Matthew Rozsa discusses a historical quirk that could work against the Republican Party in 2016.
The last president to be elected without winning his home state was James Polk in 1844. The last one to be re-elected without conquering his own political stomping grounds was Woodrow Wilson in 1916.
These data points become a bit more interesting when you look at the current field of Republican presidential candidates. The frontrunner, Donald Trump, was born and raised in New York. His nearest rival, Ted Cruz, was born in Canada (which he obviously won’t win) and currently hails from Texas. Next in line is Ben Carson, who was born and raised in Michigan but today can be found in Maryland.
Considering that these candidates have the support of 2 out of every 3 Republican voters, there is really no need to scratch around even further here. When this observation was first brought to my attention by a friend, it was in reference to Chris Christie, who was born and raised in New Jersey – a state he would be highly unlikely to win in the (also highly unlikely) event that he won the Republican presidential nomination. That said, it is comparably inconceivable that Trump could ever carry the deeply blue New York in a national contest, much as Carson would be equally unlikely to win in either Michigan or Maryland under the same circumstances. Only Cruz could confidently rely on an easy win in his home state, but even here Republicans can take little consolation. After all, this is the same party that made birther conspiracy theories about President Obama into a depressingly stupid reality, so nominating a candidate who was born in Canada looks really bad (dare I say racist?) after they whipped up such a hoopla over a man who was in reality born in Hawaii.
One last factoid: When Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan were the respective presidential and vice presidential nominees for the Republican Party in 2012, they lost their home states (Massachusetts and Wisconsin) in the general election.
All of this matters because it says a great deal about where we are in politics today. The Republican Party represents a brand of conservatism so extreme, and so out-of-touch with the concerns of ordinary citizens, that we may soon grow accustomed to the phenomenon of GOP nominees being unable to win in their own states… which, with only the rarest of exceptions, means they would be unable to win on the national level. By contrast, every Democrat running for their party’s presidential nod would be a shoo-in on their home turf, from Hillary Clinton (born in Illinois and a former Senator from New York) and Bernie Sanders (born in New York and a Senator from Vermont) to Martin O’Malley (born in Washington DC and a former governor of Maryland).
A case could be made, of course, that this is mere trivia being blown out of proportion. This charge may indeed have some merit, if for no other reason than the problems facing the GOP easily transcend matters of mere geography. At the same, the question must be asked: At what point does this stop being a funny coincidence and start being relevant? When Trump joins Romney to become the second Republican loser in a row who couldn’t even carry his own state? Or when a third and fourth GOPer join him?
As a columnist, it behooves me to draw attention to the smaller details that could have larger relevance but seem to be escaping general public notice. If I have done that here, then I have done my duty.