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      A History of U.S. Presidential Elections in Maps

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      The president of the United States is elected every four years by way of the electoral college, a system devised by the creators of the Constitution that today requires a candidate to secure at least 270 electoral votes from the states to win. That means the history of presidential elections is one best told through maps.

      • Election of 1789

        On February 4, 1789, George Washington was unanimously chosen to be the first president of the United States.

      • Election of 1792

        In December 1792, electors from 15 states voted George Washington to his second term as president.

      • Election of 1796

        John Adams narrowly defeated Thomas Jefferson in 1796.

      • Election of 1800

        Incumbent John Adams once again ran against Thomas Jefferson in 1800. Electoral voters tied, which meant that the House of Representatives would decide the election; it chose Jefferson.

      • Election of 1804

        In 1804 Thomas Jefferson, the incumbent, won decisively over Charles Cotesworth Pinckney.

      • Election of 1808

        After Thomas Jefferson chose not to run for a third term, his fellow Democratic-Republican James Madison defeated Charles Cotesworth Pinckney in 1808.

      • Election of 1812

        In the midst of war James Madison was reelected in 1812, defeating DeWitt Clinton.

      • Election of 1816

        James Monroe was elected by a wide margin over Rufus King in 1816.

      • Election of 1820

        James Monroe had no opponents in 1820; he was thus elected to a second term.

      • Election of 1824

        Although Andrew Jackson received the most electoral votes in 1824, John Quincy Adams was chosen president by the House of Representatives.

      • Election of 1828

        In 1828 Andrew Jackson defeated the incumbent, John Quincy Adams.

      • Election of 1832

        Andrew Jackson easily won reelection over Henry Clay in 1832.

      • Election of 1836

        In 1836 Martin Van Buren defeated several Whig candidates.

      • Election of 1840

        In 1840 William Henry Harrison prevented Martin Van Buren from winning a second term.

      • Election of 1844

        James K. Polk defeated Henry Clay in 1844.

      • Election of 1848

        As the United States continued to expand westward, Zachary Taylor defeated Lewis Cass in 1848.

      • Election of 1852

        In 1852 Franklin Pierce defeated Winfield Scott, the last Whig Party nominee to run for president.

      • Election of 1856

        In 1856 James Buchanan defeated John C. Frémont and, by a much wider margin, former president Millard Fillmore.

      • Election of 1860

        Abraham Lincoln defeated three other candidates in 1860; seven Southern states seceded between his election and his inauguration, in January 1861.

      • Election of 1864

        Abraham Lincoln won reelection over George B. McClellan in 1864 as the Civil War continued; only the states that had remained in the Union voted.

      • Election of 1868

        In 1868 Ulysses S. Grant defeated Horatio Seymour.

      • Election of 1872

        In 1872 Ulysses S. Grant won reelection; he defeated Horace Greeley.

      • Election of 1876

        In one of the most disputed presidential elections in American history, Rutherford B. Hayes won by one electoral vote in 1876; Samuel J. Tilden lost.

      • Election of 1880

        In 1880 James A. Garfield defeated Winfield Scott Hancock.

      • Election of 1884

        In 1884 Grover Cleveland defeated James G. Blaine.

      • Election of 1888

        In 1888 Benjamin Harrison defeated the incumbent, Grover Cleveland.

      • Election of 1892

        In 1892 Grover Cleveland defeated the incumbent, Benjamin Harrison, thereby becoming the first president to serve discontinuous terms.

      • Election of 1896

        William McKinley defeated William Jennings Bryan in 1896; it would be the first of Bryan’s three losses in presidential elections.

      • Election of 1900

        In 1900 the incumbent, William McKinley, defeated William Jennings Bryan.

      • Election of 1904

        Theodore Roosevelt, who had become president in 1901 after William McKinley’s death, defeated Alton B. Parker in 1904.

      • Election of 1908

        In 1908 William Howard Taft defeated William Jennings Bryan.

      • Election of 1912

        Woodrow Wilson defeated two major candidates in 1912: Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, the incumbent.

      • Election of 1916

        Woodrow Wilson won reelection by defeating Charles Evans Hughes in 1916.

      • Election of 1920

        In 1920 Warren G. Harding defeated James M. Cox.

      • Election of 1924

        In 1924 Calvin Coolidge defeated John W. Davis and Robert M. La Follette.

      • Election of 1928

        Herbert Hoover defeated Al Smith by a substantial margin in 1928.

      • Election of 1932

        In 1932, during the Great Depression, Franklin D. Roosevelt defeated Herbert Hoover, the incumbent.

      • Election of 1936

        In 1936 Franklin D. Roosevelt was reelected by a large margin, defeating Alf Landon.

      • Election of 1940

        Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected to an unprecedented third term in 1940, defeating Wendell Willkie.

      • Election of 1944

        Franklin D. Roosevelt secured his fourth term in 1944, during World War II, when he defeated Thomas E. Dewey

      • Election of 1948

        In 1948 Harry S. Truman, who had become president after the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945, defeated Thomas E. Dewey.

      • Election of 1952

        In 1952 Dwight D. Eisenhower defeated Adlai E. Stevenson.

      • Election of 1956

        As he had done in 1952, Dwight D. Eisenhower defeated Adlai E. Stevenson in 1956.

      • Election of 1960

        In 1960 John F. Kennedy defeated Richard Nixon.

      • Election of 1964

        Lyndon B. Johnson, who had become president after John F. Kennedy died in 1963, decisively defeated Barry Goldwater in 1964.

      • Election of 1968

        In 1968 Richard Nixon defeated Hubert Humphrey and George Wallace.

      • Election of 1972

        In 1972 Richard Nixon, the incumbent, won a massive victory over George McGovern.

      • Election of 1976

        In 1976 Jimmy Carter defeated Gerald Ford, who had become president after Richard Nixon’s resignation in 1974.

      • Election of 1980

        In 1980 Ronald Reagan defeated incumbent president Jimmy Carter.

      • Election of 1984

        In 1984 Ronald Reagan defeated Walter Mondale by a vast margin.

      • Election of 1988

        George H.W. Bush defeated Michael Dukakis in 1988.

      • Election of 1992

        In 1992 Bill Clinton defeated George H.W. Bush, the incumbent.

      • Election of 1996

        Bill Clinton won reelection by defeating Bob Dole in 1996.

      • Election of 2000

        In 2000 George W. Bush defeated Al Gore in a closely contested election.

      • Election of 2004

        In 2004 George W. Bush won a second term by defeating John Kerry.

      • Election of 2008

        In 2008 Barack Obama defeated John McCain; he became the first Black president.

      • Election of 2012

        In 2012 Barack Obama was elected to a second term, defeating Mitt Romney.

      • Election of 2016

        Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016.

      • Election of 2020

        In 2020 Joe Biden defeated the incumbent, Donald Trump.

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