2383: Electoral Precedent 2020

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Electoral Precedent 2020
He also broke the streak that incumbents with websites are unbeatable and Delawareans can't win, creating a new precedent: Only someone from Delaware can defeat an incumbent with a website.
Title text: He also broke the streak that incumbents with websites are unbeatable and Delawareans can't win, creating a new precedent: Only someone from Delaware can defeat an incumbent with a website.


This comic is an update to 1122: Electoral Precedent, adding "broken precedents" for the US presidential elections in 2016 and 2020. It was published six days after the 2020 election took place, and two days after most news networks "called" the election, projecting Biden as the winner. The majority of the comic's panels are duplicates from 1122, with the exception of the 2012 panel (modified to show that Obama did in fact break the streak), the 2016 panel (added to reflect the election of Donald Trump), and the two 2020 panels. It continues the theme of pointing out that an arbitrary 'precedent' can always be invoked to predict the outcome of an election. Presidential elections happen rarely enough that each is a unique event, and something is always happening for the first time. Like with the other examples, the precedents mentioned here mix factors that could plausibly impact the election (such as one candidate having been impeached), with precedents that are just a product of time and chance (like a successful challenger having a website).

The final two panels again show how, no matter which candidate won in 2020, it would be a 'first' in some way.

  • No sitting president who was impeached was even nominated for the office again until Donald Trump. (Only two other US presidents have been impeached. Bill Clinton couldn't run again afterward due to term limits, Andrew Johnson failed to be nominated at the 1868 Democratic Convention.) After the election, it remains true that no impeached president has ever been re-elected. (As of October 2023, Trump is considered the Republican front-runner for the 2024 election; should he be nominated and win that election, this statement could become false, depending on how exactly one interprets it.)
  • Prior to the 2020 election, no challenger with a website ever won. This, however, is easily explained by the fact that incumbent presidents usually win, and websites are a fairly new technology. The last time a challenger beat an incumbent was in 1992 before Internet use was widespread. By 1996 that had changed and both the incumbent Bill Clinton campaign and the challenger Bob Dole campaign had websites that look very simple by today's standards. The title text points out that one could just as easily say that incumbents with websites are unbeatable, until that precedent was broken in 2020.

The 2020 election was also precedent breaking in a few ways that Randall didn't mention:

  • At 78, Joe Biden was the oldest president ever on the day of his inauguration.
  • Biden's running mate Kamala Harris is the first-ever female vice president, first Black vice president, and the first Asian vice president (her parents are from Jamaica and India). She's also the first Democratic vice president from the West.
  • Biden received over 80 million votes, the highest ever, beating Obama 2008's previous record of just under 69.5 million votes. The second-highest raw vote total was for Trump, with approximately 74.2 million votes, also beating Obama 2008. Turnout as a percentage of the eligible population was the highest in over a century. Unlike the other precedents, however, this one was not an inevitable outcome of a Biden-Harris victory.

Also, Biden is the first president from the state of Delaware, thus he broke the "precedent" that Delawareans can't win. Randall then proceeds to combine these 2 facts to create a new precedent: Only Delawareans can defeat incumbents with a website.

Table of New Broken Precedents[edit]

All original options can be found at 1122: Electoral Precedent.

Year Broken Precedent Explanation Validity
2012 Democratic incumbents never beat taller challengers. ... Until Obama did. Mitt Romney stood 6' 2", an inch taller than President Obama. Nonetheless, Obama was re-elected for a second term. True
2016 No one has become president without government or military experience. ... Until Trump did. Every president prior to Trump had either been a general in the US Army, a congressman, a state governor, or a cabinet member. True
2020? No one has won after being impeached. ✓ None of the two prior presidents who were impeached even ran for re-election. This is the first time this specific condition has even been tested. Trump was impeached, ran, and lost, so this test remains true at this point in history.
2020? No challenger with a website has won. X The possibility of having a website only arose in the 1990s and Bill Clinton seems to not have had one when he succeeded Bush Sr. Although websites became increasingly ubiquitous, no president since had ever been defeated by their respective challengers. "...until Biden did."


