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Great Election Day Upsets

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Whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, a red-state right-winger or a blue-state liberal, today is an important day.

It’s Election Day. If you’re sick and tired of the same old song and dance from the politicians in Washington and in your state, then today is the day you can do something about it. They may not listen to you for 364 days a year, but today is the day you can make sure your voice is heard.

Maybe you’ll vote for the young upstart who kicks the crusty, old incumbent out the door. Maybe you’ll be one of the few swing votes in an extremely tight race. No matter what, you have the opportunity to take part in making history.

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Over the years, quite a bit of history has been made on Election Day. Some of the most memorable elections involve the major upsets that no one—experts included—saw coming.

As you prepare today to pull the lever or press the button, take a look at some of America’s most notable Election Day upsets.

Scott Brown over Martha Coakley—2010 Massachusetts Senate

A Republican in Massachusetts is kind of like a dude at a Taylor Swift concert—they are hard to find. But Republican Scott Brown received enough support in a January 2010 special election to narrowly defeat Massachusetts Attorney General, Martha Coakley, and win the seat vacated by the death of Ted Kennedy. Brown trailed by as much as 10% in the polls just a few weeks before the election. But, with his win, he became the first Republican senator in Massachusetts in nearly 40 years.

Jesse “The Body” Ventura over Norm Coleman—1998 Minnesota Gubernatorial Election

Only in American politics can a former professional wrestler, nicknamed “The Body,” land a gig as a governor. Ventura ran on the Reform Party ticket and upset the two major party candidates in the race. Using a grassroots campaign, and only spending a fraction of the money that the other two candidates spent, Ventura shook up the political world in 1998, before calling it quits after his term ended in 2002.

George W. Bush over Ann Richards—1994 Texas Gubernatorial Election

You know all about W’s days as president. But, back in the early 90s, Bush was more involved in baseball than politics. At the time, he was the managing partner of the Texas Rangers. Bush entered the 1994 Texas Governor’s race as the underdog, up against an extremely popular incumbent governor, Ann Richards. Not only that, but Bush was running as a Republican in Texas, a state that had only elected one Republican governor in the entire twentieth century. This gubernatorial upset laid the foundation for Bush’s presidential victory six years later.

Jimmy Carter over Gerald Ford—1976 Presidential Election

In the 1976 presidential election, relatively unknown peanut farmer and Georgia governor Jimmy Carter defeated the incumbent President Gerald Ford, who had taken over the office following Richard Nixon’s resignation. Carter wasn’t expected to win the Democrat seat over much more well-known candidates, much less defeat the sitting president. Carter followed up his victory in 1976 with a sizeable loss to Ronald Reagan in the 1980 election.

Harry Truman over Thomas Dewey—1948 Presidential Election

If Harry Truman were a sports team, he would have been the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey Team … his upset over Thomas Dewey was that big. Truman’s victory in the 1948 presidential race is considered the greatest upset in modern American politics. On election night, The Chicago Tribune was so certain Dewey would win that they had already printed papers with the infamous headline, “DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN.” But Truman took advantage of Dewey’s stiff personality and conservative campaign tactics and mounted a charge that shocked the nation.

While you may not be voting for the next Harry Truman, make sure you get out and take part in today’s election. Don’t take your right to vote for granted.

What are some of the Election Day upsets that you remember?

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