The Pursuit of the White House: A Handbook of Presidential Election Statistics and History

By G. Scott Thomas | Go to book overview

Preface

Thomas Dewey was a master of New York politics, but was unable to transfer his magic to the national level. His image was tarnished by three unsuccessful campaigns for the Presidency, particularly the complacent 1948 effort that resulted in his unexpected loss to Harry Truman. Dewey's patience was strained, too. "I have learned from bitter experience," he wrote exasperatedly in 1954, "that Americans somehow regard a political campaign as a sporting event."

Presidential contests indeed contain all of the same elements that lure millions of spectators to stadiums annually. Both sports and politics offer high-stakes competition, whether in a World Series or a November election. Both rivet the national attention, as judged by the massive television audiences for championship games and election-night broadcasts alike. And both generate the lifeblood of America: statistics. Reams upon reams of statistics.

The sports fan is well served in his quest for numbers. Record books abound. But an avid spectator of Presidential campaigns, whether an historian, a political scientist, or a layman, is not as fortunate. Most reference works in this field present little more than an endless succession of charts of state-by-state and county-by-county returns from each election. Regional breakdowns for such contests cannot be found, nor the career records of Presidential candidates, nor summaries of the performances of political parties or states.

This book attempts to fill that void. The first six chapters summarize each of the fifty Presidential elections, and include tables that contain data for all major-party primaries and conventions, as well as the main contests in November. The final three chapters provide capsule profiles of the candidates, parties, and states that shaped the outcomes of those races. Each is accompanied by the relevant statistics.

-vii-

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