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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

November 11: Biden’s Popular Vote Win Is Impressive

Comparing the 2020 presidential election results to its precedents, I wrote up this impression for New York:

Joe Biden’s national popular vote lead over Donald Trump, and his percentage of the total vote, is beginning to look pretty impressive despite how close the Electoral College vote has remained, — and also despite Trump’s increasingly empty claims that he somehow actually won. Biden currently leads Trump by over five million votes, or by 3.4 percent of the total. Both numbers are certain to go higher. His popular vote percentage lead is already higher than that of the popular vote winner in 2016, 2004, 2000, 1976, 1968 and 1960. And with the exception of the two earlier Democratic tickets on which Biden appeared (2008 and 2012), the 50.8 percent of the national popular vote the Biden-Harris ticket has won is higher than that of any Democratic ticket since 1964. And that total could soon eclipse the 51.1 percent Obama and Biden received in 2012.

Biden’s percentage of the national popular vote is also higher than that of any Republican presidential nominee since George H.W. Bush in 1988. George W. Bush’s 2004 victory over John Kerry is remembered as a close race, but not one that was seriously contested. W. won 50.7 percent of the popular vote, prevailing by a 2.4 percent margin. For that matter, the endlessly touted political genius Ronald Reagan took only 50.7 percent of the popular vote when he won the presidency in 1980. The man he beat, Jimmy Carter, was for many years the last Democrat (and the only Democrat since LBJ) to win a popular vote majority (until Obama — and Biden — did so in 2008), He won 50.1 percent of the vote in 1976.

To be sure, Biden didn’t win by anything like a landslide, but efforts to minimize his popular vote numbers don’t bear comparison to other candidates in our often highly competitive two-party system.

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