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Which past presidential election offers this year's closest parallel?


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272300-which-past-presidential-election-offers-this-yearsThe Hill:

Every four years since 2000, during the fall semester, I've taught a college course on that year's unfolding presidential election. In the past, it's been fairly easy to point to a prior election year that offers illuminating historical parallels. But this time, I'm finding that the problem is not in identifying a parallel year; it's that the best comparison election keeps changing. Below are the main contenders.

 

The 2000 election: Last summer, it looked like 2000 would offer an almost perfect analogy. That year, Vice President Al Gore represented continuity with the incumbent administration and faced mostly token opposition in the Democratic primaries from a respected liberal sitting senator, Bill Bradley (N.J.). The Republican side was more heavily contested, but it seemed most likely that a son of former President George H.W. Bush would prevail.

However, this relatively placid 2000 parallel has long since fallen apart: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is proving much more formidable than Bradley, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is already out of the running for the Republican nomination, and many other factors have come into play.

 

The 1988 election: So, then, can 2016 be viewed as parallel to 1988? As in 2000 and 2016, in 1988 the party in power was fighting for a third consecutive term in the White House. Incumbent Vice President George H.W. Bush contended, and ultimately prevailed, among several Republican rivals. He did so in the primaries without the explicit endorsement of sitting President Reagan, who had defeated Bush for the GOP nomination eight years earlier. Today, quasi-incumbent Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of State, has narrowed the original Democratic field from five to two and may soon dispatch Sanders as well — all without having received a primary-season endorsement from her rival-turned-boss, President Obama.

 

Meanwhile in 1988, a gaggle of often-unimpressive Democratic contenders came to be called the "Seven Dwarfs," prefiguring the even more scattered original 17 GOP candidates for this year's contest. But this year, Republican front-runner Donald Trump has certainly not turned out to be an electoral dwarf. And so the parallels to 1988 have faded.Scissors-32x32.png


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