Losing Massachusetts by 30%

It sometimes happens that a presidential nominee loses his home state and that is typically a general election disaster: Al Gore in 2000 and George McGovern in 1972 spring to mind. The last time a campaign for the White House was successful when the home state was lost was 1908 when incumbent President Woodrow Wilson lost New Jersey.  Massachusetts was not going to vote for Mitt Romney this year so he was hoping to be the first non incumbent since James K. Polk to win the presidency while losing the home state.

The current WBUR poll has Romney losing to Obama in Massachusetts by 28 points. McCain lost by 26. Bush lost by 25 against Kerry.  Romney is closer to historic territory here.

Bob Dole lost by 33 points in a rout that helped dislodge incumbent members of the House Peter Blute and Peter Torkildsen. That race is the one in my mind at the moment. Blute would later note that an incumbent simply can’t survive a 30 point loss at the top of the ticket by his party no matter how popular he is.

With Romney approaching a 30 point deficit in the polls in Massachusetts, it is not terribly surprising that the Brown campaign has sent mixed messages today on the Senator’s support for the presidential nominee. It’s since been cleared up that Brown supports Romney. Normally an incumbent Senator would run away from the top of the ticket under such circumstances. Brown can’t do that credibly to a former Massachusetts Governor.

Overcoming a 30 point deficit at the top of the ballot is an extraordinary challenge. Brown was always going to face at tough reelection here and he has been able to keep the race close thus far.  But is fellow Republican at the top of the ticket continues to make Brown’s path much more difficult.

About Peter Ubertaccio

Peter Ubertaccio is the Director of Joseph Martin Institute for Law & Society at Stonehill College in Easton and Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science & International Studies. His work focuses on political parties, marketing and institutions. He received his Ph.D. in Politics from Brandeis University in Waltham, MA. Professor Ubertaccio and his family live on Cape Cod where he is on the Board of Directors of the OpenCape Corporation and the Sandwich Economic Initiative Corporation.
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2 Responses to Losing Massachusetts by 30%

  1. J DElia says:

    “The last time a campaign for the White House was successful when the home state was lost was 1908 when incumbent President Woodrow Wilson lost New Jersey.”

    I was researching this fact myself today and I believe that election was 1916.

  2. J Delia–you are quite right. I was off by 8 years! It was Wilson but the year was 1916. Indeed, Theodore Roosevelt was the incumbent in 1908 and Taft the Republican nominee (and he won his home state in 1908 but lost it in 1912).

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