5 Closest U.S. Presidential Elections

It’s not always Ronald Reagan vs. Walter Mondale. In 1984, Reagan won 49 states on the way to earning 525 Electoral College votes, one of the biggest presidential election landslides in history. Sometimes, though, U.S. presidential elections are agonizingly close. Here’s a look at five of the tightest races for the White House.

5 1796: John Adams vs. Thomas Jefferson

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John Adams and Thomas Jefferson are both huge names in U.S. history. These two men also ran against each other for the presidency two times. In the closer of the two races, in 1796, Adams beat out Jefferson by 71 to 68 electoral votes, becoming the country’s second president. Jefferson got his revenge in 1800. In this presidential rematch—also a close election—Jefferson took 73 electoral votes to Adams’ 65. Jefferson, then, became the nation’s third president.

4 1916: Rutherford B. Hayes vs. Samuel Tilden

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You probably don’t remember much about the presidential battle between Rutherford B. Hayes and Samuel Tilden. You can be forgiven for this: This election took place way back in 1876. Hayes won by a single electoral vote, 185 to 184. This election generated much of the same controversy as the Bush/Gore battle. With the electoral votes of four states disputed, the Electoral Commission chose to name Hayes president.

3 1916: Woodrow Wilson vs. Charles Evans

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Woodrow Wilson in 1916 held on to win a nail-biter against Charles Evans, a Supreme Court justice. Wilson earned his win with an electoral-vote advantage of just 23. He also held just a 3.1 percent edge in the popular vote.

2 1960: John F. Kennedy vs. Richard Nixon

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It took Richard Nixon until the next afternoon to concede defeat to John F. Kennedy in 1960. Kennedy won that election with 84 more electoral votes. The popular vote, though, was incredibly close. Kennedy won that with just a 0.2 percent lead. Of course, Nixon would eventually win a spot in the White House, taking over as president in 1969.

1 2000: Al Gore vs. George W. Bush

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Fans of Al Gore still shudder when they think of the 2000 presidential election. George W. Bush lost the popular vote to Gore by a tiny 0.5 percent. But Bush won the election by just five electoral votes. The Supreme Court had to be called in to stop a Florida recount before Bush could claim the presidency. The election marked the first time in 112 years that a presidential candidate won the election without also winning the popular vote.

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