Thursday, January 22, 2009

Former Presidents 5: The Second Time Around

I'm not sure whether this fits the category I've established here and here, regarding former presidents who have again served in public office. What do you think?

In one case the public office in which a former president went on to serve was: president.

I'm referring to the only person to serve non-consecutive terms as president of the U.S.: Grover Cleveland.

Cleveland, a Democratic lawyer from Buffalo, New York, served as mayor of that city, and then, in 1882, was elected governor of New York. Two years later, his meteoric political rise continued, when he was elected president of the United States at the age of 47. He was, up to that time, the second youngest president (Ulysses Grant was the youngest) at first inauguration.

Cleveland's official White House biography gives a concise summary of his actions as president, some of which angered key constituencies.

However, when he ran for reelection in 1888, he won a plurality of the popular vote, and his lead over his opponent, in percentage terms, was slightly higher than in 1884. But in 1888, Cleveland's Republican opponent, Benjamin Harrison, won a majority in the Electoral College. Both elections were close:


Cleveland 48.85%, 219 electoral votes

Blaine 48.28%, 182 electoral votes


Harrison 47.80%, 233 electoral votes

Cleveland 48.63%, 168 electoral votes

If you want to know what a plurality of the popular vote is worth, just ask President Gore.

Harrison's gain in electoral votes over what his fellow Republican Blaine had received in 1884, was achieved in Harrison's home state of Indiana, which Cleveland had carried in 1884, and Cleveland's home state of New York. Cleveland had barely defeated Blaine in New York (48.25% to 48.15%) in 1884. Then, in 1888, Harrison carried New York by 49.28% to 48.19%. And New York at that time was the largest state, with 36 electoral votes.

Next: Cleveland makes a comeback.

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