The problem with statements like
"No <party> candidate has won the election without <state>"
"No president has been reelected under <circumstances>"
★ Updated for 2020 ★
[Each statement below has its own panel. The year is in a caption, the precedent is stated by a standing Cueball in the main panel, and the president who broke it is below the panel.]
1788... No one has been elected president before. ...But Washington was.
1792... No incumbent has ever been reelected. ...Until Washington.
1796... No one without false teeth has become president. ...But Adams did.
1800... No challenger has beaten an incumbent. ...But Jefferson did.
1804... No incumbent has beaten a challenger. ...Until Jefferson.
1808... No congressman has ever become president. ...Until Madison.
1812... No one can win without New York. ...But Madison did.
1816... No candidate who doesn't wear a wig can get elected. ...Until Monroe was.
1820... No one who wears pants instead of breeches can be reelected. ...But Monroe was.
1824... No one has ever won without a popular majority. ...J.Q. Adams did.
1828... Only people from Massachusetts and Virginia can win. ...Until Jackson did.
1832... The only presidents who get reelected are Virginians. ...Until Jackson.
1836... New Yorkers always lose. ...Until Van Buren.
1840... No one over 65 has won the presidency. ...Until Harrison did.
1844... No one who's lost his home state has won. ...But Polk did.
1848... As goes Mississippi, so goes the nation. ...Until 1848.
1852... New England Democrats can't win. ...Until Pierce did.
1856... No one can become president without getting married. ...Until Buchanan did.
1860... No one over 6'3" can get elected. ...Until Lincoln.
1864... No one with a beard has been reelected. ...But Lincoln was.
1868... No one can be president if their parents are alive. ...Until Grant.
1872... No one with a beard has been reelected in peacetime. ...Until Grant was.
1876... No one can win a majority of the popular vote and still lose. ...Tilden did.
1880... As goes California, so goes the nation. ...Until it went Hancock.
1884... Candidates named "James" can't lose. ...Until James Blaine.
1888... No sitting president has been beaten since the Civil War. ...Cleveland was.
1892... No former president has been elected. ...Until Cleveland.
1896... Tall Midwesterners are unbeatable. ...Bryan wasn't.
1900... No Republican shorter than 5'8" has been reelected. ...Until McKinley was.
1904... No one under 45 has been elected. ...Roosevelt did.
1908... No Republican who hasn't served in the military has won. ...Until Taft.
[The precedent takes up the entire panel this year. Consequently, there is no Cueball.] 1912... After Lincoln beat the Democrats while sporting a beard with no mustache, the only Democrats who can win have a mustache with no beard. ...Wilson had neither.
1916... No Democrat has won while losing West Virginia. ...Wilson did.
1920... No incumbent senator has won. ...Until Harding.
1924... No one with two Cs in their name has become president. ...Until Calvin Coolidge.
1928... No one who got ten million votes has lost. ...Until Al Smith.
1932... No Democrat has won since women secured the right to vote. ...Until FDR did.
1936... No president's been reelected with double-digit unemployment. ...Until FDR was.
1940... No one has won a third term. ...Until FDR did.
1944... No Democrat has won during wartime. ...Until FDR did.
1948... Democrats can't win without Alabama. ...Truman did.
1952... No Republican has won without winning the House or Senate. ...Eisenhower did.
1956... No one can beat the same nominee a second time in a leap year rematch. ...Until Eisenhower.
1960... Catholics can't win. ...Until Kennedy.
1964... Every Republican who's taken Louisiana has won. ...Until Goldwater.
[The panel is zoomed in on Cueball's head in this frame.] 1968... No Republican vice president has risen to the Presidency through an election. ...Until Nixon.
[The panel is zoomed in on Cueball's head in this frame.] 1972... Quakers can't win twice. ...Until Nixon did.
1976... No one who lost New Mexico has won. ...But Carter did.
1980... No one has been elected president after a divorce. ...Until Reagan was.
1984... No left-handed president has been reelected. ...Until Reagan was.
[The panel is zoomed in on Cueball's head in this frame.] 1988... No one with two middle names has become president. ...Until "Herbert Walker".
[The panel is zoomed in on Cueball's head in this frame.] 1992... No Democrat has won without a majority of the Catholic vote. ...Until Clinton did.
[The precedent takes up the entire panel this year. Consequently, there is no Cueball.] 1996... No Dem. incumbent without combat experience has beaten someone whose first name is worth more in Scrabble. ...Until Bill beat Bob.
2000... No Republican has won without Vermont. ...Until Bush did.
[The panel is zoomed in on Cueball's head in this frame.] 2004... No Republican without combat experience has beaten someone two inches taller ...Until Bush did.
2008... No Democrat can win without Missouri. ...Until Obama did.
2012... Democratic incumbents never beat taller challengers. ... Until Obama did.
[The panel is zoomed in on Cueball's head in this frame.] 2016... No one has become president without government or military experience. ... Until Trump did.
2020? No one has won after being impeached.
2020? No challenger with a website has won. X
[Caption below the comic]
Congratulations to President-Elect Joe Biden for breaking the website curse!


