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What history predicts about this presidential election

Given the fascinating twists and turns of the current election season just in the last year, only a foreign exchange student just off the plane would hazard a prediction about this Nov. 4's presidential balloting.

But one thing is certain -- well, more than likely: This will be the first-ever presidential election in the nation's history pitting two sitting U.S. senators against each other.

Americans haven't been very receptive to legislators from that body becoming the nation's chief executive. Only two sitting senators -- John F. Kennedy in 1960 and Warren G. Harding in 1920 -- have ever succeeded in reaching the White House. And neither of them completed one term, as pointed out by Robert Schmuhl, an expert and author on the American presidency and an American Studies professor at the University of Notre Dame.

In the 48 years since Kennedy, his research shows, 40 senators have sought the presidency. And 40 didn't get it.

And that's not counting 2007-08, when six sitting and one former senator started the election talkathon last year. It took one of those rare times when no incumbent or sitting vice president was running to open the doors for an actual senator.

Americans have revealed some other preferences in their ...

presidential voting: They like chief executives; four of the last five presidents have been governors, which is what gave hope to Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee.

Over the last three decades, Americans have preferred to elect what Schmuhl calls "outsiders" and "opposites" to go to Washington, not insiders to stay there:

Gov. Jimmy Carter over former congressman and President Gerald Ford in 1976, Ronald Reagan over President Carter in 1980 and over former Sen. and Vice President Walter Mondale in 1984, Gov. Bill Clinton over President George H.W. Bush in 1992, President Clinton over former Sen. Bob Dole in 1996, George W. Bush over former senator and Vice President Al Gore in 2000, and President Bush over Sen. John Kerry in 2004.

The only possible exception was Vice President Bush over Gov. Michael Dukakis in 1988, but many would argue Bush was basically running for a third Reagan term.

Yet this time, all three of the remaining candidates are "from" Washington. So which one will be seen as less Washington -- freshman Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, whose brief time there could become a plus, or the longtime senator but even longer-time maverick John McCain?

The other remaining contender -- Sen. Hillary Clinton -- has made her Washington experience as first lady a crucial part of her case for election. Ready on Day One. Will voters see her more as essentially an interrupted third Clinton term or as the opposite of the Republican incumbent?

History also suggests that this year's winner will be the one perceived as politically occupying the most central position on the political spectrum with the ability to attract votes from the opposite party.

Will it be Obama, who attracts large crowds but was recently labeled the most liberal of 100 senators by the nonpartisan National Journal? Will it be Clinton, who was also ranked high on the liberal scale but is perceived as closer to the center? Or will it be McCain, who's a reliable conservative on some issues but has sometimes voted against his own party?

In his Wall Street Journal column Thursday, former top White House advisor Karl Rove examined three recent sets of polls including the The Times/Bloomberg poll. And though some recent published stories have examined the number of "Obamicans," Republicans attracted to vote for Obama, Rove found the figures actually reveal the existence of what he calls "McCainicrats." And not just Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman.

"Almost twice as many Democrats support Mr. McCain," Rove wrote, "as Republicans support Mr. Obama. Three times as many Democrats support Mr. McCain as Republicans back Mrs. Clinton."

Not even a foreign exchange student would walk into predicting that one.

-- Andrew Malcolm

Comments () | Archives (32)

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I would believe anything Karl Rowe says, after all there isn't a more truthful person in this country. His honesty and ethics are above board, he is as pure as freshly fallen snow.

(Well, another open mind heard from. if we only wrote about and read people we agree with or knew for certain told the truth 100% of the time, these pages would be pretty blank. And your post wouldn't be here either.)

I would hate to see the Clinton's get back into the White House. I had a hard enought time telling my children when Bill Clinton was president that immoral behavior is not acceptable even though the president was sending such a bad message to our youth.
Hillary did NOT handle the stress well while her husband was chasing everyhing in a skirt during his presidency.
I read the book written by the head of CIA that resigned while the Clinton's were in the white house. Hillary and Bill Clinton were always cussing and yelling at each other to the point that he was late to be sworn in for president because of their arguments. NO I don't want to see them back in the White House. What will happen when she throws a fit at the UN???

