Closest Presidential Races in U.S. History

from K-House


The 2004 campaign for the presidency is already in full swing, even before the Democrat contender is officially nominated.  Many Democrats, still feeling that Al Gore was jipped, are ripe to vote for the Democrat no matter who he is as long as he can beat Bush.  With both the Republicans and the Democrats full of emotional fervor, the 2004 election promises to be a heated and hard-fought battle

As set up by the U.S. Constitution, the President of the United States is elected according to the number of votes he receives in the Electoral College, and not by a straight popular vote.  This system ensures that all of the states receive representation in electing the President, and that the smaller or less populated states are not completely drowned out by the larger, more heavily populated states.   In the 2000 election, Al Gore won 50,996,116 popular votes and 266 electoral votes. George W. Bush won 50,456,169 popular votes but received 271 electoral votes and therefore won the election.  The county-by-county map [see link below] of the 2000 election shows the wisdom of the Electoral College system by demonstrating that Bush did win the majority of the country, even though Gore won the high population centers.  However, while the 2000 election was extremely close, it was not alone. There have been several neck-and-neck campaigns throughout U.S. history, and three others in which the man elected received fewer popular votes than his opponent.

*In 1968 Richard Nixon beat Hubert Humphrey by just over 500,000 popular votes.  But, that was nothing to Kennedy's beating Nixon in 1960, by just over 100,000 popular votes. 

*In 1888, Benjamin Harrison won the presidency with 233 electoral votes to Grover Cleveland's 168, even though Cleveland received 90,596 more popular votes than Harrison.   Cleveland did not give up, however.  He came back in 1892 to beat Harrison by a mere 3.1% of the popular vote and with 277 electoral votes, 132 more than Harrison.

*Just a few years prior in 1880, James Garfield handily won the Electoral College vote in his race against Winfield Scott Hancock, but by a mere 1898 popular votes.

*The election of 1876 was one of the most controversial, when Samuel J. Tilden lost to Rutherford B. Hayes by 1 electoral vote, (and having won 254,235 more popular votes than Hayes.)  To settle the dispute, Congress appointed an Electoral Commission with five representatives each from the Senate, the House, and the Supreme Court to decide between the two candidates. One single Republican who favored Tilden was pressured by his party to vote for Hayes instead, and Hayes became the president.  To calm the irate Democrats, the Republicans offered a number of concessions which became known as the Compromise of 1877.

*Perhaps even more contention-filled was the election of 1824, in which Andrew Jackson won both the most popular votes and the most electoral votes.  However, there were four candidates and none had won more than 50% of the Electoral College votes. Therefore, in accordance with the 12th Amendment, the decision was sent to the House of Representatives. One of the four candidates, Henry Clay, threw his lot in with John Quincy Adams and helped persuade the House to vote for Adams, who had received the second largest number of both electoral and popular votes and whom Clay considered a more worthy candidate than Jackson.   Jackson was convinced that he had been cheated out of the presidency and campaigned hard the next four years to beat Adams in 1828.

*The tightest race of all concluded 103 years ago on February 17, 1801, when Thomas Jefferson beat Aaron Burr after 36 stalemated ballots in the House of Representatives. In the election of 1800, Thomas Jefferson had won in the Electoral College against incumbent John Adams but had tied with Aaron Burr. Over five days the House wrestled to decide between Jefferson and Burr as ballot after ballot ended in a tie. Finally, through the persuasive efforts of Alexander Hamilton, who hated Burr, Vermont and Maryland switched their votes to Jefferson and he became the 3rd U.S. President.

America was formed as a country of, for, and by the people, and American citizens hold a great responsibility for the men and women who represent them in their government.  Noah Webster once said, "When you become entitled to exercise the right of voting for public officers, let it be impressed on your mind that God commands you to choose for rulers 'just men who will rule in the fear of God.' The preservation of a republican government depends on the faithful discharge of this duty...If a republican government fails to secure public prosperity and happiness, it must be because the citizens neglect the divine commands, and elect bad men to make and administer the laws." This and every election season, may all U.S. citizens of voting age prayerfully consider and study the candidates, and then go and vote.

Related Links:
  •   2000 County by County Presidential Election Map
  •   Close Races in U.S. History - USA Today
  •   1824: Jackson Invents the Popular Will
  •   John Q. Adams and The Campaign and Election of 1824 -
  •   Election of 1800



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