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The last word Trump wants to hear on election night

Trump may not believe it, but losing by a landslide can be fun.

President Donald Trump
President Donald TrumpKevin Dietsch/Bloomberg

No more curses, charges, and countercharges. Voters are ready to puncture the balloon of speculation: The presidential election won’t result in a tie.

This news disappoints pundits, professors, and one candidate who can’t believe voters are tired of him. President Trump likes delay. Time allows him to deploy his passion for litigation. His lawyers will confound process-servers and deputy sheriffs until Jan. 20, but no later. Then it’s last call in the land of Oz and pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.

In US history, close contests involve political traits. In 2000, the presidential election required weeks to name a winner. Lawyers descended on Florida for a recount between two scions of political dynasties, Texas governor George W. Bush and then-vice president Al Gore. Finally, on Dec. 12, the US Supreme Court essentially handed Bush the win, in a 5-4 decision.


The 2000 contest echoed the results in 1876, when two businessmen-politicians ran for president. Rutherford B. Hayes of Ohio defeated Samuel J. Tilden of New York, who won the popular vote. After weeks of intrigue and occasional violence, Hayes was declared the winner on March 2, 1877, after winning the Electoral College by one vote.

Trump may not believe it, but losing by a landslide can be fun. In 1964, Barry Goldwater lost 44 states. In 1972, George McGovern lost 49 states — all except Massachusetts.

In 1984, former vice president Walter Mondale also lost 49 states. All three became friends, swapped stories, and cheerfully continued political careers. Mondale, 92, is still at it.

After World War II, two former Navy officers ran for Congress, where they shared stories and office space in the Capitol. By 1960, John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon were running against each other for president.


Kennedy won the Electoral College and, by a slim margin, the popular vote. Nixon considered challenging the results in Illinois, but changed his mind. “I’m still young,” he told his aide Herb Klein, “and besides, a long recount would harm the country.”

Donald Trump has boasted of his expertise in “branding” products and people. By evoking comparisons, he helps make Nixon a statesman. If he’s still working on his own brand, the last word Trump wants to hear may echo across the land on Election Night: “Loser.”

Martin F. Nolan, a former editorial page editor and Washington bureau chief of the Globe, covered 10 presidential campaigns.