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Why Don’t Democrats Nominate Westerners?

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The “Sarah Palin effect" has been felt, at least for the moment, across national and state polls. John McCain’s numbers are looking particularly strong in Western states, the region from which he and Palin hail.

For example, in polls conduct in the past week, McCain is up:

· 25 points in Alaska, compared to late July (Rasmussen)
· 13 points in North Dakota, compared to late July (Rasmussen)
· 11 points in Montana, compared to late July (Rasmussen)
· 10 points in Washington compared to a month ago (Rasmussen)
· 6 points in New Mexico, compared to mid-August (Rasmussen)

Obama appears to be holding steady in Colorado, home to the Democratic National Convention a few weeks ago.

But the selection of a Western politician for the VP slot is nothing new to the GOP – Palin joins a list that includes former Wyoming Congressman Dick Cheney (2000 & 2004), former California Senator Richard Nixon (1952 & 1956), California Governor Earl Warren (1948), and Oregon Senator Charles L. McNary (1940).

Democrats, on the other hand, have only nominated a Westerner one time for either the presidential or vice-presidential slot – and you have to go back nearly 150 years to find him: U.S. Senator Joseph Lane from Oregon was nominated as VP to join John C. Breckinridge’s Southern (pro-slavery) Democratic ticket in 1860.

Aside from Lane, the furthest West the Democratic Party has ventured to select its Vice Presidential nominee is the state of Texas: Lloyd Bentsen (1988), Lyndon B. Johnson (1960), and John Nance Garner (1932 & 1936).

The closest Democrats have come to a Western presidential nominee are Plains state politicians George McGovern (South Dakota, 1972) and William Jennings Bryan (Nebraska, 1896 & 1900).

Aside from McCain, Republicans can list several Western presidential nominees to their credit: former California Governor Ronald Reagan (1980 & 1984), Nixon (1960, 1968, 1972), Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater (1964), and former California Senator John C. Frémont (1856).

For a party that endeavors to take advantage of the ‘changing demographics of the West’ (i.e. more minorities), Democrats have once again failed to steal home field advantage from the Republicans by not reaching out to Westerners and nominating one of their own (Plains State Governor Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas would at least have been a step in the right direction).

Instead, the Democratic Party will remain, at least for the next four years, as a political party largely identified with the Northeast.

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Remains of the Data

Gender Equality in the US House: A State-by State Quarter-Century Report Card (1989-2014)

A study of 5,325 congressional elections finds the number of female U.S. Representatives has more than tripled over the last 25 years, but the rate at which women are elected to the chamber still varies greatly between the states.

Political Crumbs

Small Club in St. Paul

Mark Dayton is one of just three Minnesotans ever elected to three different statewide offices. Dayton, of course, had previously served as State Auditor (1991-1995) and U.S. Senator (2001-2007) before winning the governorship in 2010. At that time, he joined Republicans Edward Thye and J.A.A. Burnquist on this very short list. Burnquist was elected lieutenant governor in 1914 but then became governor after the death of Democrat Winfield Hammond in 1915. He then won the gubernatorial elections of 1916 and 1918 and eight terms as attorney general two decades later (1939-1955). Thye was similarly first elected lieutenant governor of the Gopher State and became governor after the resignation of fellow GOPer Harold Stassen in 1943. Thye won one additional full term as governor in 1944 and then two terms to the U.S. Senate (1947-1959). Twenty Minnesotans have been elected to two different statewide offices.


Respect Your Elders?

With retirement announcements this year by veteran U.S. Representatives such as 30-term Democrat John Dingell of Michigan, 20-term Democrat George Miller of California, and 18-term Republican Tom Petri of Wisconsin, it is no surprise that retirees from the 113th Congress are one of the most experienced cohorts in recent decades. Overall, these 24 exiting members of the House have served an average of 11.0 terms - the second longest tenure among retirees across the last 18 cycles since 1980. Only the U.S. Representatives retiring in 2006 had more experience, averaging 11.9 terms. (In that cycle, 10 of the 11 retiring members served at least 10 terms, with GOPer Bill Jenkins of Tennessee the lone exception at just five). Even without the aforementioned Dingell, the average length of service in the chamber of the remaining 23 retirees in 2014 is 10.2 terms - which would still be the third highest since 1980 behind the 2006 and 2012 (10.5 terms) cycles.


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