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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

No Free Passes: States With 2 Major Party Candidates in Every US House Race

Indiana has now placed candidates from both major parties on the ballot in a nation-best 189 consecutive U.S. House races, with New Hampshire, Minnesota, Idaho, and Montana also north of 100 in a row.

Political Crumbs

Gubernatorial Highs and Lows

Two sitting governors currently hold the record for the highest gubernatorial vote ever received in their respective states by a non-incumbent: Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming (65.7 percent in 2010) and outgoing GOPer Dave Heineman of Nebraska (73.4 percent in 2006). Republican Gary Herbert of Utah had not previously won a gubernatorial contest when he notched a state record 64.1 percent for his first victory in 2010, but was an incumbent at the time after ascending to the position in 2009 after the early departure of Jon Huntsman. Meanwhile, two sitting governors hold the record in their states for the lowest mark ever recorded by a winning gubernatorial candidate (incumbent or otherwise): independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (36.1 percent in 2010) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (47.8 percent in 2013).


An Idaho Six Pack

Two-term Idaho Republican Governor Butch Otter only polled at 39 percent in a recent PPP survey of the state's 2014 race - just four points ahead of Democratic businessman A.J. Balukoff. Otter's low numbers reflect his own struggles as a candidate (witness his weak primary win against State Senator Russ Fulcher) combined with the opportunity for disgruntled Idahoans to cast their votes for one of four third party and independent candidates, who collectively received the support of 12 percent of likely voters: Libertarian John Bujak, the Constitution Party's Steve Pankey, and independents Jill Humble and Pro-Life (aka Marvin Richardson). The six candidate options in a gubernatorial race sets an all-time record in the Gem State across the 46 elections conducted since statehood. The previous high water mark of five candidates was reached in seven previous cycles: 1902, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1914, 1966, and 2010.


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