msnbc | November 03, 2012
>> michael becklosh. michael as we take a check on what's happening right now, at this point in all the campaigns, these last few day, the waning hours, is it all about just an enthusiasm buildup? is that what you traditionally see year after year?
>> it is. but you know, there have only been about a half a dozen campaigns where the election was this close since world war ii . and we really didn't know who was going to win. and majority of those, there was sort of an event at the very last minute that helped public opinion to move in certain cases resolve the election. working backwards, the osama tape in 2004 brought voters at the last minute to george w bush . 2,000, dwi and old charge police record of george w. bush in maine was brought out probably cost him a lot of votes. going back, the iran hostages in 1980 . even election morning we didn't know if those were going to be released. so the thing that's different is that it's hard to think of a last-minute event like that that's unresolved that's going to move the voters the next three days.
>> what about, though, hurricane sandy? i mean, we were looking at the nbc news-" wall street journal "-marist poll in which everybody is giving the president strong, high marks for his handling of the situation. appearing very presidential in trying to put the country at ease and promising up a the help that each individual state needs. do you think if you take that perspective with that which mitt romney has put out there, which is that he this that recovery should be left more in the hands of the states, having gone so far as to say that he would consider doing away with fema, do you think that may be something that is that last-minute surprise? might it turn out to be that way on tuesday?
>> possibly. but it happened, i think, probably too early before the election to have that kind of last-minute jolt. sure, barack obama was seen as president and in a bipartisan way. that is always helpful. and you know that story from "politico" you mentioned a moment ago, alex, that chris christie may have been miffed at mitt romney for not being chosen as vice president. that sometimes has an effect. a 1916 woodrow wilson was running for re-election against charles evan hughes . hughes lost the election because he lost california. the reason he did that was that the governor of california, hiram johnson , felt somehow snubbed by hughes . the result was that hughes lost.
>> interesting. i really need to take a class from you. i would have never known that fact. but anyway, before we get any further i do want to ask you quickly about the jobs numbers, michael . fdr as i have mentioned, he's the only one to have won re-election with this sort of economic backdrop. higher than 7.4%.
>> how might historians view a re-election victory based on these unemployment numbers?
>> i think that historians will probably say that people weighed the two candidates and essentially said that one had a better prospect of improving things than the other. whoever wins. but the way that fdr did it in 1936 when it was 16% was to say, it's still much too high but we're getting better. ronald reagan in 1984 it was in the low 7s. he said the same thing. so if people listen to barack obama , if they find that persuasive he'll win the election.
>> let's talk about the dreaded by most accounts split of the electoral vote versus the popular vote . in which this has happened four times in history where a president is elected based on the electoral votes but not the popular vote . how does this play out in the past?
>> well, usually it undermines a little bit the new president. perhaps the best example of that recently, obviously, was 2000 when al gore got the popular vote , george w. bush got the electoral vote . but even in an election that was resolved in as poisonous an atmosphere as that one was by the supreme court , it's amazing how quickly that began to fade. people understand that under the constitution presidents are chosen by the electoral college . until that changes, that's going to be the case in three days.
>> i've spoken to some folks, michael who say if president obama wins a second term he immediately joins the pantheon of great presidents. what is your take?
>> no. there were a lot of very bad second term or two-term presidents. but one thing that will be historically unique is that the last time we had three two-term presidents in a row you have to go all the way back to thomas jefferson and his two successors. that's how rare it is. and also americans tend to think that if a president is elected to a second term or the other way around if he's defeated, it's a sign that he wasn't even able to meet at sort of a basic level of political competence and leadership. in fact there have been cases when presidents have been defeated for a second term because they made tough decision that is were the right thing to do.
>> all right. nbc news presidential historian michael becklosh. always a pleasure.
>> we'll know in three days.