Pouring over the numbers in the Presidential and Congressional elections of 2008, there’s an eerie parallel that deserves far more attention than it’s received.
In races for the House, the Senate and the Presidency, the final totals match almost precisely with the results of the last Democratic sweep in 1992.
That election gave the Democrats 57 Senate seats to 43 for the Republicans. So far, with three races yet to be decided in 2008, Democrats (and the two independents who caucus with the Democrats) control 57 seats and the Republicans control 40. Assuming that the GOP’s Norm Coleman hangs on to win his seat after a recount in Minnesota, that Saxby Chambliss wins his run-off election in Georgia, and that Ted Stevens (or a GOP replacement) secures the seat in Alaska, the Senate lineup will match exactly with its contours in 1992—57 to 43. Even if the Republicans lose one of the undecided seats, it’s possible that Independent Joe Lieberman will decide (or find himself forced) to caucus with them, still giving them the same 43 seats they won in ’92.
On the House side, the resemblance is similarly close to the line-up sixteen years ago. After the Clinton landslide (beating President George H. W. Bush and eccentric “Reform Party” contender H. Ross Perot), the Democrats nabbed 258 seats in the House and the GOP controlled 176. At this point in 2008, the Dems have secured 255 seats and the Republicans 174, with six seats unsettled. The most likely outcome of the races yet to be decided would be an exact replica of the House of Representatives that convened in 1993.
As to the Presidential race, sixteen years ago Bill Clinton cruised to victory with 370 electoral votes to 168 for President Bush (Ross Perot drew 18.9% of the popular vote but, like most third-party vanity candidates, earned no electoral votes). In 2008, assuming that John McCain carries the officially undecided state of Missouri (where he’s maintained a slight but steady lead) the final outcome will be an Obama victory by 365 to 173 electoral votes--- just a five vote difference from the 1992 race. In the popular vote, Obama prevailed by a margin of 6.5%, while Clinton beat Bush sixteen years ago by a strikingly similar margin of 5.5%.
The resemblance in election outcomes between the triumph of Clinton Democrats in 1992 and the resounding win by Obama Democrats in 2008 ought to fill disheartened Republicans with determination and hope.
Just two years after the electoral disaster of ’92, the GOP came roaring back to capture both houses of Congress in the “Contract with America”/Newt Gingrich revolution. And six years after that epic triumph, Republicans recaptured the White House under George W. Bush in the impossibly close election of 2000.