More Clinton spin coming from Rove even when they insult him like they did last week. The Clintons had a 28% approval rating when Bill left office. One headline declared it was "Time to take out the Trash"...and it seems people do not remember all the headache and heartache those 2 brought to the American Public. Many do remember and that is why Obama has the support he enjoys....the Clintons just don't want to deal with that particular reality so they, and their cronies, keep looking for reasons.

I believe that Senator Hillary has experience no other canidate can claim. She was a wittness and took an active role in the processes that take place in the decision making of the White House. Senator McCain and Senator Obama will need to learn those processes. This gives Senator Clinton an advantage if elceted.

Over two thousand tons of 100 dollar bills to police Iraq this year alone and while people in this country starve and now even Obama is saying "maybe not" on withdrawal

Oh yes...hmmmm Karl Rove said so.
I don't know about you, but..if you're paying attention to your own life and what's happening around know we're already in a depression, eg: FIRST HUGE US BANK ON VERGE OF COLLAPSE =Citibank..Pay attention.
Clinton and McCain will fight each other and anyone that doesn't agree-and neither will get anything done..nor will either protect us..they are so busy getting childishly and emotionally 'trigggered' that they take their eyes off the ball = that ball is AMERICA'S BEST INTERESTS!!!!!

People are so against the clintons, yet they voted Bush in
for two terms and look at the results. This country is in bad bad shape !!! war war war

Lets get rid of all of Washington and let the american people vote on each and every issue from home over the internet or from a library. The white house weasels need to be gutted. As to the next president....any one of them will have flaws. i dont like Obama not saluting the American Flag in the video being circulated and I don't think Clinton is as tough as she declares to be. McCain is too old and will probably pass before his term WTF?

i am eagerly awaiting the arrival once again of the clintons back to the white house. those where the good old days both for the american and the rest of the world. america cant afford to gamble with who becomes their president again after the bush's mistake. they need somebody who has a track record of delivery as far as both national and international affairs are concerned and as far as this election is concerned the clintons is the right choice and i am awaiting their arrival back to the white house to put the world back in order. i am watching and so is the rest of the world. americans should vote wisely.

Deanna, Bill Clinton had the highest approval rating of any president leaving office at 68%. The facts are there but so many people refuse to look at them unbiased. Every person put into the spot light will have characteristics or personalities that not everyone likes. Who cares is what I say, as long as the economy and America is going strong.

While making history, I personally believe that all politicians are about the most crooked humans on God's great earth. Whomever wins is going to be a loser from the beginning as they are left in a losing situation from President Bush. We did not belong in Iraq in my opinion and I know that really does not count. Our economy is in the biggest mess it has been in since the 80's. Mr. Bush has spent all our money for a war that has been going on forever and will continue til the end of time and we have families and esp middle age people and elderly that can not afford proper medical care. There are not enoungh jobs that pay for insurance. Mr Bush will go out with a huge pension, health care, his oil profits and whatever else Presidents retire with so he has nothing to lose. I personally could not sleep at night knowing what our country's economy was when he went into the White House and what he is leaving behind. I feel really bad for whomever takes over this mess and just pray everyday that GOD BLESSES AMERICA AGAIN AS HE IS THE ONLY ONE WHO HAS THE POWER TO DO SO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Deanna, Clinton had a 62% approval rating after leaving office. It even became slightly higher as time went by. His lowest rating (after the Monica Lewinski thing) never even got close to the 28% you claimed he had after he left offfice.

Most polls showed Bill could have been easily re-elected if he could run for a third term...over anyone the Republicans, or Democrats, had to offer.

Immoral behavior from the Clintons? What would YOU call this immoral WAR that Bush started, almost 4,000 of our dear soldiers died in that horrible place...just remember that when Clinton lied, NO ONE died!!!!!

This is what I have to say about Hillary:
She is a monster, too — that is off the record — she is stooping to anything,

Our nation can do better than repeat the cycle of eating itself that began with the hollow growth of the 90s (most of the gains which were given back in 2001-02) and continued with the hubris and "us vs. them" of the so-called war on terror and invasion of other oil rich nations. About all I can say of the Bill era was, we had a balanced budget for a while. Now W's spent us into a serious hole here.

