Where 2020 Ranks in America’s Closest Elections

George W. Bush waves to delegates with his wife Laura at his side after his speech accepting the presidential nomination at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, Pa., August 3, 2000. (Reuters)
Defying the pattern for incumbent reelection contests, only a handful of the 58 previous presidential elections were closer than 2020.

NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE H ow close was the 2020 presidential election? It has been difficult to disentangle this question from the arguments of Donald Trump partisans who contend the election was stolen and Joe Biden partisans focused on the national popular vote. But in comparing presidential elections over time, the real question is: What would it have taken to go the other way? In comparative terms, defying the pattern for incumbent reelection contests, only a handful of the 58 previous presidential elections were closer than this one.

Let’s rank the 15 closest elections in American history since the beginning of popular voting in 1828. While

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