  • This comic seems to have used the same image as 1122: Electoral Precedent, and so the original version of this comic had a ghost image of the original 2012 2nd "streak": "No nominee whose first name contains a "K" has lost."
  • Also, the panels for past elections that were wrong before continue to be wrong, including 1812, 1816, 1820, 1904, and 1952. See 1122: Electoral Precedent, Table of Broken Precedents for details.

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Can anyone identify the faded background text in the 2016 panel?

Is there some shadow text behind the main text in the 2016 square? I can barely make it out. It looks like "No nominee whose first name contains a "k" has lost", which would be the same from the 1122 comic. ChunyangD (talk) 00:54, 10 November 2020 (UTC)

It's the alternative text from the 2016 one: "No nominee whose first name contains a "K" has lost." 00:58, 10 November 2020 (UTC)

I replaced the image in this article. It looks like Randall fixed the image on xkcd.com to get rid of the shadow text. Natg19 (talk) 21:53, 11 November 2020 (UTC)

I'm quite sure that Obama did in fact have a campaign website in 2008 when he was a challenger. See http://www.4president.us/websites/2008/barackobama2008website.htm Bobjr (talk) 01:15, 10 November 2020 (UTC)

I think "challenger" means that they're going against the incumbent. Obama was up against McCain, who wasn't an incumbent. Barmar (talk) 01:31, 10 November 2020 (UTC)

Should be added to the original explanation. 00:16, 12 November 2020 (UTC)

How much do we want the explanation for this one to repeat what is in that of 1122?--Troy0 (talk) 01:19, 10 November 2020 (UTC)

We shouldn't. If the explanation of 1122 is missing something it should be added there. Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 08:21, 10 November 2020 (UTC)

There is much to do on the original - like where some of the presidents were, how tall were the presidents beofre Lincoln etc. It is eight years old we hould have done this. 00:16, 12 November 2020 (UTC)

Didn't Clinton win after being impeached? Alcatraz ii (talk) 01:21, 10 November 2020 (UTC)

Yes, he was impeached during his first term. Barmar (talk) 01:31, 10 November 2020 (UTC)
No, this is not true, Clinton was impeached during his 2nd term, in 1998, and he was not eligible for a 3rd term. George W. Bush won the following presidential election in 2000. 01:35, 10 November 2020 (UTC)

You could also say Joe was the first President with a rescue dog Squire80513 (talk) 01:57, 10 November 2020 (UTC)Squire80513

Does not Lyndon B Johnson's dog, Yuki, count? 02:30, 10 November 2020 (UTC)
LBJ's Yuki was a "rescue" (found wandering aimlessly around a gas station) but not a "shelter" dog. Joe's dog is the first first canine from a shelter. It's subtle distinction that many repeating the statistic miss MAP (talk) 03:08, 10 November 2020 (UTC)

Point of order, why is Biden being referred to as president elect? I was under the impression that the term shouldn't be used until the dispute is resolved. With several pending legal cases and the votes uncertified by the states. - 3:45 11/10/20 Template:unsigned IP

