President Elect 1988 - Megathread

No 22nd Amendment, Eisenhower runs for a third term in 1960.

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Ran 1968 with fictitious far-left and far-right candidates, both of them having little charisma, speaking skills and both being highly gaffe-prone. Each of them are from little populated states. Turnout was unsurprisingly low.

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Not Lyndon

It wasn't a huge surprise when, just ahead of the 1964 Democratic Convention, incumbent President John F. Kennedy announced that he would not be retaining Lyndon Johnson as his running mate/Vice President. The two men had always shared a rather contentious relationship (fueled at least partially by Attorney General Robert Kennedy's enmity towards the brash Texan) and by the time the President's first term entered its final year it was clear that their working relationship would not survive another four year stretch.

Johnson, always ambitious, was of mixed feelings regarding his demotion. He disliked working in the Kennedy White House, that much was sure, but at the same time that position had given him quite a bit of oversight with regards to legislation. He accepted his dismissal quietly, instructed southern convention delegates not to vote for him, and watched to see who Kennedy would select as his replacement.

In the end it was Terry Sanford, progressive Governor of North Carolina. Sanford, like Kennedy, was a war veteran (he had parachuted into Normandy and fought in the Ardennes) and broadly liberal on most every issue. Where he shone especially bright was education. As Governor, Sanford had made major reforms to the North Carolinian school system and his choice seemed to imply that similar measures would be made on a national level should Kennedy win a second term.

Both Kennedy and Sanford were nominated with broad majorities, only George Wallace daring mount even a punitive challenge to Kennedy at the convention. The Alabaman, unhappy to see an openly pro-Civil Rights running mate tacked onto the Democratic ticket, saw which way the winds were blowing and prepared an independent protest run even as the Republicans got ready to settle a fractious disturbance in their ranks.

The Republican National Convention was host to a revolution in 1964. Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater, by far the most right wing candidate since at least the 1920s, was ahead in enthusiasm if nothing else. He had swept the southern bloc but did not yet possess the delegates to wrap up the nomination. This is where the other candidates came in. They consisted chiefly of Nelson Rockefeller, liberal governor of New York, and William Scranton, moderate Senator from Pennsylvania. Scranton was ahead of Rockefeller in delegates if not overall influence, but the campaign between them was not at all settled.

Yet, up until the eve of the convention, it seemed very likely that Rockefeller and Scranton, each man believing himself destined for the Republican nomination, would remain fractured and allow Goldwater to shoot up the middle and take the party by storm.

It was here that Gerald Ford entered. Ford was a rising star in the Republican Party, a moderate who straddled the fence between the Rockefeller and Scranton camps. He did not want to run for national office himself (Ford's biggest dream was to one day become Speaker of the House), but instead wished to mend the party divide before one faction won the whole game and split the party in two. Ford, while he was not necessarily opposed to a Goldwater candidacy, recognized all the same that it would likely end in catastrophe. Instead he saw great promise in Scranton, and worked to maneuver the Pennsylvanian to the nomination, mindless of the risk to his career prospects if Goldwater were to win.

It was likely only due to the influence of Gerald Ford, and later George Romney, that Nelson Rockefeller agreed to stand down. He was behind in delegates and leaking influence as Goldwater barreled ever closer to the nomination. Instead, for the good of the party, he reluctantly withdrew and pledged his delegates to Scranton. This, combined with a few critical conservative defections, allowed Scranton to secure the nomination on the first ballot.

Looking to appease the stunned Goldwaterites, Scranton selected conservative Ohio Governor Jim Rhodes as his running mate. This did little to soothe the hurt feelings of the conservatives, but made just enough of them fall in line that the convention did not end in a total disaster.

Elsewhere, Barry Goldwater stewed and George Wallace rubbed his hands in delight. Scranton, while not as liberal on Civil Rights as Sanford or even Kennedy, was still a liberal.

The election itself was fairly contentious, Scranton proving to be a shrewd and capable political fighter. Kennedy and Sanford never quite lost the edge in polling, but in the end, despite a good economy and a stable domestic sphere, the election ended up being rather closer than they'd expected.

