One of the interesting outcomes of the 2016 election was that Donald Trump failed to carry New York, despite his insistences over the course of the campaign that he would put it in play. Trump losing New York in itself isn’t exactly shocking, since the last Republican to carry it was Ronald Reagan in 1984. What was shocking is that Trump was elected without carrying his home state.
In 2012, Mitt Romney was mocked for losing his home state by the second-largest margin of any candidate in history. However, Romney’s solution was not unique. Al Gore failed to carry Tennessee in 2000, costing him the election. In fact, there were 11 election cycles where a candidate lost their home state by double digits. The rare occurrence is when candidates lose both their home states and win the election. By my calculations, Trump is the first candidate to do so since 1916!
There is some debate as to whether 1916 really is the last time this happened, and it centers around the definition of a political home state. For example, Romney was born in Michigan but was governor of Massachusetts. Which state was his home state? I would argue Massachusetts, since that is the state that he is most associated with.
The impact of the definition of home states can be seen in a few instances. In both 2000 and 2004, George W. Bush failed to carry Connecticut, which is where he was born (and the state his grandfather represented in the Senate). However, he carried Texas in both campaigns. Since he was governor of Texas, I consider Texas to be his home state. His father, George H.W. Bush lost Massachusetts in 1988, when he was running against its governor, Michael Dukakis. Bush was born in Massachusetts, but he represented Texas in the House for four years.
In 1968 Richard Nixon was technically a resident of New York (which he failed to carry), but he had been governor of California (which he did carry).
In 1916, Woodrow Wilson lost New Jersey while winning a second term in the White House (there has been some interesting research that suggests that shark attacks in New Jersey cost Wilson at least some votes in the state). By my definition, this counts as losing both his home state and winning the presidency. However, Wilson was born in Virginia, which he did carry in 1916. Wilson’s case was unique in that he lost both New Jersey and Indiana, the home of his running mate Thomas Marshall. There have been 20 instances in American history where a ticket has failed to carry the home states of both of its nominees, and that ticket has lost in all but a few of them.
Trump was both born in New York and continues to reside there. This makes him losing it while winning the election the first time since 1844 that the president lost the state where he was born and where he resided, all the while winning the White House. In that year, James K. Polk lost North Carolina (his birthplace) and Tennessee (his state of residence).
2016 was an election for the ages, and this little quirk adds an even greater level of interest to it.
For more on the story behind Hacksaw Ridge, political video games, Greece’s Brexit over 2,000 year ago, the Battle of the Cats, America’s first Donald Trump, and more, check out the rest of my Profiles in History here!