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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

Plurality-Winning Governors Elected At Century-Long High Water Mark

The rate of gubernatorial candidates elected without the support of a majority of voters is at its highest level since the 1910s.

Political Crumbs

Seeing Red

Congressman Nick Rahall's failed bid for a 20th term in West Virginia this cycle, combined with a narrow loss by Nick Casey to Alex Mooney in Shelley Moore Capito's open seat, means that West Virginia Democrats will be shut out of the state's U.S. House delegation for the first time in over 90 years. The Republican sweep by two-term incumbent David McKinley in the 1st CD, Mooney in the 2nd, and Evan Jenkins over Rahall in the 3rd marks the first time the GOP has held all seats in the chamber from West Virginia since the Election of 1920. During the 67th Congress (1921-1923) all six seats from the state were controlled by the GOP. Since the Election of 1922, Democrats have won 76 percent of all U.S. House elections in the Mountain State - capturing 172 seats compared to 54 for the GOP.


Home Field Advantage?

When the 114th Congress convenes in a few days, Maine will be represented by one home-grown U.S. Representative: Waterville-born Republican Bruce Poliquin. With the departure of Millinocket-born Mike Michaud, who launched a failed gubernatorial bid, the Pine Tree State was poised to send a House delegation to D.C. without any Maine-born members for the first time since 1821. Three-term U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree (born in Minnesota) coasted to reelection as expected, however Poliquin edged Kentucky-born Emily Cain by 5.3 points to keep the streak alive. Since 1876, a total of 208 of the 222 candidates elected to the nation's lower legislative chamber from the state have been born in Maine, or 94 percent.


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