Romney’s Home States

Andrew Sullivan looked at a Michigan poll which wasn’t favorable to Romney.

Not looking good in the latest PPP poll. He’ll likely lose both of his home states this fall.

Some time ago, Greg Sargent noted how unusual it would be for Romney to be elected President while losing both of his home states.

The last person to get elected president while losing his home state and his state of birth was James Polk, in 1844.

It’s often pointed out that Romney will have to win the presidency without his home state, which, if he pulls it off, will put him in the same category as Richard Nixon and Woodrow Wilson. Nixon lost New York, his home state at the time, but won his native California, a key to his victory. Wilson lost his home state of New Jersey, where he was president of Princeton, but won his native state of Virginia.

Meanwhile, there have also been three presidents who were elected while losing their native state but winning their state of residence. The two Bushes both lost their native New England States, Massachusetts and Connecticut, but won their home state of Texas. Abraham Lincoln lost his home state of Kentucky but won his home state of Illinois.

However, to find someone who was elected without winning either, you have to reach back 168 years to Polk, who was elected president in 1844 despite losing his native state of North Carolina and his home state of Tennessee, where he had been Governor.

Romney will likely have to duplicate that feat. He isn’t contesting Massachuetts, his state of residence, and the odds are against him in his native state of Michigan, because of his opposition to the bailout.

What does it mean? This rare set of historical circumstances is notnecessarily predictive, but it goes right to the heart of an odd fact about Romney: He doesn’t really have a geographical base of his own; it’s one he’s inheriting as a generic Republican candidate.

“Most successful politicians have a clear home base, and have made a connection that already works for them,” says Wolley, who the political science department chair at the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Recent polls suggested that Michigan was less competitive, so when the statistic is brought up, it’s generally limited to Massachusetts. Such as a Jake Tapper tweet yesterday.

If Romney wins, he’ll be the first nominee to win while losing his resident state since Nixon in 1968, who moved to NY after gov loss in ’62

This is meaningless even in the context of discussions about the political horse race. The probability that Romney will lose Massachusetts and Michigan does not meant that he’s a weaker nominee than Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry, would have been. Any Republican candidate would have an advantage in Texas and Georgia, two states Romney is expected to win. The only reason he won’t win his native state or the one he governed was that Mitt Romney was born in a rather liberal state. And then he became Governor of an even more liberal state.

There are a few quirks of the political process which explain Romney’s unusual situation. Presidents tend to get elected from states in which their party is strong. Massachusetts has not gone for a Republican presidential candidate since Reagan’s 1984 landslide. Scott Brown won the January 2010 special election, so he’s the state’s first Republican Senator since 1979. It’s worth noting that Al Gore won the popular vote in the 2000 Presidential election, even if he lost Tennessee by four percent. He did carry New Jersey, the home state of Bill Bradley, his sole challenger in the the 2000 Democratic presidential primary, by seven percent. I doubt that this would indicate that Bradley would have been a better nominee for the Democrats.

In addition, the majority of presidential elections aren’t close. Since Truman beat Dewey, the 1952, 1956, 1964, 1972, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996 and 2008 elections were landslides, with the winner getting 365 or more electoral votes. Political junkies are a bit spoiled at the current moment, in that two of the most recent elections were really close, so it could seem as if overwhelming electoral wins are the exception rather than the norm. And obviously, anyone who wins a landslide election is likelier to win their home state.

With increasing partisanship and parity between the political parties, it’s possible that landslide elections are rarities. So we might have more Mitt Romneys, candidates who have a shot at winning the White House but not their home state.

About Thomas Mets

I’m a comic book fan, wannabe writer, politics buff and New Yorker. I don’t actually follow baseball. In the Estonian language, “Mets” simply means forest, or lousy sports team. You can email me at
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