It is far too soon to make prognostications about which candidates will get their party’s nomination for President. If you don’t believe this, then you probably put your money on poll leader Herman Cain in October 2011. However, I do have a good rule of thumb to offer that has an enviable track record. If you exclude incumbent Presidents, no one has gone on to win the Presidency who didn’t place first or second in their party’s New Hampshire primary. This rule has held for the last eleven elections! Since no incumbent is running this time, all you need to do is to watch the New Hampshire results next February 9 to winnow down the roster.
Look at this table of third place finishers going back to 1972. Do you see a President’s name anywhere? You will just have to take my word that those farther down the list didn’t do any better. This also explains why some of the Republican also-rans this year are hanging around until February hoping that lightning will strike.
So, Hillary and Bill better hop up to New Hampshire pronto and give it their all rather than hoping to buck these loaded dice.
Of course I am aware that even successful rules sometimes come a cropper. For over a hundred years beginning in the early 19th century, there was one that seemed very reliable: “As Maine goes, so goes the nation.” That didn’t refer to the results of a Maine primary of course, since the primary system as we know it didn’t come to full fruition until the early 20th century. Instead it referred to Maine’s gubernatorial election. This took place in September rather than the usual November spot as accommodation for early harvests. Thus it provided a nice preview of the coming Presidential election. For all of that time, the odds were very good that the party winning the Governor’s Mansion would also win the White House. This prediction succeeded 73% of the time, which means that you could safely wager a few bob based on it.
But then that electoral phenomenon, Franklin D. Roosevelt, intervened in 1936. Although Republicans swept Maine that year, FDR obliterated poor Alf Landon who couldn’t even win his native Kansas. The only electoral votes Landon won were three from Vermont and five from old reliable Maine. This result prompted FDR’s campaign manager Big Jim Farley to remark sardonically, “Well, as Maine goes, so goes Vermont!” Since then the Maine rule has succeeded only once, when another electoral phenomenon, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, took Adlai Stevenson to the cleaners in 1952. And it is now a dead rule anyway, as Maine has regularized its election schedule.
Still, I have a lot of confidence in my rule. Moreover, if Hillary passes the New Hampshire filter, I would expect her to win the nomination with ease. The Democrats are not about to throw away the election on a democratic socialist and Biden seems too equivocal to be a major threat. If I am right, she also stands an excellent chance against whomever survives the Republican circus, especially if they choose one of the political novices who seem to have won their hearts.
This is no certainty of course, but one aspect of that outcome is very intriguing. If Bill and Hillary do take up their old residence on Pennsylvania Avenue, Hillary will establish a record that should stand forever. In four consecutive presidencies, she will have held the sequence of offices, FLOTUS, Senator, Secretary of State, and POTUS. Moreover, if she is reelected as the odds usually favor, and if her health holds up, Hillary and Bill will also break Eleanor and Franklin’s record as the longest White House residents.
Looking back on that Guinness-worthy record, I am tempted to vote for Hillary if only to help bring it to pass.