I am looking for someone who is consistent and ethical, uses good judgement, and stands for the people and not some special interest money. Barack Obama is the credible candidate for me, intelligent and having the executive qualities referenced in this article. With his varied experience and upbringing, he knows what it is llike to walk in just about all of our shoes. He is head and shoulders above the others in the leadership category.

A rerun of Billary ("whatever it takes, fighters") in the house will not be positive for our nation, we don't need those kinds of polarizing distractions again at this important time. So much more to do, constructively, with the energy that the people can bring to bear to solve this nation's problems.

Barack and a flag? Come on. I heard him speak, it took most of us 30 seconds to spy the flag hanging from the rafters in the auditorium above the doors in the 4 corners. Isn;'t it more about honoring what the flag stands for, the Constitution and separation of powers, the goodness of this nation? For all of us and not just the priveleged?

CAN YOU BELIEVE IT obamagate JUST DID IT AGAIN just off the 12:00noon CBC NEWS CANADA he just reaffirmed that CANADA does not need to fear his OHIO NAFTA rhetoric at the TIMM RUSSERT MEET THE PRESS DEBATE
he just told Harper CANADIAN PM that it's wink wink business as usual its wink wink all over again

It is obvious that McCain is attacking Obama instead of Clinton because he knows that he cannot defeat Obama. He really wants to run against the Clintons, and who can blame him?

A majority of people think that our political system is broken and has become morally bankrupt. Clinton is part of the problem, not part of the solution. Obama may be part of the solution; nobody knows yet for sure, but he sure has a better cnahce to fix things than his opponents do.

interesting how Clinton, who governed over a time of peace, prosperity, and pride in our country is condemned as "immoral", while Bush/Cheney who have killed 3,000+americans and several tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis, are not.

Which is the real "immoral" administration? the adulterer or the war criminals?

Out of the three candidates the most experience one for the job in Washington is McCain and he will be the next US President no matter what Carl or other will predict or say.
I don't like what is going on in the world right now, all of these because of Clinton's softness and non-experience. If wasn't for Bush we could pay now $ 10 USD for a gallon of gas plus other problems. None is perfect but the least one is the king.

Whomever the people elect as President, the ultimate leadership has to come out of Congress. Consensus and civility must return to Capitol Hill. Perhaps the new president could pick truly qualified individuals from both parties for his cabinet and other administration positions, as opposed to people chosen for favors received. Could this be possible? I am not a pessimist, but I must confess my optimism lately is being sorely tested.

I think every voter owes it to our country to take the time to really look at the candidants. I'm not talking about what the individual campaings have to say. I'm talking about checking them out in their REAL lives. Information on all 3 are a matter of PUBLIC RECORD and as such can be viewed by anyone. As for the individual voting records I suggest reading the ORIGINAL BILLS they have sponsored. Keep in mind that it's a fact of life that in order to get the votes needed they have no choice but to make deals with each other. The key is seeing the extent they are willing to go to.

I think that the U.S.A. would do well to repeal the 17th Amendment. That's the Amendment that gave us the beauty contest winner/U.S. Senators. Prior to the 17th Amendment, Sacramento would send 2 senators to represent California in D.C.; nowadays the U.S. Senate is filled with beautiful and popular self-promoting panderers.
How long ago was McCain running? How long ago was Hillary running? She moved to N.Y. to grab a senate seat so she could run! Obama joined up and immediately began running.
It's time senators represented their states again, instead of using six-year terms to further themselves.

the americans should be ashame of themselves is there no other family in the us ?, apart from the bushes and the clinton's?.making thesame misstake over and over again.

Sad! All the individules our citizens have elected to serve, are either corrupt, don't care, or have little influence for necessary change. When suggesting Washington is broken, it may be beyond repair. Of these three candidates, none may serve our country as to it's needs, and be successful. Are those who have the ability to raise the necessary monies to be a candidate, a better choice over those who cannot? I think not!

Hillary Clinton says that she has the experience to be commander in chief from day one from her years as first lady. Chelse Clinton was in the white house for the same amount of time, does that make her ready to be commander in chief from day one. Hillary Clinton says that she has 35 years experience in public politics, this is so interesting to hear because how can she remember having so much experience when she could not recall or could not remember 56 times what happened to the records that were being called into question only 8+ years ago.. I agree with the phraes that "Hillary is a monster" if her lips are moving she is not telling the truth.Her refusal to release her tax returns is just the start of scandals to come if she is elected as president, lets call this "tax return gate". Hillary is an angry woman who feels that she has to be in competition with her husband "Slick Willy", I truly wish that I could be a male intern if Hillary wins the white house!!

