Can Trump Win in 2020 Getting 43 Percent of the Popular Vote? It Happened in 1992 and 1968.

Yesterday’s post about journalists often not being good at predicting the outcome of presidential elections focused on 1992, when many journalists thought President George H.W. Bush would easily defeat Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton. A third party candidate, Ross Perot, was considered too weak to affect the election. The actual vote: Bill Clinton, 44,909,899 votes, George Bush, 39,105, 545 votes, Ross Perot, 19,743,821 votes. Clinton got 43 percent of the vote, Bush 37.4 percent, Perot a surprising 18.9 percent. While Perot didn’t win any electoral votes, his strong popular vote affected the outcome in some states.

1992 had some echoes of the 1968 election when Richard Nixon defeated Vice President Hubert Humphrey with a third party candidate, George Wallace, affecting the outcome. The popular vote: Nixon 31, 783,783; Humphrey 31,271,839; Wallace 9,901,118. Nixon won 301 electoral votes. Humphrey 191 electoral votes, and Wallace 46.

From a New York magazine piece by Ed Kilgore on 1968:

Gallup was close to predicting the 1968 results exactly: Nixon won 43.4 percent of the popular vote while Humphrey won 42.7 percent (Wallace finished with 13.5 percent). Nixon’s 110-vote Electoral College margin (301–191). . .was just 31 above the bare majority necessary to win (Wallace had 46 electoral votes from the five southern states he carried). As Michael Cohen noted in American Maelstrom, a shift of 42,000 votes in three states (Alaska, Missouri and New Jersey) from Nixon to Humphrey would have thrown the election into the House with its Democratic majority.

In 2020, could a third party candidate help elect a president who gets only 43 percent of the popular vote? It happened in 1992 and 1968.

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