Electoral College, Donald Trump
REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Electoral College Facts Matter

Since the election, Trump and his fans tell anyone who will listen that his electoral college win is one of the largest in history. Naturally, they are guilty of fudging the facts. Yesterday, Trump changed that narrative to his electoral college win was the largest since Ronald Reagan. That pronouncement is not only not true it is categorically false.

The Trump Administration continues to lie about a lot of things. For some reason Trump, himself has focused on his electoral college numbers. It is fairly easy to fact check him on those numbers (which I am about to do) so one is left to wonder why he would continue. I have talked about the electoral college before but this will be more of history lesson.

He needs to be seen as a winner not only in his own eyes but in everyone’s eyes. So he will continue to lie about his electoral numbers and I will continue to fact check him. There have been 58 elections in our history. Interestingly enough three of those races have been uncontested (two were George Washington, the other being James Monroe).

Modern Era Electoral College

In order to look at where Trump falls in the electoral college I am focusing on just two eras. The modern era (this is the races that are locked in at the current level of 538 electoral votes)includes 14 races, beginning with 1972. The other era is the pre-modern era. This era includes the 14 modern races and the 13 previous races that had 537 total delegates.

There are three categories to look at when examining the elections: total electoral votes (EV) won by a candidate, the (EV) margin, and the popular vote (PV) margin.

Not surprisingly, Ronald Reagan’s 1984 landslide takes the top two spots for total electoral and margin. He won the electoral college with 525 votes and the margin by 512. Richard Nixon’s 1972 race came in second with 520 and 503 votes, respectively. Interestingly enough, the 1972 win by Nixon actually beat out Reagan’s win when looking at popular vote margin 17,995,488 to 16,878,120. One final note before moving to Trump is that Reagan’s 1980 electoral college win and margin come in third, but his PV margin falls to 5th behind Lyndon Johnson and Barack Obama.

What about Trump, though? I am glad you asked. Let us look first at his newest claim that his electoral college win was the most since Reagan. There have been 8 races since Reagan left office, Trump’s EV and EV margin are only better than both of George W. Bush’s elections. This puts Trump’s win 6th in those 8 races. When looking at the modern era, Trump falls to 10th for EV and 11th for EV margin.  That is not great and it is not historic.

Pre-Modern Era Electoral College

Again, there are 13 races immediately before the modern era where the total electoral college vote was mostly locked in at 531. The one exception is the 1960 John F. Kennedy race that had 537 votes.

I looked just at the margin of victory simply because the total EV was not the same as the modern era.

Franklin D. Roosevelt’s second election comes in first with a margin of 515 votes. One thing I noticed that shows how divided a nation we have become in general elections is the 1988 election of George HW Bush. Bush is the last president to win by more than 400 EV in an election (426). In the modern era this victory got him 5th place. With the 13 pre-modern era races added him that win falls down to 13th.

Donald Trump does fair slightly better in the pre-modern era beating out three presidents. Trump’s 77 margin of victory beat out Carter’s 57, George W. Bush’s 2004 35, Woodrow Wilson’s 23, and Bush’s 2000 5.

Other Electoral College Tidbits

Outside of candidates that won big only to lose their re-election bid (George HW Bush is the best example) is Woodrow Wilson. His first election ranked 10th for the highest electoral margin at 347. His re-election came in next to last with a margin of victory of 23. That is a loss of margin of 324.

At the end of the day what is the big deal about Trump lying about his electoral college win? If he is willing to lie about something so small what else is he lying about? Is he telling the truth about anything?

Stay tuned.



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