5 US Presidential Election Predictions

5 US Presidential Election Predictions

Despite the best efforts of politicians, pollsters and journalists, the outcomes of presidential races have always been notoriously difficult to predict. With the election on the horizon, take a look at five famous instances where candidates proved the oddsmakers wrong.
“Who is James K. Polk?” That was the question on everyone’s lips in 1844, when an obscure former congressman and Tennessee governor was announced as the Democratic nominee for president. Onetime commander in chief Martin Van Buren had been the presumptive favorite for the nomination, but following a heated convention, Polk had emerged as the dark horse candidate on the ninth ballot. Few believed the 49-year-old stood a chance against his Whig Party opponent Henry Clay, a wildly popular politician who was considered one of the nation’s elder statesmen. “The Democrats must be Polking fun at us!” one Whig paper joked in response to the nomination. Another group of Clay supporters was so certain of victory that they preemptively commissioned him a set of rosewood furniture for the White House bedroom.
Despite the Whigs’ confidence, Polk soon gained steam thanks to an expansionist platform that supported the annexation of Texas. His campaign also launched scathing personal attacks on Clay that branded him as having a weakness for whiskey and poker. Combined with Clay’s own wavering on the Texas issue, Polk’s vision of “Manifest Destiny” proved to be the difference maker in the election, and he emerged the surprise victor by just 38,000 popular votes. President Polk would go on to secure a compromise with Britain regarding the Oregon Territory and preside over the Mexican-American War, which resulted in the cession of California and the Southwest and substantially enlarged the size of the United States. Honoring a promise he had made during his campaign, he declined to seek a second term. Read more

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