Still, despite Scranton's herculean effort to both hold the fractured party together and win the presidency, it was not enough and John F. Kennedy was reelected, leaving Lyndon Johnson to step down from office and both George Wallace and Barry Goldwater to seethe in their respective reactionary corners. To Goldwater, and especially to many of his supporters, Scranton's defeat had galvanized his original opinion that liberal Republicans could not win a national election.

They would need to move to the right if they wanted to have a chance in 1968.

President John F. Kennedy/Governor Terry Sanford - 334 EV 50.4% PV
Senator William Scranton/Governor Jim Rhodes - 194 EV 46.4% PV
Governor George Wallace/Senator Strom Thurmond - 10 EV 3.2% PV

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No Lyndon - Part II

Despite the optimism and promise that accompanied President Kennedy's reelection, it soon became clear that the administration was in for a troubled second term. Martin Luther King Jr., already disgruntled by what he saw as purposefully slow action from Kennedy on Civil Rights, pushed more openly for the administration to pursue a full Civil Rights Act. Vice President Sanford echoed these sentiments and though Kennedy remained wary of upsetting Southern Democrats, he moved forward with crafting legislation.

On the other side of the ocean, foreign affairs were growing complicated as well. A growing conflict in Vietnam had begun to require more and more space in the President's daily briefings and though Kennedy was personally uncomfortable with the idea of sending American troops to fight in a messy post-colonial conflict, he did not wish to see Indochina fall to communism. Over the muted objections of Vice President Sanford, who viewed any involvement in Vietnam as a mistake, Kennedy increased the number of American advisors training and accompanying South Vietnamese forces.

In the end, both of these things would hamstring Kennedy and strip the luster from his formerly resplendent presidency. The Civil Rights Bill ended up locked in committee, frozen by the whims of Dixiecrat congressmen. And though Kennedy certainly spoke very passionately about the need for equal rights, he would not get his Civil Rights Act passed before the 1966 midterms, which bruised his party's holdings in both houses of congress.

But though high profile battles both with segregationists in congress and communist guerrillas in southeast Asia dominated the headlines, the economy remained good and the Apollo program marched steadily ahead, growing ever closer to putting a man on the moon. Across the Atlantic Leonid Brezhnev finished securing power in the USSR and immediately got himself into a border dispute with the People's Republic of China, a simmering conflict that would meander along for the rest of the decade, threatening action but never quite building to it.

Kennedy himself entered the latter half of his second term exhausted and diminished. He had not accomplished quite as much as he had wanted to, even if NASA rockets pierced the atmosphere and relative economic prosperity remained a fact of life for most Americans. Beneath the halcyon glow of the mid 1960s lurked a growing discontent, fueled by worry and fear and anger. Black Americans were rankled by what they saw as purposeful inaction by the government, while left wingers watched the steadily escalating blaze that was Vietnam with growing disquiet. White supremacists and segregationists observed the Supreme Court hand down rulings that increasingly weakened their position with regards to legalized bigotry...and amidst all of it the idealized vision of contentment that hung large over the nation began to crack.

At the beginning of 1967, with a new congress seated (and Lyndon Johnson returning to the Senate, having ripped John Tower asunder in a vicious midterm election) President Kennedy tried again to pass his Civil Rights Act. It was very nearly tabled in committee once more, but for the intervention of Lyndon Johnson. Johnson, unable to resist a chance to show up the man who'd kicked him out of the White House, twisted arms and intimidated lean votes, forcing the bill along by sheer force of will until it finally reached the floor for a vote.

In the process the Civil Rights Act, previously a fierce and fiery piece of legislation designed to right every wrong and ensure equality for a hundred years to come...had been somewhat defanged by one compromise or another. But it still effectively outlawed what vestiges of segregation still remained, even if it was about as strong as a glass of ginger-ale when it came to housing and job discrimination.

The Civil Rights Act limped through congress, barely passed, and was signed into law. The whole thing felt like an anticlimax.

