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Time for a one-termer?


Is it about time for another one-term president?

Put aside for a moment very recent history and the names on this year’s presidential election ballot. Let’s look at the longer range.

Here are the presidents who were elected to a term, then defeated in a bid for re-election (with the years they were defeated): John Adams (1800); John Quincy Adams (1828); Martin Van Bureau (1840); Franklin Pierce (1856, sort of); Grover Cleveland (1888); Benjamin Harrison (1892); William Howard Taft (1912); Herbert Hoover (1932); Jimmy Carter (1980) and George H.W. Bush (1992).

The Pierce instance was an oddity, where he expected to be renominated by the Democratic Party but didn’t organize very well, and lost the renomination at the convention.

All the others were losses at the polls. In general terms at least, the voters decided to reverse their earlier judgment.

The circumstances were widely various. Some presidents (Pierce for one) ran into the problem of a lot of people understanding they were not competent for, not up to, the job. Some (Van Buren, Hoover for two) were swamped by bad economic conditions for which they took some of the blame. There’s no one specific reason all these people lost, but those two factors seem to weight in most often.

That’s nine or 10 occurrences out of 45 presidencies, so you can’t consider it a great rarity. True, it’s happened only three times in the last century, and true, they don’t happen on a regular schedule. But it’s not uncommon.

In fact, there’s a loose cycle consideration to it. Generally, you start to see that one-term incumbents tend to be bounced from office every quarter- to a third of a century.

We’re now at 28 years since the last time it happened, in 1992. That was 60 years since the Hoover, and one incumbent loss (Carter in 1980) happened along the way.

Americans are willing, it seems, to reconsider their decisions.

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