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The Common Wisdom of New Year’s Day: Often Wrong for President

A Commentary By Larry J. Sabato

Jan. 1, 1960: If Democrats nominate the very young, Catholic John F. Kennedy, they will throw the election away.

1964: President Lyndon B. Johnson, a “Southern conservative,” could be opposed by a Northern liberal in the primaries.

1968: LBJ’s got a tough fight, but he’s the favorite for reelection.

1972: President Richard Nixon is losing to several top Democrats in the polls; Vietnam could sink a second president.

1976: Jimmy Who?

1980: If President Jimmy Carter can “whip Ted Kennedy’s ass” in the primaries, he’ll surely defeat far-right Ronald Reagan in the fall.

1984: Reagan, called a “failed president” after a deep recession and little progress in foreign policy, looks to be the sixth consecutive president to leave office early.

1988: Vice President George H.W. Bush is a wimp. He’s drawn major GOP opponents, and the electorate seems ready to switch back to the Democrats.

1992: No way can President Bush, the liberator of Kuwait, lose to some scandal-drenched hick from Arkansas.

1996: Ever since the 1994 GOP landslide, it’s preordained that President Bill Clinton will be a one-termer.

2000: Clinton escaped ouster over the Lewinsky scandal, but it’ll ensure no third term for Democrats. Plus, Vice President Al Gore is a dud on the trail. George W. Bush will win easily.

2004: With solid leads in the polls and Gore’s endorsement, how is anyone going to stop Howard Dean?

2008: It’s Hillary Clinton for the Democrats, of course. John McCain’s got no shot at the Republican nomination, that’s for sure.

2012: The economy is weak and President Barack Obama is very vulnerable. Republicans take to saying, “Even my dog could beat him.”

2016: It’s Hillary Clinton for the Democrats, of course. The Republican finalists will be Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

Larry J. Sabato is the director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.

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