When presidential hopefuls lose their home state
Should he win while losing the solidly blue Bay State, Romney will become the first man to enter the White House despite losing what could reasonably be considered his "home" state since Woodrow Wilson pulled it off in 1916. (No thanks to you, New Jersey.) Of course, home state is a slippery concept: Romney was born and spent his childhood in Michigan and owns homes in New Hampshire and California. He also has strong ties to Utah.
In 2008, President Obama easily won the state he represented in Congress - Illinois - and his birth state of Hawaii. His Republican opponent, John McCain, also easily won his home state of Arizona, which he represents in the Senate. (McCain was born at a Naval Air Station in the Panama Canal Zone, where his father was a Naval officer.) Republican George W. Bush twice won the state he is most associated with, Texas, where he served as governor prior to becoming president. But Mr. Bush actually lost the state where he was born and where he attended Yale University, the blue-state bastion of Connecticut.
Connecticut wasn't entirely kind to Mr. Bush's father, either: George H.W. Bush lost the state in his 1992 reelection bid, despite his father, Prescott Bush, having been a senator there. And while George H.W. Bush twice won Texas, where he spent much of his adult life and was elected to the House, he twice lost his birth state of Massachusetts.
The voting mess in Florida in 2000, meanwhile, would have been irrelevant had Democrat Al Gore managed to win his home state of Tennessee. Had Gore not narrowly lost the (largely conservative) state to George W. Bush that year, he could have lost the Sunshine State and still become president. Gore represented Tennessee for 16 years in the House and Senate.
In 1960, Republican Richard Nixon lost the electoral vote to Democrat John F. Kennedy 303-219, though Kennedy barely won the popular vote. The electoral results were almost worse for Nixon: He barely won California, the state he represented in the House and Senate from 1947-1953. Nixon's margin in the Golden State was only about 35,000 votes, or roughly half a percentage point.
While Nixon narrowly avoided home state humiliation, the same cannot be said of 1972 Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern. McGovern, who won only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia, lost his home state of South Dakota despite having easily won reelection to the Senate there in 1968.
The list of nominees who lost their home state is not short -- and it mostly includes politicians who failed to win the White House. Some other (relatively) recent presidential nominees on the list: Democrat Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota in 1968, Democrat Adlai Stevenson of Illinois in 1952 and 1956, and Republican Thomas Dewey of New York in 1944.
For Romney, the pain of an almost-certain loss in Massachusetts - where polls show the president with a double-digit lead - would be at least somewhat offset by a win in Michigan, where Romney's father was both governor and a prominent auto executive. While Romney is vowing to contest Michigan, the state's streak of voting for every Democratic presidential nominee since 1988 doesn't bode well for him. His chances are boosted somewhat by lingering goodwill in the state for his family, which prompted Romney to run ads before the Michigan Republican primary stressing his biography. With polls showing Mr. Obama with only an extremely narrow lead in Michigan, Romney made a point of stopping in the state on a bus tour two weeks ago.
"I anticipate coming back to Michigan a great deal and fighting a campaign to win in Michigan," he told The Detroit News last month. And while his primary concern is obviously the state's 16 electoral votes, there's little doubt that he would love to avoid joining the list of nominees who couldn't win either of the states they could plausibly call home. As Romney said in an ad during the GOP primary: "Michigan's been my home - this is personal."
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