Donald Trump is going to be president. Despite the all-but-certain predictions that Hillary Clinton would win in a landslide, Americans thought differently.
As the media, pollsters and the Democratic Party try to figure out how they got this election so wrong — marijuana won more states than Clinton — it’s good to remember that election upsets aren’t anything knew. In fact, American history is rife with them.
Here’s a few of our favorites:
Truman defeats Dewey
Weeks before the 1948 election, the Washington Star ran a political cartoon showing a distraught President Harry Truman looking at a bulletin board full of dismal headlines about his re-election chances. In the cartoon, Truman’s opponent, Thomas Dewey, stands behind the president, smirking and saying, “What’s the use of going through with the election?” No one thought Truman would win a second term. Dewey was an incredibly popular figure, and Truman also faced open rebellion within his own party as Strom Thurmond made a run as the leader of the racist Dixiecrats.
Despite a near national conviction that he would lose the election, Truman campaigned fiercely in the fall of 1948. And though the Chicago Tribune (in)famously declared that “Dewey Defeats Truman” in its morning-after headline, the count of actual votes showed President Truman had convincingly beat his challenger.
The ‘Corrupt Bargain’
In the presidential election of 1824, another son of a former president had lost the popular vote. In this contest, John Quincy Adams, son of President John Adams, received only 31 percent of the popular vote, while 41 percent of voters had backed his main challenger, Andrew Jackson, with two other candidates splitting the remainder. Though he won the most popular support, Jackson did not have enough Electoral College votes to claim office — giving the House of Representatives the presidential vote.
Speaker of the House Henry Clay, who had come in fourth place as a presidential candidate, rallied support for Adams, and was later appointed by Adams as his secretary of state. Due to Clay’s backing and his subsequent promotion, the House voting for Adams became known as the “Corrupt Bargain.” Four years later, Andrew Jackson would defeat Adams soundly.
Kennedy knocks out Nixon
Vice President Richard Nixon was a likely successor to the popular Dwight Eisenhower. But Nixon’s opponent in the 1960 presidential contest was Sen. John F. Kennedy, one of the most talented young politicians of the 20th century. Boosted by his performances in four debates — the first televised debates in U.S. history — Kennedy narrowly defeated Nixon.
Only 113,000 votes, or less than 0.2 percent of the total votes cast, separated the two candidates, and though Nixon took more states, Kennedy won the Electoral College. He was the youngest president ever elected, and won the closest U.S. presidential election of the 20th century.
Reagan’s late surge
Today, Ronald Reagan’s 1980 defeat of Jimmy Carter seems like it must have been a foregone conclusion. After all, Reagan won 44 out of 50 states and beat Carter by more than 10 percent in the final popular vote tally. But only a week or so before the election, Carter was ahead.
A late October Gallop Poll put the incumbent Carter up by 8 percent among registered voters and by 3 percent among likely voters. But Reagan’s performance in that contest’s only televised debate, held on Oct. 28, changed voters’ minds, and the ground shifted under Carter’s feet. Despite late polls putting him behind, Reagan accomplished a dramatic victory.