GARY CRAFT of Baltimore writes to point out that Jan. 20, God willing, there will be more ex-presidents of the United States alive at the same time than there have been in 130 years.
On Jan. 18, 1862, at 12:14 a.m., these ex-es were looking over President Abraham Lincoln's shoulder: Martin Van Buren, John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan. Tyler went to the Great White House in the Sky at 12:15. Then there were four.
On the next Inauguration Day, there could be a record-setting six ex-presidents, if C. J. Skamarakas of Baltimore is right.
C. J. writes as follows: "I told you a Democrat could win the election [this year] by concentrating on those states that Dukakis won plus those states that Bush only won by less than 5 percent of the 1988 vote.
"So now I'll predict a Republican win in 1996 without their candidate carrying California." C J. sees Dan Quayle carrying all the states Bush carried this year (168 electoral votes), plus 68 electoral votes "from states that the Republicans lost by less than 3 percent. . . . And finally 51 votes from states that they lost by between 5 and 9 percent. . . . This gives their candidate 287 electoral votes without California."
That would be the first time since 1880 that a Republican was elected president without carrying California. Even in that election, the Republican winner, James A. Garfield, carried part of California. The vote was very close for each of the state's six electors. Five Democratic candidates for elector defeated five Republicans by margins of less than 200 votes each, and one Republican candidate defeated a Democrat by just over 400 votes.
The electoral vote victory Skamarakas foresees in 1996 -287-151 -- would be the closest in 80 years. In 1916 incumbent Democratic President Woodrow Wilson defeated Republican Charles Evans Hughes 277-254.
Had Wilson lost California, which then had only 13 electoral votes, he would have lost the election, 264-267. He almost did lose it. He carried the state only by a little over 3,000 out of nearly a million cast.
Wilson went to bed thinking he might have lost. It was not till around 3:30 in the East before Democrats knew they had carried the West, including California.
You know, this is getting a little trivial even for me. I'd better sign off. Let me just add one thing. I said that there may be six ex-presidents again if Clinton is defeated next time. That assumes no mortal surprise for Messrs. Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan and Bush. A logical assumption: Their ages on Jan. 20, 1993, will be, respectively, 80, 79, 68, almost 82 and 68. Actuarial tables say all have a life expectancy of at least four more years.