It can get confusing. So here are a few guidelines for geographically challenged candidates:
Rule No. 1: Never, ever be from Washington. When Al Gore’s presidential bid was floundering in late 1999, his headquarters was moved to Tennessee, the state he had represented in Congress, in an attempt to jump-start his campaign. President Obama’s reelection headquarters will be 600 miles away from the White House in Chicago, where he still owns a home. Both were smart moves, according to Democratic consultant Tad Devine, a senior strategist to Sen. John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign who says he regrets not running it out of Boston.
Rule No. 2: Don’t cede home state advantage. Probably the biggest knock against Rick Santorum’s presidential bid is that the former senator didn’t win reelection in his home state of Pennsylvania. Republican George H. W. Bush scored a coup in 1988 when he announced an endorsement from the Boston police union in the home state of his rival, Democrat Michael Dukakis. “When your own hometown is not for you, it raises real questions in the minds of voters,’’ said Devine.
Rule No. 3: Don’t share. Having to share a state means having to split votes and donors. Huntsman and Romney, both Mormons, are expected to jockey for support in Utah. Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann both live in Minnesota. But Bachmann has a geographical bonus -- she was born in Iowa, which holds the nation’s first caucus. Which leads us to...
Rule No. 4: If at all possible, live in Iowa, New Hampshire, or a state nearby. Calling herself a seventh-generation Iowan, as Bachmann frequently does when she visits, is a guaranteed applause line. Dukakis, Kerry, and Paul Tsongas were all Massachusetts Democrats who won the primary in New Hampshire, which shares a media market with their home state. Tom Harkin, the Iowa senator who ran for president in 1992, is probably the best example of a candidate who had such a clear home-state advantage that the rest of the field wrote the state off.
Putting Obama’s 2008 headquarters in Chicago allowed him to make frequent trips to Iowa and easily dispatch volunteers and supplies into the state.
“There are a lot of regional loyalties, and there’s a comfort level with candidates who seem to speak the language and understand their issues,’’ Devine said. “Almost the first word out of any politician’s mouth when he lands in a state is to remind people of any connection he has to that state.’’