Sabato's Crystal Ball

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

Larry J. Sabato, Director, UVA Center for Politics January 7th, 2016


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.