Because of myriad scandals inflicting his second term, it has become common for many on the Right to compare Barack Obama to Richard Nixon. Both had been re-elected with majorities; though Mr. Obama’s margin of victory paled in comparison to Nixon’s. While the New York Times referred to Mr. Obama’s re-election as a “resounding victory,” the facts are that he won with a smaller percentage and with fewer votes than he did in 2008. Mr. Nixon, in contrast, won with 60.7% of the popular vote, a 23.2% margin – the fourth largest in U.S. history. Despite having risen to the highest office in the land, both men were (are) loners, relying on small cadres of carefully selected advisors. Both were (are) mistrustful of Congress and abhorred small talk; though Mr. Nixon had served in both the House and the Senate before becoming Eisenhower’s Vice President. Both men used the IRS as a means of intimidating their enemies. Both attempted to muzzle opposition in the press.
Woodrow Wilson is the other president to whom Mr. Obama has been compared. There are notable differences, of course, but comparisons of the 44th President to the 28th are intriguing. They are the only two Presidents, according to Michael Barone, who won second terms with smaller margins in the Electoral College than they did in their first terms. Neither man had much preparation for the Presidency. Mr. Wilson had been a professor of jurisprudence and political economy at Princeton, before becoming president of the college (1902-1910). He then served as Governor of New Jersey for two years. Mr. Obama had been a community organizer, law professor, a State Senator for six years and a U.S. Senator for four. While Mr. Obama was elected by a majority of the electorate in both elections, Mr. Wilson was not in either. In 1912, Theodore Roosevelt formed the Bull Moose Party, which garnered 27.4% of the vote, spelling defeat for William Howard Taft, who won 23.2%. Wilson won with 41.8%. He won re-election in 1916 in a tough battle against Charles Evans Hughes, with 49.2% of the vote.