Reagan and Bush were not evangelicals. So why couldn’t they win northern states?

A similar Republican candidate could probably do the same.

However, I am not sure that, as it stands, a Democratic candidate could win states heavily influenced by hard-core fundamentalists, like Utah. So while I think you could have a red wipeout I don’t think you could have a blue wipeout.

Barack Obama has a chance at being in the high 300s, though. Some of the recent state polls indicate McCain could lose some more states.

I think this is the result of having more and more information about voters. Candidates stake out positions that try and maximize their share of voters. Go too far right or left and your lose moderates. They are constantly titrating their positions. I don’t think you’ll see many landslides in the future (especially in the popular vote).

I’m sorry, but this is nonsense. Obama’s supporters have polled very high in saying they like him and are inspired by him. Certainly I feel that way as well, and every Obama supporter I know feels similarly. None are voting for Obama just because they hate Bush: no one I know, at all.

Many people who disapprove of Bush have little problem voting for McCain, assuming they self-identify as Republicans. Clearly a significant portion of American voters are in this camp.

As for the OP: I think abortion is the most divisive issue since slavery. It divides the nation in ways that cause people to vote against their own economic interests. It has enabled some conservatives to convince themselves that they are the moral and righteous side of America. It’s gone far enough that some insist in public that people who aren’t Republicans aren’t real Americans, aren’t patriotic, or are even traitors, just because of their political affiliation and stance on abortion. People saying these things are not even fringe loonies in the GOP, they’re people such as the current VP nominee, and include best-selling authors.

That is the political world of America. It’s horrifying in its divisiveness. And I would argue that abortion is the unsolvable problem at the root of it. I would guess that there’s a minimum of 40% of conservatives who–regardless of any other issue they might be sympathetic to, such as worker’s rights–would never vote for a pro-choice candidate; I would similarly guess that there’s a minimum of 40% of liberals who would never vote for a pro-life candidate.

As long as that continues, I doubt we’ll see another Reaganesque-style landslide. Abortion was certainly an issue in Reagan’s day, but in my opinion the sides are more intransigent now on that issue than they were then.

Even for myself, as long as the GOP picks national-level candidates who continue to imply that people who aren’t Republicans are consequently not “pro-America,” as long as conservatives support authors who call liberals “traitors” such that said authors are huge best sellers, I will not vote for a single GOP candidate.

The are many things that divide liberals and conservatives, but nothing, not even the Iraq occupation, creates as much disunity as abortion. As such, I doubt any candidate, not even Barack Obama, can open up a large enough lead to hit 500 EVs.

I don’t think it’s inconceivable on the Republican side, at least some time in the future; but the same wouldn’t apply to the Democratic side.

I’m convinced that a significant number of the 28-33% cohort of Bush die-hard supporters, who have never wavered no matter what he did, simply believe that the Democrats are evil, God-hating, homosexual-agenda setting liberals who are out to take their guns and tax them so high that it makes Supply Side Baby Jesus cry. They really don’t consider an alternative governing party, only variations of Republicans, which is why the GOP primary always looks so much like a race to the bottom.

That doesn’t mean I’m singling out evangelicals for having rigid preferences or anything, I think there’s actually plenty of evidence of cracks appearing in that Coalition.

This wouldn’t happen for the Repubs, either. The hard-core fundamentalist that form the base will not support a middle of the road, non-evangelical canidate. Look at John McCain. He has had to sacrifice alot to get their support and jettisoned the moderate and indepentdent support he started with to hang onto the core who are really voting for Sarah Palin. the person that these core conservatives will vote for would be anathema to the moderates and Liberal Democrats that they would need to pull in 500+ Evs by turning states like NY and CA.

This might be considered something of a hijack but ‘slightly to the right’. Compared to most western democracies the US is a long way to the right. Including most democrats. Since I arrived here I’ve often thought aloud that the democrats are too far to the right to get elected back home

I disagree with those who think the GOP could pull off an electoral landslide. It would seem they could as they are by far the more powerful party. That’s mainly because, as the Party of Plutocracy, they have more resources. But the fight to make the rich richer, even at everyone else’s expense, is never going to be popular. Thus their basic advantage is offset by their agenda. Since they can’t win on the issues they compensate by demonizing the Democrats. Their vast infrastructure amplifies this message and that’s what is making politics so divisive. Abortion is no more intractable than it was a generation ago but the GOP is different. It’s moved far to the right. Outside of extraordinary circumstances, it could win in a landslide only by sacrificing the agenda that makes it so powerful. That’s not going to happen. The GOP is beholden to it’s corporate masters and not the other way around. Corporations may sacrifice in the short term to aid their stooges but they get what they want if the GOP wins by one electoral vote or 2 hundred.

Just my 2sense

I would agree that we’re unlikely to see a major landslide in terms of either popular or electoral votes anytime soon. However, if you had a situation like we have now, where an incumbent president and his party are highly unpopular, the economy and foreign affairs are in the tank, and you had a well-known, charismatic, centrist, and conventional (read older white guy) candidate as the challenger, you could get a lot closer to a 49-1 state blowout.

An interesting election projection site is FiveThirtyEight.com- they use numerous polls and do 10,000 simulations of how the elections might turn out, with each simulation using variations around the polling data to account for the polls’ uncertainties. Right now they estimate that the most likely number of electoral votes for Obama is somewhere between 375 and 380. The average number of winning electoral votes since 1900 is 393, so this election would be pretty close to that average if those projections hold up. If Obama were O’Neil (my generic “conventional” candidate) instead, my guess is that the Dems would carry a few more states rather comfortably, and you would have something much closer to a blowout than we’ll see in a week and a half.

If nothing dramatic happens in the next 10 days then Obama is going to win. If some nut job country like Iran wants to keep popping off about Israel and causes oil to rise again than anything could happen.

I doubt it will be a landslide but people are pissed and are mostly blaming the Republicans. Fine by me, let them take an ass kicking and maybe get back to the basics. The Republican party needs a serious reboot.

Now lets see how badly the Democrats can fuck this up, especially if they get a 60 majority in the senate.

Here is one hint Democrats, Nobody in flyover country is in the mood for more taxes. If you think you have a mandate to raise existing taxes you will pay.

Stay very far away from guns. They kick your ass every single time and will do so again.

I’ve accepted that the Republicans are going to lose big but the Democrats have a long history of fucking up as well.

To go over 400, Obama would have to win Georgia, plus every state he’s more likely to win, including Montana, North Dakota, and Indiana. It’s possible, but it’s a longshot.