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Past as prologue:  When the GOP takes over the White House

November 16, 2016 by NCC Staff


In the past century, five Republican presidential candidates have taken back the White House after it had been occupied by a Democrat for at least two consecutive terms.  Last week, Donald Trump became the latest GOP candidate to lead a successful campaign in such a manner.

President Dwight Eisenhower

Here is a look at Republicans who took over from an entrenched Democratic regime, with mixed results, since 1916.

1920:  Harding takes over from the Wilson administration

Warren Harding, a compromise candidate for the Republicans, was a Senator and news publisher from Ohio who routed his Democratic opponent, James Cox, by a 404-127 margin in the Electoral College. Woodrow Wilson had spent eight prior years as the presidential incumbent before Harding.  In his little over two years as President, Harding also did little in Washington, and died as he started his re-election campaign in 1923. His Vice President, Calvin Coolidge, and then Herbert Hoover, kept the White House in Republican hands until 1933.

1952: Eisenhower ends the Roosevelt/Truman dynasty

Franklin Roosevelt and his last Vice President, Harry Truman, then kept the presidency in the Democratic Party for five straight terms. Truman was eligible to run again in 1952, but declined after his popularity dropped and there was a lack of enthusiasm for Truman in the early primary season. General Dwight Eisenhower was courted by both parties and he then chose to run as a Republican in the 1952 campaign. Eisenhower won a hard-fought GOP presidential nomination and then easily defeated Adlai Stevenson, twice, in presidential elections.

1968: Nixon takes White House on his second try

Eisenhower’s former Vice President, Richard Nixon, came close to winning the presidency in 1960 against John F. Kennedy. Eight years later, after Kennedy’s death and Lyndon Johnson’s decision to not enter the 1968 presidential race, Nixon was able to defeat Hubert Humphrey. But after an easy re-election campaign against George McGovern in 1972, Nixon was forced to resign in August 1974 during the Watergate Scandal.

2000: George Bush makes history in close election

George W. Bush, the son of the 41st President, George H.W. Bush, won the highly contested 2000 election against Al Gore after the Supreme Court settled a dispute over Florida’s electoral votes. Bush took over the White House from, the man who defeated his father in the 1992 election, Bill Clinton.

2016: Trump upsets Hillary Clinton

Outsider candidate and businessman Donald Trump dominated the GOP primary season with an unconventional campaign and then stunned pollsters with a convincing win over Hillary Clinton in the Electoral College voting for the 2016 campaign.

Also, in the past century, Ronald Reagan was able to defeat a one-term Democratic incumbent, Jimmy Carter, in 1980, after trailing in the polls until late in the campaign. Reagan also used an outsider message and communications skills to reach a wide audience of voters.

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