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Today we talk
about expressions related to the biggest contest in the United States –
the election of the American president.
Well, except for the first election. That was not much of a contest. On
February 4, 1789, all 69 members of Congress voted for George
Supposedly, Washington didn’t even want to be president. John Adams was
the runner-up. So, according to the rules at the time, Adams became
Washington’s vice president.
Elections these days are much harder to win. They can last for years and
cost millions and millions of dollars. So it is not surprising that
there are many expressions to describe the race for the White House.
That expression, in fact, is one of them.
We often call political elections races, a word you probably know from
sports. Many expressions we use for political campaigns are borrowed
from sports competitions. In fact, sometimes we just cut to the chase
and call the presidential election, a horse race.
If the race is close, we can say the candidates are neck-and-neck. This
horse racing term means the two candidates are nearly tied in the polls
and a winner is difficult to predict. We call such a race – political or
otherwise – a dead heat.
In the early part of an election cycle when a party is picking its
nominee, usually many candidates are in the running. Sometimes a
candidate pulls away from the pack and becomes the clear favorite.
These two terms also come from horse racing. So does down to the wire.
In a horse race, the horses race to the finish and run through a wire as
they cross the finish line. A presidential race that is down to the wire
is very close. The only way to know the winner is to wait for all the
votes to be counted.
If a candidate wins the election by a large margin -- that is to say won
by many, many votes -- he or she has won hands down. We also say the
race was a landslide. Or you could say the race was simply no contest.
These expressions all mean a candidate won easily.
But if a candidate loses an election by a big margin, we could say that
campaign got blown out of the water, as if by a submarine torpedo. Or we
might say simply that the candidate got crushed at the polls. More
informally, we might also say the candidate got beat like a rug, which
is visually entertaining.
Some candidates lose an election because they are unwilling to toe the
party line. In other words, they refuse to go along with the rules and
standards of their own political party. This may upset the candidate’s
base -- the people who usually support that party.
The opposite of toeing the party line is reaching across the aisle. In
the U.S., the two major parties are the Democrats and the Republicans.
In this expression, the “aisle” refers to the actual physical walkway
that divides the legislative halls. Members of the two parties sit on
So “to reach across the aisle” means to make an effort to negotiate with
members who are not in your party. Many politicians win elections
because of their willingness to work with members of the opposing party.
On the other hand, some politicians lose for the same reason.
cycle – n. a set of events or actions that
happen again and again in the same order : a repeating series of events
or actions runner-up – n. a person or team that finishes in second place (in
a competition) margin – n. a measurement of difference < We lost the election by
a one-vote margin. [= we lost the election by one vote] landslide – n. an election in which the winner gets a much
greater number of votes than the loser crushed – v. to defeat (a person or group that opposes you) by
using a lot of force party line – n. the official policy or opinion of a political
party or other organization that members are expected to support <Congress
voted along party lines on the new education bill. [ party lines =
members of each party voted in the expected way] base – n. something (such as a group of people or things) that
provides support for a place, business, etc. — usually singular
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