I haven’t fully worked out how far back the trend goes, but it seems that when it comes to electing presidents, we tend to choose the candidate with the least Washington experience.
2004: Bush had four years, Kerry decades.
2000: Bush zero, Gore decades.
1996: Clinton four, Dole decades.
1992: Clinton zero, Bush over a decade.
1988 was an aberration, but come on — it was MIKE DUKAKIS. I recall one political commentator (I think it was Dave Barry) announced that “the union of crazed loners announce they are sitting out this election. They urge anyone who feels enough passion to kill either candidate should seek professional help.”
1984: Reagan with four years, Mondale with — again — over a decade.
1980: Reagan zero, Carter 4.
1976: Carter zero, Ford decades.
Is this a statistical aberration, or a sign that Americans tend to prefer outsiders and reject career Washington politicians? I’m not sure, but it definitely bodes ill for candidates like Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton (her term as First Lady will count, I think), Christopher Dodd, and John McCain, while encouraging to the likes of Mitt Romney, Rudy Guiliani, and Mike Huckabee.
I don’t know how this will affect Fred Thompson. He spent almost a decade in the US Senate, and quite a few years in other jobs around DC, but he still has that “outsider” air about him that might counteract the cold hard facts on his resume.
Or this could all be just meaningless, an interesting statistical artifact.
Still, though — food for thought.