The Seven Biggest Presidential Blowouts in U.S. History

7. 1980: 489–49
(90.89 percent of the electoral vote)

From 1976 to 1980, the American economy didn't improve all that much. The latter part of President Jimmy Carter’s term was dominated by the Iranian hostage crisis, which didn't end until after the election. Carter, running for re-election, struggled against the perception that he was unable to solve the country's problems. He also signed off on a risky hostage rescue effort that ended in a helicopter crash without ever reaching Iran. A recession was about to begin as well.

His Republican challenger was former California Gov. Ronald Reagan, who had nearly wrested the nomination from President Gerald Ford in 1976.

Reagan proved very popular and convinced millions of voters that it was time for a change. He won eight million more popular votes than Carter, resulting in an electoral landslide of 489-49.

Third-party candidate John Anderson, running as an Independent, won nearly six million votes, but giving all of those votes to Carter wouldn't have won him re-election.

6. 1864: 212–21
(90.99 percent of the electoral vote)

The Civil War dragged on for year after year, with hopes of a quick victory long gone. Both sides claimed victories, and neither side showed any signs of surrendering. The war in its fourth year was looking to be a war of attrition, which gave the Union the advantage.

Incumbent Abraham Lincoln ran for re-election in 1864. His opponent from the Democratic Party was former General George McClellan. By this time, three new states had joined the Union: Kansas, Nevada, and West Virginia. (Eleven Southern states were not part of the Union at this time and so did not vote in the presidential election.)

The election campaign was relatively straightforward: Should Lincoln be allowed to continue as President and continue the war? McClellan, who had once been in charge of the Army of the Potomac and who had found one well-known battlefield victory (Antietam) but relatively few other successes, ran on an anti-war ticket, but the recent Union success in the South, notably the seizure of Atlanta, helped Lincoln to a relatively dominant re-election, 212-21. It was the first presidential re-election since Andrew Jackson's victory in 1832. Lincoln had replaced his Vice-president, Hannibal Hamlin, with a Democrat, Andrew Johnson of Tennessee.

5. 162–14
(92.05 percent of the electoral vote)

The events surrounding the election of 1800 resulted in the passage of the Twelfth Amendment, which, among other things, required presidential electors to specify which of their votes was for a presidential candidate and which vote was for a vice-presidential candidate.

Incumbent President Thomas Jefferson gained in popularity during his presidency, not the least because his authorization of the Louisiana Purchase ostensibly doubled the size of the country. Aaron Burr, meanwhile, dropped out of the public eye after killing Alexander Hamilton in a duel.

When it came time for Jefferson to run for re-election, he chose a new vice-presidential candidate, New York Gov. George Clinton. Since the Twelfth Amendment made it clear who the presidential candidate was, Jefferson didn't need to worry about Clinton eclipsing him. Since he was so popular, Jefferson didn't need to worry about Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, the Federalist candidate, eclipsing him, either.

Pinckney, the brother of Thomas Pinckney, who ran for president in 1796, managed to win only 14 of the 176 electoral votes. Jefferson won the other 162 and another term as President.

Numbers 4–2

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