Will Romney Join List of Home State Presidential Losers?
For a presidential candidate to lose his or her home state is a particular embarrassment. After all, it's not just any state -- it's the one where people presumably know you the best, have taken the best measure of your character and smarts, and have found you wanting. That may not be entirely fair--some candidates move to their states late in life and are better judged by their residence elsewhere--but it is the way history grades you, at least a little bit.
We seem to be heading there again with the conventional wisdom that Mitt Romney can't win the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which he's called home since the 1970s. So it's worth recalling home state losers of yore.
Al Gore is the last presidential candidate to lose his home state. But his loss of Tennessee was overshadowed by the fight over Florida that went to the Supreme Court. The embarrassment is also mitigated by the little-mentioned but important fact that his percentage of the vote was pretty close to what Bill Clinton had earned in the 1990s -- but there was no Ross Perot on the ballot. Tennessee became a safe Republican state and that had little to do with Gore. The same might be said of Massachusetts and Romney.
Richard Nixon lost his adopted New York in 1968 but held California where he was raised and served as a congressman and senator. He won New York four years later, in 1972, in his blowout of George McGovern, who lost his native South Dakota. His state then threw him out of the Senate in the 1980 Reagan landslide, one of the few presidential nominees who remained in the Senate and wasn't able to retire at a date of his choosing.
Adlai Stevenson lost his home state, Illinois, twice in 1952 and 1956. Tom Dewey lost New York in 1944 when he ran against FDR, but won it four years later against Truman. (Of course, he famously did not defeat Truman.) He's not the first New York state governor to lose. Al Smith blew it in 1928 against Herbert Hoover, although Hoover also lost his home state, California, in 1932. In 1860 both candidates were from Illinois, so someone had to lose. It was Stephen Douglas, of course, not Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln did lose his birth state of Kentucky -- which wasn't all that surprising, given its pro-slavery sentiment.