Top 10 Political Upsets in US History

Top 10 Political Upsets in US History

Political upsets have always been a source of excitement and intrigue, capturing the imagination of the public and reshaping the course of history. These unexpected victories defy conventional wisdom, leaving us in awe of the underdogs who rose to the occasion and toppled their more favored opponents. In this article, we will delve into the top 10 political upsets in US history, examining the moments when the underdogs became the overthrowers and forever etched their names in the annals of American politics.

Here are the top 10 political upsets in US Upsets of All Time

Political upsets have the power to captivate our imagination and reshape the course of history. From Harry Truman’s surprising victory over Thomas Dewey to Donald Trump’s unprecedented win against Hillary Clinton, these upsets have taught us that no outcome is guaranteed in the world of politics.

Dewey video

Harry Truman vs. Thomas Dewey (1948)

In 1948, the US presidential election witnessed one of the most iconic upsets in political history. Incumbent President Harry Truman, a Democrat, faced off against Republican candidate Thomas Dewey. Dewey, a highly regarded figure, was widely expected to win the election. However, Truman, known for his tenacity and folksy charm, embarked on an energetic campaign trail that defied the odds. Despite the polls overwhelmingly favoring Dewey, Truman’s populist appeal resonated with voters, and he emerged victorious in a stunning upset. This election taught us that no matter how certain the outcome may seem, the will of the people can defy all expectations.

Carter video

Jimmy Carter vs. Gerald Ford (1976)

The election of 1976 pitted incumbent President Gerald Ford, a Republican, against the relatively unknown Democratic candidate, Jimmy Carter. Ford, who had assumed the presidency following Richard Nixon’s resignation, was widely perceived as a strong contender due to his experience. However, Carter, a former governor of Georgia, ran a campaign centered on integrity and trust, striking a chord with disillusioned voters. In a close race, Carter emerged as the victor, becoming the first Democrat to win the presidency since 1964. This upset demonstrated the power of authenticity and the ability of an underdog to connect with the electorate on a personal level.

Bush and Gore video

George W. Bush vs. Al Gore (2000)

The 2000 presidential election between George W. Bush and Al Gore will forever be remembered for its contentious aftermath. While Bush emerged as the ultimate victor, the path to his presidency was far from certain. Gore, the Democratic nominee and incumbent Vice President, was initially favored to win. However, the race was marred by a protracted legal battle over the recounting of votes in Florida. Ultimately, the Supreme Court intervened, handing the presidency to Bush by the narrowest of margins. This political upset highlighted the importance of every single vote and the potential for unexpected twists that can shape the course of a nation.

Brown video

Scott Brown vs. Martha Coakley (2010)

In a special election to fill the Massachusetts Senate seat left vacant by the passing of Edward Kennedy, Republican Scott Brown faced off against Democrat Martha Coakley. The race was closely watched as it had the potential to affect the balance of power in the Senate. Coakley, the Attorney General of Massachusetts, was considered a heavy favorite in the predominantly Democratic state. However, Brown, a relatively unknown state senator, ran a meticulously crafted campaign that focused on connecting with everyday voters. In a stunning upset, Brown emerged victorious, becoming the first Republican senator from Massachusetts in decades. This election reminded us that no seat is safe and that underdogs can triumph against all odds.

Trump video

Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton (2016)

The 2016 presidential election will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the most polarizing and shocking upsets of all time. Hillary Clinton, a seasoned politician and former Secretary of State, was widely expected to win against the unconventional Republican nominee, Donald Trump. However, Trump’s populist message and ability to tap into the frustrations of many Americans catapulted him to victory. Despite the controversies and scandals that surrounded his campaign, Trump managed to secure the electoral college votes needed to become the 45th President of the United States. This election shattered expectations and highlighted the power of an outsider candidate who speaks directly to the concerns of the electorate.

Reagan video

Ronald Reagan vs. Jimmy Carter (1980)

In 1980, Jimmy Carter’s bid for re-election was met with a formidable challenge from Republican candidate Ronald Reagan. Carter’s presidency was plagued by a struggling economy and a perceived lack of strong leadership. Reagan, a former Hollywood actor turned politician, presented himself as a charismatic and optimistic alternative. His conservative message resonated with a nation grappling with inflation and a hostage crisis in Iran. Reagan’s landslide victory in the electoral college demonstrated the potential for a political upset when a candidate taps into the prevailing sentiment of the times.

Kennedy video

Ted Kennedy vs. Jimmy Carter (1980 Democratic primaries)

While Jimmy Carter’s presidency was ultimately challenged by Ronald Reagan, his own path to the White House in 1980 faced a significant hurdle in the form of Democratic challenger Ted Kennedy. Kennedy, a beloved figure in the Democratic Party and the younger brother of President John F. Kennedy, posed a formidable threat to Carter’s re-nomination. However, Carter’s grassroots campaign and his ability to secure the support of influential party members ultimately prevailed, securing him the Democratic nomination. This primary upset showcased the resilience and determination of an incumbent president facing a formidable challenger from within his own party.

Brat’s video

David Brat vs. Eric Cantor (2014)

David Brat’s stunning upset victory over Republican incumbent Eric Cantor in the 2014 Virginia congressional primary sent shockwaves through the political establishment. Cantor, a prominent figure in the Republican Party and the House Majority Leader, was considered untouchable. However, Brat, an economics professor and political newcomer, ran a grassroots campaign that tapped into the growing discontent with the political establishment. Brat’s victory demonstrated the power of a well-organized and passionate underdog campaign that resonates with voters looking for change.

Nixon video

Richard Nixon vs. Edmund Muskie (1968 Democratic primaries)

The 1968 Democratic presidential primaries witnessed a surprising upset when Richard Nixon, a Republican, faced off against Democratic frontrunner Edmund Muskie. Muskie, a respected senator from Maine, was considered the favorite to secure the Democratic nomination. However, Nixon’s campaign successfully exploited divisions within the Democratic Party and capitalized on the rising tide of conservatism in America. Nixon’s victory in the general election highlighted the potential for unexpected outcomes even within a party’s own primaries.

Bush video

Bill Clinton vs. George H.W. Bush (1992)

In 1992, incumbent President George H.W. Bush faced a formidable challenge from Democratic candidate Bill Clinton. Despite Bush’s high approval ratings following the Gulf War, the struggling economy and a sense of disconnect with everyday Americans led to his downfall. Clinton, a charismatic and energetic politician, connected with voters on a personal level, promising to bring change and a new direction for the country. Clinton’s victory signaled a changing political landscape and the power of an underdog candidate who can tap into the aspirations and frustrations of the electorate.

Lessons learned from historical political upsets

The top 10 political upsets in US history offer valuable lessons that can shape our understanding of politics and democracy. These upsets remind us that no victory is guaranteed, and the will of the people can defy all expectations. They demonstrate the power of authenticity, grassroots campaigns, and the ability to connect with voters on a personal level. These upsets highlight the importance of every single vote and the potential for unexpected twists that can shape the course of a nation. They show us that underdogs can triumph against all odds, reshaping the political landscape and leaving a lasting impact on the course of history.


Political underdogs have highlighted the power of underdog campaigns, grassroots movements, and the ability to connect with voters on a personal level. As we reflect on the top 10 political upsets in US history, let us remember that the will of the people can defy all expectations, and the future of democracy lies in the hands of the electorate.