All major media sources have called the race for Biden as of Saturday, November 8th. XKCD, and this wiki, will follow the lead of the Associated Press or New York Times, both of whom say the race has concluded and Joe Biden is the president elect. - 4:38 11/10/20 Template:unsigned IP
Except for one of the most trusted- RealClearPolitics.com still has Pennsylvania up for grabs due to lawsuits and is about to move Michigan back into play after a poll worker claimed that a delivery of Biden-only votes came into a Detroit counting room at 3:30 am on November 4.Seebert (talk) 14:26, 10 November 2020 (UTC)
Your assertion of trust without reason comes across as fake news; however, I checked the web.archive.org history for realclearpolitics.com, and it has over a decade of history. I also visited the site and at a cursor glance it might have rational articles from both political sides, which seems commendable. If it is actually trustworthy, why didn't you explain that it is and why it is, given the current news environment? 14:53, 10 November 2020 (UTC)
My bad, I had assumed that the trio of sites covering the electoral college, 270toWin, RealClearPolitics, and 538 were all well known and respected sites by now, after having played a big role in the last 4 elections. Seebert (talk) 15:25, 10 November 2020 (UTC)
Not only that, but A) while "the votes uncertified by the states" may influence the exact total, they can't make Trump win, B) a Trump victory would require that ALL legal cases are resolved in Trump's favor (depending on uncertified votes) and C) the Republican party asked to Trump to concede victory, meaning that nobody with political experience believes those legal cases have a chance of success. The only unknown point is the result of the EC election, but it is naturally assumed they will vote for the elected candidate. 08:29, 10 November 2020 (UTC)
"Presumptive president elect" would be more accurate (and I say this as someone that voted for Biden). -- 10:06, 10 November 2020 (UTC)

I don't understand how the statement for 1876 could have been true: if J.Q. Adams won in 1824 without a popular majority, then his opponent won the majority and still lost, so Tilden couldn't have been the first in 1876 to win the majority and lose? 08:54, 10 November 2020 (UTC)

Simple: there were more than two candidates. In 1824, there were four candidates who each got over 10% of the vote. That's how Adams could win without the majority, without one of his opponents then having the majority. (In fact, Jackson had the plurality of the votes, but not the majority, but Adams was elected by the House.) -- 11:30, 10 November 2020 (UTC)
Thanks! 16:57, 10 November 2020 (UTC)
More details: 1824 United States presidential election. Jackson only got about 41% of the popular vote (in states that had one -- not all did back then), and 99 out of 261 electoral votes (~38%). Nobody got enough votes in enough states for an electoral majority, so the election went to Congress. --Aaron of Mpls (talk) 00:41, 11 November 2020 (UTC)

Bad with formatting here, but I updated the bit about precedent to include that Trump's raw vote total (approx 71.5 million, also not yet certified) is also breaking the precedent set by Obama in 2008. Love them or hate them, in this high-turnout election, both major party candidates had record numbers for their raw vote totals. Trump doesn't make it to first place above Obama because Biden makes it to first place above Trump. I didn't look into whether the percentage of eligible population numbers are different, but higher turnout combined with higher population makes breaking that barrier a little easier. 13:02, 10 November 2020 (UTC)

Especially since poll workers were caught on camera in Wisconsin putting Trump Votes upside-down into the scanner, but scanning Biden votes correctly.Seebert (talk) 14:26, 10 November 2020 (UTC)
How was this discovered? How can we hunt down more occurrences? Did the machine reject the ballots and the people fix the error? (and what are the ramifications of a camera recording vote ballots?) There is no reason to not suspect the opposite happens too: that anybody's votes could be put in upside down. 14:55, 10 November 2020 (UTC)
It's part of the lawsuit based on a complaint from an observer. But there is an easy way to track down and correct this problem on both sides- hold a recount.Seebert (talk) 15:25, 10 November 2020 (UTC)
I have not found a reference to any current Wisconsin lawsuit. Seems like you should either document the claims or delete them. 23:13, 10 November 2020 (UTC)
The scanners read both sides of the ballot, and the ballot has markings so it knows which side is the front and which is the back. It doesn't matter which way you feed them into the scanner. -- 17:26, 11 November 2020 (UTC)

Honestly, the outcome's still not 100%, so, if, by some stroke of (bad?) luck, Trump becomes president again, then the precedents might change.- another user

Is it just me, or is Randall using this comic as an excuse to throw some shade on Trump? The two squares about Trump are "he has no military experience or political experience" and "he got impeached and then lost." He could've picked more neutral things (his age perhaps, or his appearance on WWE or something) so these choices seem pretty deliberate and, pointed, shall we say? 00:13, 11 November 2020 (UTC)

