Tuesday’s presidential election result marked the end of an era in American politics, as the Clintons’ controversial presence in Washington for nearly 25 years, and public office for almost the past 40, is now over.
Former President Bill Clinton first sought public office in 1974, running for Arkansas’ conservative third U.S. congressional district seat against Republican incumbent John Paul Hammerschmidt. Clinton, then a law professor at the University of Arkansas, was narrowly defeated by 4 percentage points and approximately 5,000 votes.
In 1976, Mr. Clinton was elected as Arkansas state attorney general, running unopposed in the general election. Not having to campaign after winning the Democratic primary, Clinton had time to lead Jimmy Carter’s presidential campaign in the Natural State that year, where Gov. Carter won overwhelmingly.
Clinton then went on to run for governor of Arkansas in 1978 at the age of 32, winning in a landslide, but was defeated in his reelection bid two years later. In his first term, Clinton was hurt politically by increasing state excise taxes and exuding a personal style that turned off many socially traditional voters.
Two years later, Clinton was again elected to the governor’s office, defeating the incumbent he had lost to in 1980 by 10 points. He went on to win three straight Arkansas gubernatorial reelection campaigns in overwhelming fashion, the last coming in 1990.
Less than a year into his fifth term as governor, Clinton announced his candidacy for president of the United States in October 1991 and went on to win an overwhelming majority of states in the 1992 Democratic primaries to secure his party’s nomination.
In the general election, Clinton won a three-way race against incumbent President George H.W. Bush and Texas businessman Ross Perot with 43 percent of the popular vote and an impressive 370 presidential electors.
Ironically, the 1992 general election was largely an inverse of Tuesday’s vote in terms of demographics. Mr. Clinton won union households overwhelmingly, only lost the overall white vote by two percent and received more support among men than incumbent President George H.W. Bush. Conversely, likely president-elect Donald Trump won 70 percent of white voters and beat former Secretary of State Clinton with men by 12 points.
Then-Gov. Clinton also won every industrial Midwest state with the exception of Indiana, whereas the 2016 Democratic candidate lost across region Tuesday, save Illinois. Perhaps as historically significant, Democrats won several states in 1992 that now vote consistently Republican in presidential elections, including a mix of Upper and Deep South states like West Virginia, Tennessee, Missouri, Georgia and Louisiana.
President Clinton went on to win reelection in 1996 against Senator Bob Dole in similar fashion, scoring an even larger electoral victory by picking up two significant states he lost four years prior — Florida and Arizona. The Democratic incumbent also won the popular vote that year by nearly 8 million and became the first president in his party to win a second term since Franklin Roosevelt in 1944.
More than a year before the Clinton administration started to transition out of the White House in late-2000, the then-First Lady had embarked on a campaign for New York’s U.S. Senate seat. In September 1999, Bill and Hillary Clinton purchased a home in the northern New York suburb of Chappaqua for $1.7 million. Just over a year later, in November 2000, Mrs. Clinton defeated then-Republican U.S. Congressman Rick Lazio with a solid 55 percent majority of the vote.
Clinton ran for reelection in 2006, defeating former Yonkers, N.Y., Mayor John Spencer in a 35-point landslide victory. Just over two months after winning a second U.S. Senate term, Clinton announced in January 2007 that she was forming a presidential exploratory committee to run in the 2008 Democratic primaries.
After losing a long and hard fought campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination against then-Senator Barack Obama, Clinton accepted the Democratic president-elect’s offer to join his administration as Secretary of State in late-November 2008. The Former First Lady served the entirety of President Obama’s first term, officially resigning effective Feb. 1, 2013.
Between Clinton’s resignation from the State Department and the announcement of a second presidential run in April 2015, the former Secretary was embroiled in a congressional investigation of her conduct regarding the infamous attack on the U.S. consulate and a CIA annex building in Benghazi, Libya, in September 2012 by Islamic militants.
The inquiry culminated with Clinton’s testimony in front of the House Select Committee on Benghazi in October 2015 that lasted almost 11 hours. Ultimately, the congressional panel’s final report cleared Clinton of gross negligence, but said the Secretary was part of a team that failed to recognize “the acute security risks in the Libyan city, and especially for maintaining outposts in Benghazi that they could not protect.”
Controversy and scandal continued to plague Mrs. Clinton during her 2016 White House bid starting in the spring of 2015. Internal emails continuously publicized by journalistic organization WikiLeaks pointed to collusion between the Democratic National Committee and the former Secretary’s primary campaign, as well as other unsavory revelations such as media manipulation. Her use of a private email server at the State Department also raised eyebrows among even loyal Democrats and accusations of pay-to-play with Clinton Foundation donors left a bad taste in voters’ mouths that apparently lasted all the way to Election Day.
Undoubtedly confident of her electoral odds Tuesday, Mrs. Clinton appeared disappointed but graceful in defeat late Wednesday morning in her concession speech in New York.
With President Obama’s second term set to expire in January and the Clintons voted off the national stage, a new generation of Democrats will be called on to fill the party’s leadership void that now exists in Washington.
Potential 2020 presidential candidates include Sens. Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren and Tim Kaine, as well as former San Antonio Mayor and current Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Julian Castro.
[McClatchy DC] [CNN] [Roper Center for Public Opinion Research] [270towin.com] [Biography.com] [New York Times] [Vocativ] [Photo courtesy Tom Holoubek/AFP/Getty Images via NPR]