This is truly an historical event, a white woman with political experience verses the american fear quotient, " A Blackman as President of the United States of America".
I don't believe any American will deny that "AMERICA" is in need of a serious change. This change should come almost immediately for the American people to regain trust in our polical system. I on the other hand don't trust politicians, because they have not given us anything to trust them over the past years. Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton need to stop the shameful criticizing and focus on bringing this country back to its pristine glory. I can't believe they are going to allow "John McCain" to become President. They need to WAKE UP!!!! and look at what their name calling and mud sling is creating. As a team they would probably be dynamic, but who am I to look at the common sense in this opportunity of a lifetime.
Hillary and Barack stop acting like children. George Bush is laughing all the way back to his good old boy clique filthy rich, and will be paid for screwing up our economy for God who knows how long.

I went to a Hillary rally tonight in Casper, Wyoming. I can honestly say that Hillary knows what she is talking about when she speaks about important issues. Why is America so blind? Bill did a good job, and now he is saying that he honestly believes Hillary will do a better job THAN HE DID. Does this look like Clinton competion? Obama does not have any experience and Hillary does. She is a public servant and is the only one to clean up the mess left by Bush.

American's do prefer governors. We need Romney on the ticket.

It would be a wonderful thing if folks would simply question what they hear and not "swallow it whole." Experience does not guarentee competence. And it would seem important to ask the question as to the nature of that experience. Competency is not synonymous with experience.

For example, Republican nominee, McCain, has more experience in national security however, he has little if any regarding domestic issues, particularly the economy. Therefore it would also seem important to examine the experience factor, disregarding competency, as to the specifics regarding what we perceive as important in each area. Obviously, Kerry's military experience was less important during our last election given the results.
The Congress declares war, not the president.

The president is not expected to have expert knowledge in every possible area that affect the citizenry, that is why we have a cabinet. It is the President's job to select the best possible person for each position, and then let them do their jobs. The President is not a CEO (we have already made that mistake), but s(he) is a superb manager.

So who among the candidates would you think would be better at this? A good manager needs to be fair, just, set limits, and most of all inspire and provide those (s)he manages with what they need; and in this particular situation, what they need to serve the American people.

We not not live in a monarch where kings and queens rule, but in a democracy where in theory, the president and his cabinet (executive branch) represents a singular branch of government with checks and balances from the legislative and the judiciary.

It would seem that if we focus on what the issues are rather than innuendos and down right lies, we will be able to elect a president who will represent US.

I have to agree with the above comments by T.R Collins March 08, 2008 at12:26 AM , But my greatest fear is that this Presidential election will turn in to an election based on race, McCain vs. Obama, or equally as bad if not worse that of gender, Clinton. This is not to say that either one is more suited for the oval office than the other one but, I certainly hope is that the next President will elected based on what they can for this country with out the influence of pregitious at the election polls.

Obama has nothing.

His Iraq speech - he wont do what he promised, according to Samantha Powers who was fired after exposing the truth.

NAFTA - he tells one thing to you, another to the Canadians.

His Healthcare policy - leaves 15 Million out, because he payed it safe. And he is lying if he says he is not.

His speeches - recycled speeches from DeVal Patrick.

His economic policy - copied from Clinton

"Yes we can" - stolen from Dolores Huerta (after they dragged her in the mud in NV)

Stop the Drama, Stop Obama!

Obama knew exactly what he was saying. It was a political move that had dual-reactions. This is the time for voters to see what these presidential candidates are about and how they respond to the pressures of campaigning as well as their ability to relate to mainstream America. I think the media, die-hard democrats, and biased government players made a mistake in inflating Obama by manufacturing a platform that clearly is way over Obama's reach. Too much rhetoric gets old. He is a nice guy that I think will be a terrific player in future politics. The democrats treated Hillary with such bias that some of the "silent voters' did not appreciate. Now his comment about lipstick....was clearly stupid!


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
President Obama
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