by Patrick Appel

Alan Abramowitz examines the historical record on presidential turnover:

In the past hundred years, there have been ten presidential elections in which an incumbent president was seeking a second term in the White House for his party with the most recent being 2004. The key distinction here is the number of terms the incumbent’s party has been in office, not the number of terms the individual incumbent has been in office.

Incumbent party candidates have won nine of those ten first term elections. Jimmy Carter in 1980 was the only first term incumbent party candidate in the past century to lose and it took a devastating combination of recession, inflation, and public frustration over the seemingly endless Iran hostage crisis to bring him down.

In contrast to first term incumbents, second or later term incumbents have had a much harder time winning reelection. In the past century, eight incumbents have sought a third or later term in the White House. Four of them won while four lost, including the most recent second term incumbentGeorge H.W. Bush in 1992. And non-incumbents seeking a third or later term for their party have fared even worse. Of the seven non-incumbents seeking a third or later term in the White House for their party, only one was successful. Ironically, it was George H.W. Bush in 1988. 

Nevertheless Abramowitz expects the election to be close.

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