Presidential Upsets: Dark Horses, Underdogs, and Corrupt Bargains

Presidential Upsets: Dark Horses, Underdogs, and Corrupt Bargains

Presidential Upsets: Dark Horses, Underdogs, and Corrupt Bargains

Presidential Upsets: Dark Horses, Underdogs, and Corrupt Bargains


Controversial and unexpected presidential election results have occurred throughout American history. "Presidential Upsets: Dark Horses, Underdogs, and Corrupt Bargains" carefully examines eleven presidential upsets spread across two centuries of American history, ranking these election upsets by order of magnitude and allowing readers to compare the issues and processes of American elections.

After an introductory chapter that establishes the factors that contribute to a presidential upset, such as the comparative advantages of candidates, the issues facing the candidates and electorate, and the political environment during the election, the book offers in-depth analysis of notable surprise election results and explains why the front-running candidate lost. Each major period of American history--such as the Jacksonian period, the Antebellum era, Reconstruction, World War I, the Cold War era, and the post-Cold War era--is covered. The author utilizes primary and secondary sources of material to provide contemporary and historical analysis of these elections, and bases his analysis upon criteria used by political scientists to predict presidential election results.


In the midst of a presidential election, hopes and reality tend to clash. Supporters of the major party candidates enter the election completely convinced of their candidate’s ultimate victory. Reality has the effect of destroying those hopes in the worst possible terms either through a crushing loss that was apparent to all but those most dreamy-eyed or in a sudden and unexpected defeat that leaves supporters wondering how their candidate lost.

A presidential upset is the latter of these. In a presidential upset, a candidate’s supporters believe with good cause that their candidate will win with opinion polls and campaign events appearing to show that victory in November is certain. When Election Day comes those beliefs are shattered as the candidate sees his inevitable victory become a historic defeat. The result is such a surprise that the election becomes part of popular lore whether it is Harry Truman’s stunning victory in 1948 or John Kennedy’s tainted victory in 1960 with subsequent elections compared with these.

Supporters of the defeated candidate search for an explanation, attributing the loss to the candidate’s personality, the candidate’s campaign, to events beyond the candidate’s control, or even to corruption in the election process. Frequently upsets are misinterpreted by the candidates and their supporters who then focus on the next presidential election to prove their analysis is correct only to see their party lose once again.

This book will examine 11 presidential elections generally recognized as upsets. In addition to describing the upsets the book will . . .

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