It's still in keeping with the other 'serious' precedents in prior elections, like not winning without a specific state, or having/not having certain experience. --Aaron of Mpls (talk) 00:41, 11 November 2020 (UTC)
By Randall's standards, this "shade" is fairly mild. We already know that Randall is not a fan of Trump. The fact that Trump had no government or military experience, unlike all previous presidents, was well-known. And if Randall ever updates this strip after a future election, the item about Trump having been impeached wouldn't even be mentioned because that precedent wasn't broken. -- 02:40, 11 November 2020 (UTC)
If he wanted to throw shade at trump, it could've been something like "No candidate has been elected after admitting on tape to grabbing womens' crotches without consent", not something mild like not coming from a government or military background (which Trump bragged about). -- 17:44, 11 November 2020 (UTC)
Why replace something enormously important with something neutral? Trump was the first person to be elected who had zero prior practical experience related to the office of President, and the results have been painfully obvious. These Are Not The Comments You Are Looking For (talk) 19:20, 17 November 2020 (UTC)
Speaking of replacing something important with something utterly irrelevant, Biden’s accomplishment was having a website?? NOT finally breaking the rule “no one has ever been elected with a female running-mate (until Biden)”???? I hope that when Randall updates this, he’ll get rid of the website trivia and replace it with something that actually matters. 13:42, 24 January 2022 (UTC)

This could have had a different precedent broken, though obviously not if Randall is an anti-Trumper: "No challenger who was embroiled in graft, extortion of foreign leaders, and abuse of political position while having a fawning media hide it all ever won the election - until Biden did"... 06:38, 24 February 2021 (UTC)

You have a lot of confidence in the integrity of politicians who are not Biden. GreatWyrmGold (talk) 18:28, 24 November 2023 (UTC)

Since Trump isn't from Delaware and Biden has a website, we can probably guess the outcome of he 2024 election. GreatWyrmGold (talk) 18:28, 24 November 2023 (UTC)


If you really feel the need to explain every item in a table then please do so in comic 1122 as this is the original. Elektrizikekswerk (talk) 18:25, 10 November 2020 (UTC)

I removed the redundant options, sorry - user who made table (...Unsigned)

When I changed the word from "Redundant" (I know what you meant, just that's not quite right) I was hoping to #anchor the link to the prior comic exactly upon the new(?) section someone set up with the previously-relevent lines of table. But it turns out there's only two href="#..."s on that page, and no section titles are given that honour (unlike, say, wikipedia's Table Of Contents entries) I don't want to try to mess with the expkcd wiki at that level of things, but I think it'd be slightly more useful to set that up than it would cost in effort (i.e. a slightly larger version of 'barely'). That's my suggestion, anyway. Just putting it out there. 23:52, 10 November 2020 (UTC)

Is there some joke to trump being impeached?[edit]

I thought he was acquitted, I checked wikipedia and they say he was acquitted. I'm not American if this is some in joke in America you guys may need to explain it. Thank you :) 00:30, 11 November 2020 (UTC)

He was impeached, which is an equivalent to being indicted (i.e. being formally charged with a crime, but in a way necessary to deal with statutory protections and obligations of elected officials), but at the next stage was (almost inevitably) acquitted. Because politics. (For some the impeachment was politics, for some the acquittal was politics. There'll be overlap, but also a very partisan split between those that definitely consider just the one of them to be politics, but not the same one.) 00:57, 11 November 2020 (UTC)
Or to put it another way, "impeached" in U.S. law doesn't mean "removed from office". The House of Representatives impeached Trump, but he was not convicted by the Senate; had he been convicted, he would have been removed from office. In fact, none of the three presidents who were impeached (Andrew Johnson, Bill Clinton, and Trump) were convicted by the Senate. -- 02:40, 11 November 2020 (UTC)

What's up with the checkmark and X?[edit]

Shouldn't they be reversed? Biden won, so the panel about the website should be added to the comic. Doesn't that mean that panel should have the checkmark on it? 04:20, 11 November 2020 (UTC)

That confused me too for a second, but then I realized what was meant - checkmark is on the claim that is still true after this election ("No president has won after being impeached"), while X is on the one that is no longer true ("No challenger with a website has won"). BytEfLUSh (talk) 04:40, 11 November 2020 (UTC)
Could someone add this into the explanation? I didn't get this either. 16:45, 11 November 2020 (UTC)

Could also note that Biden is the first Presidential Medal of Freedom holder to be elected to the Presidency. (All other presidents so-honored have been awarded the PMoF after their term in office.)