I love presidential trivia. And here's a piece that's going to make all the true believers gathered this week in Charlotte happy.
Should Barack Obama be reelected this November, it will be only the second time in American history we've had three two-term presidents in a row. You have to go way back -- Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe -- to ferret out the first and only such presidential trio.
Big deal, you say. Isn't this just another one of those mindless bits of presidential 411 that don't add up to much -- or anything at all? And the presidential scholars and political scientists who do this stuff for a living might agree with you, writing this trend off as irrelevant.
After all, what could we possibly conclude from a set of three presidents -- in this case, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama? A set of three can't have any statistical or empirical validity or relevance, can it?
Probably not. But I still think it holds the key to why Obama is likely to be reelected. And here's why I think this is one of the more meaningful bits of info cluttering up the presidential trivia attic.
First, incumbents have a big advantage, particularly against a weaker rival. With all of the bells and whistles of the modern presidency, and the respect, however grudging, most Americans continue to show toward the leader of the free world, running for president from the White House instead of a campaign bus in Iowa helps a lot.
After all, it isn't for nothing that Aaron Sorkin, the creator of the real presidency -- The West Wing -- once described the White House as the greatest home-court advantage in the world. Since 1980 -- that's 30-plus years, folks -- only one American president (still one of my favorites, though, George H.W. Bush) failed to gain a second term.
Second, presidents who are likeable, sentient beings have the edge. Clinton's political skills rivaled Reagan's; George W. Bush's regular-guy image trumped Al Gore's stiff public persona. And while Obama can be too professorial and detached -- both compared with Mitt Romney and in his own right -- he's a natural on the stump.