But even that anticlimax was enough to infuriate conservatives all across the country. Goldwater and Wallace alike warned of the constitutional implications of such an act, while Johnson faced turmoil from the Senate, where his southern colleagues had branded him a race traitor. Hardly helping any of this was the fact that 1967 saw the first American troops being drafted into Vietnam. The conflict there had developed quite an appetite, it seemed, and by the time 1968 rolled around the country was roiling with a pronounced sense of fear and loathing from all corners.

Vice President Sanford, profoundly disillusioned by his experience in the Kennedy administration, declined to run for President and instead returned home to North Carolina. He would become President of Duke University instead and was, by all accounts, quite happy there.

Instead, a small tsunami of Democrats poured into the hustings, all determined to make sure that their personal brand of liberalism would be the one to light the future. Attorney General Robert Kennedy gave some thought to running himself, but with his brother's approvals somewhat lukewarm, he sensed that the nation would need some time away from the Kennedy name and resolved to wait for a more opportune time.

The administration's blessing went to Senator Henry Jackson of Washington, who boasted strong defense credentials and was viewed as exactly the type of guy who could win the war abroad and smash the Klan at home. Alongside him were other figures, Hubert Humphrey and Eugene McCarthy (who between them represented the entire Senate delegation from Minnesota), Thomas Lynch and Sam Yorty...the list went endlessly on.

Yorty and the other conservatives did not last long, as the general mood within the party base was that unabashed liberalism would be needed. The Kennedy administration had become rather milquetoast amidst its fumblings over Civil Rights and Vietnam, so the left concluded. Stronger measures would be needed.

Interestingly, the Republican Party figured the same thing, only in the opposite direction. It was almost a foregone conclusion when Barry Goldwater announced that he would run again. He had never really stopped running since '64 and this time, newly girded by a fresh crop of conservative activists (chief amongst them the newly elected Governor of California Ronald Reagan), he seized the nomination away from people like George Romney and Jim Rhodes, selecting Kentucky Senator Thruston Morton as his running mate. Morton only agreed reluctantly, supposing that his selection could bring about some semblance of party unity.

That hope splintered a day and a half later when Nelson Rockefeller launched a protest candidacy. George Romney joined him, hoping to anchor the Midwest against Goldwater and his band of radicals.

Things were hardly going any better on the Democratic side when Eugene McCarthy secured the party's nomination, promising to pass a beefed up Civil Rights Act and to end the conflict in Vietnam. Doubling down on his leftist credentials, he selected Senator George McGovern of South Dakota as his running mate.

And so the election began.

It was a long, dispiriting race, filled with fear and paranoia, ugliness and threats. Rockefeller leeched votes from both sides, and though he doubted that he would win any states (for, unlike Wallace or many other past third party candidates, he held no strong regional appeal) his campaign entertained hopes that they could throw the whole thing to the House if they got popular enough. Goldwater accused McCarthy of wanting to shred the constitution, while McCarthy accused Goldwater of fascism. By the time the polls closed the election had sunk into a mire so deep that it was a wonder anything comprehensible came out the other end.

Though...given what did come out...

Senator Barry Goldwater/Senator Thruston Morton - 299 EV 39.8% PV
Senator Eugene McCarthy/Senator George McGovern - 239 EV 37.3% PV
Governor Nelson Rockefeller/Governor George Romney - 0 EV 22.9% PV

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Here I've done the alternative simulation of 1980 elections:
But I've noticed one mistake from the game developer, that VIRGINIA is one of the most democratic states in this scenario.
So I've done the second one, but much harder with Reagan having a running mate from VA:

So here are the statistics:

VIRGINIA:
OTL:
Reagan's 53% to Carter's 40%

Normal:
Reagan's 40% (-13%) to Carter's 46% (+6%)
Harder:
Reagan's 49% (-4%) to Carter's 42% (+2%)

OTL Popular vote:
Reagan - 51%
Carter - 41%

Alternative:
Reagan - 43% -8% (from OTL)
Carter - 45% +4% (from OTL)

SAME with 1976 scenario btw
 
P.S.
I also find this 'close state calling before 95% is in' bug interesting.
BUT I can imagine it was pretty small for testers anyway, and it was 1987 , no internet, no possible updates with bug fixing ;)

I would simply LOVE if someone made 2021 version of this game!
 
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